Sensitive: sexualized language, and cursing.
Three years ago today, it was a Mother’s Day Sunday. There is an anniversary picture on my cell phone of my infant daughter sitting in my ex- husband's lap. The memory holds a story of spouses, out to dinner, with two beautiful children.
In the picture, her Father looks blankly beyond the camera, with no affect in his face; the musicians must have been in that direction because my infant daughter is also gazing in the same direction (and there is a rational voice inside me that knows certainly they are not BOTH avoiding my gaze). The memory holds that he had a double jack-and-coke; the picture shows it was half gone before we were seated. The memory holds the same absence of enthusiasm for the rest of the meal.
I can recall making an intention to verbalize gratitude and enthusiasm to engage my family and incite joy in the children, “Oh my goodness look at all these cakes! Sweetheart would you like a cake with Mommy?”
Two months later, it was a Tuesday morning, before leaving for work, on a bright orange morning of summer, when I threatened him with an exasperated “You’ll wake up alone one day if you’re not careful!”
When he replied “Good!” I decided aloud “Today’s the day!”
Since then, I have thought a lot about being alone. At the time it had felt like such a worthy curse to consequence him with, after all the things I had felt I had coped with doing alone in our love together.
After I left him, I often felt panicked that “NOW... no one would know the real me!” A faulty assumption that a. he ever “knew" me in the way I had romanticized and b. that somehow the internal world I romanticized my whole life could somehow be understood by any willing party living outside of it.
I despise the exclusionary elitism of the phrase “you have to be good at being alone before you can be with someone else.” I have been good at being alone my whole life; as a child, as a married partner, and now as a free mother in the world. I tended to siblings and smoked cigarettes alone as a teenager, then listened to music, did my nails, and painted in oils and wrote in black leather-bound journals, alone.
I occupied myself with house cleaning, making dinner, tending to babies, working out with punk music and pink legging sets, going to bed reading books and drinking tea as a loving wife, alone.
As a free Mother I shopped, went to movies, tended to plants, ate ramen, and watched Sci- fi alone very well. I cry, steam, sing, dance, scream and cum alone in the light of day or the dark; my solitary resume is complete.
Despite these skill sets my heart does desire sharing these things, in the morning and at night, with someone curious enough to learn my romantic internal world. Even all the spiritual teachers I would listen to would deny the necessity to train oneself around the truth of their hearts, as vines around a scaffold.
Then a shift started several months ago, where I could embrace answering my own desires intentionally. It was then I realized I had been doing this for several years, simply out of necessity rather than the choice. Making the intentional choice to attend to my alone-ness was, yes, novel, I will admit that here. In doing so I discovered many voices to be heard inside me; yes, the famed “little me” (the one living in all of us -I dare you an evening alone with a nostalgic food and movie pairing), a hero animal (mine a large oil-breathing and red eyed dragon, now often sleeping), a wise minded (handsome, tall, dark werewolf of the screen) figure of Jesus to guide me, and finally my pensive perished Great –Aunt watching me peacefully from her seat inside the wooden box of silver flatware she gave me after my son was born.
Weeks went by and I kept this audience company as I navigated my new life, feeling supported by my own personal universe and kept by closest friends. NEVER TRULY ALONE, I felt, always holding this group of voices inside me, their drinks spilling as I breathed and fretted about outside their waiting room in my chest. Several weeks went by peacefully in this fashion, petting the dragon’s head and watching the child color pictures and practice meditation, her tiny hands folding obedient at our heart. Jesus’ hand resting on my heart and my Great –Aunt watching down on me (which is strange to visualize from inside me) with tranquil approval.
Those several weeks passed and finally, I was not anxious about my daily life of living “alone” as I laughed in the out-and-about with my family of voices inside me. I was engaged and attentive to my daily and fluctuating needs, so much so that soon, all the voices dissipated. Naturally it is objective to report that also, I think I performed much better overall in my few external relationships as well (she says thoughtfully scratching her chin and looking up above her shoulder).
At first, when I noticed the quiet, I had assumed that since I had grown attentive to my needs, the childish personification of my moral compass, my immature defense mechanisms, all of that had dissipated away into a more mature and whole conceptualization of my being. I was so pleased with my newfound maturity.
Suddenly, on a Sunday afternoon, after picking up the groceries and just before piling up the laundry, I became awash with cold, white dread.
The truth is that I will always be alone.
This voice has not allowed me rest, no matter what reframe or wise Aunty I compel to soothe my fear. I have quietly pondered this truth for 24 hours. I realized that when I was married, or now that I am a free mother, when I am surrounded by people or here in the dark, I am alone with my experience. No one will understand my experience of magical animals and strong Jesus except through my voice and the magic I give them. All the people I see as “connected” on coffee dates or in dancing poses are still just two people sharing their alone; they have actively tailored their form for the purpose of façade that there is an elevated state beyond the truth I have frightfully realized.
My maturity and I waited for the understanding of this sad knowledge to grow into something else. Neither handsome Jesus nor little me came forward with any answers, and the red –eyed dragon remained asleep. I continued behaving the way I always do, except, with the knowledge that I would not be fighting against the truth today. I knew, I would always be alone, but secondly, and more importantly, there was liberation at the bottom of this terrifying well, dammit and I would stay present in this fated disillusionment until I came out the other side.
I did my day’s work under this cloudy consciousness and sought out no one.
I heard a line while I was folding laundry (if you are folding and putting away all your laundry in the same day there is something wrong with even you, my friend; leave this reading knowing that even you have still room to elevate to a freedom in which your unicorn of empty hampers is a myth... liberate yourself from the toil of laundry!) that stated something to the effect of suggesting that, if I am trying to fill the never – ending hole, I am probably missing something in the that moment of vital importance to that hole.
I put the tee shirt down and look up at the reflection of myself across my bedroom; I hear my daughter listening to cartoons in the living room.
I go out to join her on the couch; she looks over at me and rests her head into my chest crawling under my free arm, the same fluid movement she has done for the past 3 years whenever we are together in front of a television. We sit this way for twenty-four minutes; I pat her belly and squeeze the soles of her feet gently.
I quietly tell her “It’s time to brush teeth for bed, baby.”
She responds with a squeal and a cry “Come here” I whisper, empathic sadness in my upturned mouth for her desperate tears. I hold and rock her as I tell her “It’s alright- we will watch it again tomorrow.”
I rock her in the fashion I did when she was newborn, on my lap now, her heart against mine, and I hum the same song “twinkle twinkle little star”. My memory holds so much time that first year, alone with her, us together, in the middle of the night, humming that song from a muscle memory in exhaustion rocking in our recliner chair.
I tell her tonight “I used to sing you this song when you were a baby.”
I do not tell her, that I chose that song, because when I tried to sing to her “You are my sunshine,” I would cry, every time, until choking on my very breath, at the flippant lyrics suggesting I could ever lose her now that I had her in my arms.
I tell her, “Do you remember that I live in your heart?”
“Do you remember that you live in my heart?”
“Yes Mommy.” A rehearsed magical thought I first taught to her older brother, eight years earlier, still also a part of his foundations of cognitions about our relationship. She lowers her gaze and rests her tearful cheek against my tee shirt, her runny nose rubbed dry in a long swipe on the black cotton.
I do not tell her tonight that it was our solitary moments in wee witching hours in that leather recliner that grew the red- eyed dragon from my rib sinews and my boiling flesh, that would eventually carry us to our new life, where she and I could cry, scream, and sing all alone in the night, the strong hand of Jesus and all the universe to support us, Amen.
I am always and never, truly alone.