Being alone is a strange thing. We are welcomed into the world with at least our mother near us, and for those of us born in hospitals, many other people as well. We spend much of our early years in the company of others, aside from our sleeping hours, and for many infants and young children, those hours are spent with others too.
When my son was about four he pointed out to me that it wasn’t fair that he had to sleep alone when his dad and I got to sleep together. I wasn’t a family bed proponent, and I still contend that none of use would have ever gotten a decent night’s sleep had he been with us, but he made a point. Why do the most vulnerable among us sleep alone? We humans are generally pretty social beings, even the anti-social among us. Complete solitude gets old quickly, even in the most beautiful of surroundings.
My sweetheart used to work for the park service. He had many lonely nights and solitary days in some of the most beautiful country on the planet, but alone is alone. When there’s nobody to share the experience with, it somehow loses some of its meaning. Certainly I would prefer isolation in the beauty of nature, provided I was safe, than in a solitary holding cell, but even solitude in comfortable surroundings would become a burden after a short while.
I’m not talking about that kind of alone. I don’t mean the alone that seeps into your bones and leaves you cold and hungry; the kind of alone that stretches in front of you without an end in sight. I’ve never known that kind of alone. I hope I never do. That kind of alone frightens me. I’m not afraid to be with myself, in fact I think I’m pretty good company, it’s just that I’m afraid to never have anyone to share experiences with. I’m afraid I would stagnate and begin to rot from the inside out.
The kind of alone I’m talking about is a break. A short separation from those I love dearly. After three days cooped up in close quarters with limited diversions, I’m glad that today we’re back to a somewhat normal schedule. After dropping my son off at his volunteer work, I ran a few errands and returned home to an entirely peaceful house. As I released the dog from her kennel I looked around and felt a sense of peace settle over me. She and I have a few hours before anyone returns home, and we’re going to make it count. She has already begun her work on a new nap, and I’ve taken to the keyboard. We are both using our talents in ways that we find satisfying. We are sharing the afternoon in companionable silence, aside from the occasional passing comment. We are alone, together.
I don’t feel the need to do the laundry or vacuum or make the beds. I’m okay with letting things slide a little bit today. Today I need to recharge my battery. Tomorrow it’s a trip to the dentist, then a long overdue lunch date with a friend. After that the laundry can have its turn, but not today. Today it can sit in the hamper and just be still. I have peace and quiet to catch up on, and I’m going to make it count.