On being alone

When living my normal life at home, I have a fair amount of time alone. Probably more than a lot of “normal” Americans—I work from home 2 days a week; I have a good amount of time each evening after the family has gone to bed.

But, that alone time is interspersed with interaction. Most days I work from home I go to the gym in the morning and chat a bit with others there. On days I work, I talk to 30-50 people—essentially, I talk all day. Every day at home, I talk from when I get in until 9 or 10 p.m. Even during my commute, I am not alone-alone.

But here, there’s lots and lots of alone time. Some of it has been self-imposed, but some of it is just because the nature of the situation. It’s a 20+ minute walk to campus. My flat mate has had family in and so has been running around and so, the majority of my time has been by myself—30% with others vs. 70% alone, the opposite of my homelife.

On the very first day that Mike left, after 2 weeks of no alone time, I was thrilled to be alone. I taught my first class, visited with people, and then came back to my wee apartment (which is a grand name for a teeny dorm room/bedroom and a common room w/ half a couch and a table for two).

I was jumping inside my skin—so excited to make a turkey sandwich and catch up with work I hadn’t done, watch Netflix, go nowhere.

Two hours in when I went to the kitchen to get some ice water, I was talking to myself. In my room, I panicked when xpn.org cut out. Silence. I couldn’t take the silence.

When I made my turkey sandwich I had to turn on the tv in the kitchen(ette). My choices: soccer or “Dublin Airport: Life Stories.” I went for the life stories (of course) and was enthralled by a man who lost his glasses, a family with Irish grandparents and an American life, and both the host’s cheer and her skill at finding drama. Great stuff. Made the turkey on brown bread with smoked cheddar from a Clonakilty Farmer’s market and rocket/arugula even better.

The next night I went to a reading and had drinks with people after and had so much fun.

Then I spent the next evening at home, in the same 10 x 8 box from 6 hours, and talked to myself.

On the bus ride with 63 people from Cork to Dublin, I found myself behind a pair of faculty members an among a bunch of students I didn’t know. I could chose to start up conversations, or I could sit quietly.  The thing that was most disturbing/hard for me was that I also realized that if I were to just disappear, no one would notice or care. That sounds melodramatic, but it’s really just true. No one was aware enough—I don’t even mean cares enough or anything like that…simply that no one was aware enough of my presence or lack thereof. It was more like commuting on the train is each day—Someone might notice that the lady that was just there is gone, but chances are higher that they wouldn’t.

I was for a couple minutes. Stunned, even. But ultimately, ok. This is a chance to get a glimpse of what life would’ve been like if I had taken different turns.

I realize that all of this reaction is just because it’s not what I am used to. I have spent most of my life/day being quite literally the center of attention—as both a mom and a teacher—3 kids waiting for my response—or 20 students.

Week One has just ended and I think I’m falling into a pattern and understanding myself a little better already. I cannot be completely alone for too long: I go a little batshit. But alone-alone alone time keeps me sane.

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