I choose to be alone, often. I’ve never minded being alone. In fact, I crave my alone time. It might go back to being the youngest of seven and sharing a three bedroom home with nine people most of my informative years. Or maybe it was the cramped bedroom I slept in with three sisters in two separate bunk beds. It could be the writer inside of me needing alone time. Or, it could be a natural part of my DNA like my brown eyes. Whatever the case, being alone never felt lonely for me.
When Peter and I first moved into together, I found out early we both didn’t need to be together all the time, wrapped up in each other’s lives or arms like other couples. Peter was a natural introvert with extroverted tendencies, and I was the extrovert with introverted tendencies. We yinged and yanged off each other, giving the other space and time. He would go off to for long walks with our dog, or bike rides on a forest preserve path. I would cuddle into a good book, or work on a story idea. Don’t get me wrong. We had more times together than apart, and when we reconnected, there was an explosion of enjoyment.
When our kids came, we had family times, so much family time, which we both reveled in. Still, there was his hikes or motorcycle rides, and my friends or telephone times. He took the kids away for weekends to give me a break but also went off on his own to do his thing when needed. It was how we worked, how our family worked, and it worked well. My kids benefited from family time as well as one parent time. In their hearts, Peter and I were interchangeable with no stereotypes. Both of us could tend to a scraped knee, or bedtime, or homework. It wasn’t a better parenting thing, it was just our thing.
As our children grew older and friends/social lives became their priority, Peter and I found ourselves drifting back to each other, yet still held onto our own alone time. Sure, we used our freedom often – to go on dates, do the couple get-togethers, have uninterrupted discussions (and believe me, when Peter got going, it was not one-sided), go for walks, and vacationed together, just the two of us. Yet, we still had time independent of each other, even joined different activities and organizations without the other. We shared our experiences of our separate times when we were together, making for more interesting discussions and a more interesting us. It worked and worked well, for twenty-eight years of marriage, thirty-one years of friendship.
Yesterday, my daughter went back to her home five hours away and the original plans with my son fell through, so it was my first day alone since my husband died. Friends and family left messages or texted me asking if I needed to talk or wanted company. My response kept coming back, “It’s my first day alone, and I think I’d like to keep it that way, for today.” I needed to feel the aloneness of no longer having Peter in my life. I needed to be alone.
I vegged out in front of the TV watching stupid reality shows after stupid reality shows. I tried to watch a sci-fi series, but I couldn’t keep up. My mind would drift off into a thought, a memory, a discussion with or about Peter and emptiness fell to the bottom of my belly like hail in a thunderstorm, fast and sharp. I fluctuated between spacing out and trying to get into the lives of the couples that met for the first time on their wedding day, or couples on an island, but I always came back to Peter. Always. No tears fell, just a whole lot of sadness, emptiness, and loneliness. And you know, yesterday, maybe for the first time since I can remember, I didn’t like being alone.
Yesterday though, I needed to finally be left on my own. I needed it. A phone call or a visit would have only prolonged the inevitable. They would have masked all that I needed to feel and I needed to feel my new, inescapable norm. These next few days, I have made tentative plans to meet with friends, hand in Peter’s work equipment and have people to assist with overwhelming paperwork. I may not follow through on all of them, but even making plans are baby steps to the outside world.
In these next couple of days, weeks, months, years, I will be facing time alone. Time without a partner to wake up to, a partner to text during the day if only to say “I love you” and a partner to end the day with. I will be facing times where I will store in my mind’s filing system a joke, a story or a worry to tell Peter, only to realize there is no more Peter. I will be facing a lifetime where I no longer hear his laugh, his calming words to weather my storms, his snide opinions on my reality show addiction, and his hand to hold during our evening walks. I will be facing alone times, but it will be different. For it won’t be, would never have been, by choice.