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On Being Alone

September 6, 2012

It is impossible for Chelsea to be alone. In the years I have known her I have never known her to spend more than a month without dating. I have never known her to spend more than one evening in a row by herself. She has more friends than a lottery winner. Her life is a whirlwind of parties, dinners, trips, excursions, clubs, shows, phone calls, texts and conversations. We are very different.
Chelsea went on a date this week. They went to a chain Mexican restaurant with a menu based around refried beans. He ate the whole basket of chips by himself and then had the waitress refill the basket. Chelsea had more than one margarita, knowing that he was paying and that there was no way in hell he would ever see her naked. She took a cab home after they had an awkward parting on the sidewalk. He said, “My car is warm,” in an effort to coax her into accepting a ride. Chelsea told me that she remembered a stranger in a stranger-danger-after-school-special saying the same thing before forcefully abducting an unwitting girl. I don’t think they’ll be speaking again. They met on the Internet.
It’s not the first bad date Chelsea has been on since her and Jeff split up and she embraced Internet dating. Meeting people on the Internet is like going on a blind date, except this way your date lies to you lure you into going out instead of your well-meaning friends. Chelsea has done little else since throwing herself back into the dating scene last month. She spends hours sifting through profiles of potential mates. She holds court with potential suitors through the website, having conversations that last days only to end with the supplicant wondering about Chelsea’s feelings about group sex.
It hasn’t been very long since Chelsea and Jeff broke up. When she told me she was going to try online dating, I wondered whether or not it might be too soon. She was angry with me explaining it as a just a bit of fun. “Who knows what could happen?” she said.

I’ve been thinking about being alone lately. I live alone. I’m not currently dating anyone. I am not unhappy. I have good friends, a job that doesn’t suck too much, plenty of time for creativity and a family that loves me. I don’t feel alone. I am happy to be by myself while at the same time I am not unhappy to be with other people. Perhaps it is my own shortcoming, but I feel like all that added up paints me as lonely or a loner in our society. I feel like we are under a constant barrage of entertainment (music, movies and art) that foster a disgust for being alone. I understand that conflict and extremes of emotion are what make good fiction, but the completeness of the message is overwhelming. “Being alone is weird. You are incomplete without anyone else. Family and marriage and community are the most important things in the universe, but marriage and copulation rise above all other forms of love. No one wants to be alone and those that do should take medication.” I don’t want to be alone. I don’t care either way. I am still me either way.
I have always felt that being comfortable with yourself is the most important aspect of living. It is impossible to love someone else if you don’t even like yourself. We live in an age where it is getting harder and harder to even know yourself, much less like yourself. There is not a moment of silence or reflection left. One must always be connected, by mobile device, by computer, by TV, by books or magazines. There is no time to decide how you feel about things and no need. One must only discover already articulated sentiments and memorize and parrot them.
I am not saying that we should all sit quietly in the darkness beside the fire contemplating the vagaries of existence. But there seems to be too much importance placed on validation from outside sources rather than self-realization coming from within. How many of us can truly say that we know ourselves? How many can say that we know our weaknesses as well as our strengths? How many can claim to have even thought about it?
There is only that brief period at night before falling asleep left to reflect. Between when your head hits the pillow and when your mind drifts into slumber, there is a silence to be alone with your thoughts. What do you think about? What is that nagging that keeps you awake? Are you worried about the bills? Is it that strange pain in your stomach that won’t go away? Are you thinking of your friends or family? Are you thinking of possibilities for the novel you are writing? Are you able to allow your mind to drift and go where it will, illuminating the dusty cobwebbed corners of your mind? Do you sleep with the TV on so you don’t have to be alone with your thoughts?

I was thinking about getting a cat. You know, sort of stave off the stigma and maybe get a little companion to share my apartment with. That way I don’t have to bore my friends with stories about what I dreamed last night. I could just tell a cat. I had a dog growing up. It hit me pretty hard when Scout died. I felt very alone and very powerless. That’s one reason I haven’t had another pet. That separation is painful. But I don’t want to let fear of hurt keep me from future relationships (with pets or with people). Cats are good too, because unlike dogs, who hate being alone, cats are perfectly content to entertain themselves. I guess that’s what all this rambling mess comes down to. In life, is it better to be a dog, whose whole existence, whether domesticated or wild, is based on a pack mentality and never being alone? Or is it better to be a cat, confident, independent, sparing with affection yet warm and soft?
I suppose it is the journey of life. Knowing one’s self is an education that is never complete but it is the only truth worth seeking.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2012 12:54 am

    Some people are dog people, some are cat people. Ultimately it’s down to you 🙂
    I enjoyed reading, best of luck 🙂

  2. September 6, 2012 3:48 am

    a good read, but I don’t think we are one or the other exclusively. But I do believe people connect, and when they are comfortable with themselves we can connect and disengage in a balanced way.

    • September 6, 2012 4:00 am

      That’s true. That is the hard part, balancing the two. I am more introverted and I value time spent by myself, but I am aware that interaction and relationships foster growth and make living a little less predictable (which is good). I constantly have to push myself to step outside my comfort zone and do things I may not think I want to do. Chelsea has been helpful. She is always ready for an adventure, ready to dash away at a moments notice. I worry that she is only trying to get away from herself, rather than seeking new experiences. And I realize as I type this, that may just be the key to balancing your dog side with your cat side, relationships with others. Being open and honest and allowing others to help balance you when you are feeling unbalanced.
      Anyway, thanks for reading and the bit of truth. Sorry for the rambling reply.

      • September 6, 2012 4:11 am

        thank you for being honest and insightful. it is our differences that make the world so interesting. — bw

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