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Alone

Alone is a common way to be, as an only child. I didn’t know how to be a pack animal. I didn’t get to learn how to share myself. Physical needs were dispatched in hot-blooded bedrooms and backseats. Social needs were fulfilled in communal living and parties. But day-to-day, walking and working through life, nobody seemed to notice me—even me.

I’ve walked the streets of small towns, big cities, beaches, exotic continents, parks and neighborhoods, all alone. I’ve made most decisions big and small alone. I’ve trod the hardest trails alone: a father’s death; a mother’s deterioration; a child’s illness; career dissatisfaction, divorce… I didn’t know what to say when asked by the partners and friends I’d kept at the periphery. I didn’t know anyone else saw the barrier I’d erected.

I wouldn’t call myself a loner. I have many pockets of people: new friends to make; old friends to catch up on; calendared and spontaneous gatherings. But I’m just fine alone—even in a movie theater—that most forbidding of lone venues.

Some people would have been there for me had I let them. And some pushed through and were there, using their own remarkable skills, taking a bit of the strain from my tired bones.

You might not have noticed just how alone I’ve been. After all, I lived well-loved with my parents for eighteen years. I spent thirty years as part of one couple or another. But coupling can be so isolating. At its worst, it steals the generous mantle of solitude and replaces it with missed-opportunity. In unconnected hours face-to-face, drenched in the ice-water of failed intimacy, I met loneliness–a very different thing from alone-ness. That loneliness withered my strong right-side under worm-eaten embraces, preoccupied hearts, and habitual sex. The unearthly weight of sadness, the black weight of doubt, the sharp stones of anxiety, sent me sprained and sprawling atop the original ruins of love’s promised companionship.

You might not know it’s ok to be alone. But alone stands on two strong legs. Feet may tire, shoulders ache, and breath rasp, but the slow stride uphill can continue almost indefinitely, alone.