Ordinary people hate solitude.
But the Master makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with the whole universe.
(Tao Te Ching, 42)
I know I have always been alone. There is no other way. Before, when I had a husband and two children at home, and living parents I lived alone and it hurt because deep inside of me there was the belief that I shouldn’t feel alone. It was the thought that hurt and caused a feeling that I called “loneliness”
which felt something like a hollowed out place inside that shouldn’t have been
there and that made me search desperately for something or someone to fill it.
Impossible. There is no inside. There is no “place”. There is no such thing
called “loneliness”. There is just this: we live alone… always, even when we
are surrounded by family and people, there is really no one there, not even a “me”.
And then there is nothing. And when there is nothing, there is no-thing to be “alone”,
so it is all solved.
Therefore, when my second partner and I broke up, I
thought: ‘Now I am going to live alone, really alone for the first time in my life’;
it was like an adventure. Would I finally meet myself? Was I going to be fun to
live with? Would I be there if I was frightened at night? Will I be the one I
come home to every evening?
So I got myself a nice apartment and moved in. I was
home. I remember that at that time I had not only ended the relationship with
my significant other but also had a break with the person I considered my best
friend in Madrid (she had decided against our continuing a friendship for
reasons it took me some time to understand) and my brother who for years lived nearby
had recently moved to England, so laughingly I said to the Universe: “Now all
you have to do is take my dog and I’ll really be alone”. The dog died a couple
of weeks later of a uterus infection. So there I was, for the first time in my
life that I could remember, absolutely alone.
Strangely enough I wasn’t frightened, and even more
strangely I had no desire to run out and find someone to share my life. I was
finally alone: no one needed me but me. My grandmother’s voice came to me: No
one needs me anymore. She was in her eighties and my grandfather had died some
time before. She complained of feeling terribly alone although she was living
at my mother and father’s house. So she obviously was not talking about
physical company although soon after his death she had lamented that she would
never be “held” again. Was I going to need somebody to need me? It wasn’t hard
to recognize how often I had mistaken “need” for “love”. I need you = I love
you; you need me = you love me. Well, for what it was worth, it was obvious
that no one needed me: they had all left. And there we were: Me, myself and I
wondering if we would actually know how to do this thing called “caring for
One of the
first things I discovered is that learning how to care for one’s self is a
process that few people, if any, are taught. Men are taught that women take
care of them and women are taught to take care of men, children, elders and
others in general, so taking care of one’s self does not seem to be part of the
human curriculum. First off, eating becomes a decision that has to be made. There
is no one around asking when lunch is going to be ready, or what’s for dinner,
or when you are going to bake a cake. In other words, there are no prompts to
get one deciding, moving and doing. When you live alone, suddenly it is
lunchtime and you haven’t even taken anything out of the freezer; or you finish
watching a movie, look at your watch and realize it is 9pm and nothing –I mean
NOTHING- is prepared for dinner. What to
do? You are hungry but as no one else needed
to eat, you ignored yourself. I remember more than once opening a nearly empty
refrigerator, rummaging through cupboards and finally eating an overripe
banana, a plate of stale dry cereal and a cup of two day old coffee. In other
words, I actually had to learn that I deserved the time it takes to plan and
prepare my meals adequately; I had to learn to listen to my body’s own prompts,
and also to its likes and dislikes. For instance, I began eating liver
smothered in onions which I love, after nearly 40 years without it because of
my husband and kid’s dislike. Today I can steam asparagus or corn and always enjoy
my fill before some greedy little hand picks up the last ear or polishes off
the juicy green tips. Marketing has actually migrated from chore to foreplay as
I stroll down the aisles savoring each morsel plopped into my basket for future
orgasmic eating. Controlling my calorie intake has also become easier as I can now
avoid having at home the goodies others always insisted fill the cupboards. If
there are no cookies, cake or ice cream around the house, I will settle for
nuts, fruit or yoghurt with honey. And,
ultimately, as there is only one of me, it is totally affordable to eat out
several times a week, thus avoiding not only the cooking but also the cleaning
up. Voila! Life a-la-carte!
Food is not
the only area where I had to invest time and thought into caring for myself and
the other one, housework, is not my forte.
The first thing that became obvious when I moved into My Own House All Alone is
that I could very quickly end up living in a pigsty if I wasn’t careful. Dishes
could pile up because there was only me to see them (and only me to wash them);
the bed could go unmade because, after all, I was going to get back into it
that very night; odds and ends could end up oddly in the wrong place: a
half-used Kleenex on the arm of the chair, a sweater hanging from the bathroom
door knob, books scattered across the dining table, muddy footsteps on the
hallway floor, spotted windows, rubber bands on the night table, make-up spread
over the windowsill in the bathroom, slippers under the desk, paperclips on the
floor: disarray and abandonment with no one around to clear their throat, cluck
their tongue and suggest the housewife is not doing her job. There had to be a
kind way to encourage myself into doing what I have always found so
distasteful. The way I found was with flowers. Once a week at least I buy a
large bouquet of flowers and flowers can’t be placed in a pigsty. So in order
for the blossoms to have an adequate place to flaunt their beauty I tidy up
before they arrive and all the time they are there. Problem solved: I tidy up
in order to gift myself the delight of having flowers all around my house, from
the kitchen to the bedroom to the living room to the bathroom, cut flowers and
potted flowers, according to my whims or to the season.
and living space are cared for, and there is only one thing left: distraction
and diversion. Television or home movies (with all and popcorn) are ok, but
couch-potatoship is not the best or healthiest of entertainments and there is
definitely nobody taking care of bringing the world to me unless we are talking
“dog world”. When I was young and still living with my parents, the world came
home with my father. Whether it was going out or staying home, Dad made being a
family fun and not just a chore. When he walked through the door in the
evenings, the family catalyzed around him and there was no need for anything
else (even after television began broadcasting in Mexico, it never found its
way into the center of the family, but rather was something marginal, hidden
away in the studio and only turned on occasionally). When I myself married, I
carried on the tradition and my husband’s appearance at the door in the evening
signaled the moment for relaxing, doing something communal, gathering around
the evening cocktail and the conversation that went with it. So finding myself
suddenly alone was a shock because there was no one to “come home” and signal
the end of the day and the beginning of a social and fun hour.
was perhaps the most difficult. It required letting go of the habit of
“distraction” being something that wound up the day and beginning to
intersperse it with everything else I did. So there is this work of writing
pieces for my blog and then there is the hour of distraction when I go for a
walk with Salomé up the hill called the Pain
de Sucre; or there is tidying up the living room and making dinner before
popping a DVD into the television and watching a movie; or there is the morning
distraction of my cup of coffee with my New Zealander friend. On weekends,
distraction might mean driving to another town to discover a new restaurant or
take in some sightseeing. They are myriad moments when the effort of “doing”
becomes the pleasure of “doing” something else and relaxing. It also means,
many times, making an extra effort to find the people to do these things with,
cultivating friendships with others that live alone and are available, being
more socially minded while still avoiding the so-called social events which
bore me to death; and occasionally finding new things that I can do on my own
that are entertaining and relaxing, like playing word games on the computer, or
doing the daily Sudoku or crossword puzzle in the newspaper. Going to the
movies on my own became a delight because no one complained of my munching
popcorn and I didn’t have to share my portion with a hand from the adjoining
But it was
silence, in the end, that became the best of all. Whereas many people play
music or leave the television on so as not to feel alone I immerse myself in
silence and make it my favorite symphony. Silence hunkers down on the floor
boards and curls up in every corner; it seeps into the furniture and spreads
along the walls. I bask in it as I lie in the dark at night and fill my ears.
The distant hoot of an owl, the crickets’ intermittent chant, a passing car,
the far away rumble of thunder, are all like sweet raisins floating in the
thick black pudding of silence. It is my best friend and my most longed for
pleasure. It is waiting for me when I walk through the door like a faithful
companion to hug and kiss me; it’s there when I awake in the morning and
snuggle into it for a few more minutes before beginning the day. Silence is my
husband and my wife; it is my beloved child and the mother who cherishes me. I
breathe it in and it breathes me, so that when I have left it for any time, I
long to return. It is the background music to my life: I need no other.
So, yes, I
live alone or, as Byron Katie puts it, I live on “my own planet of perception”,
but that has always been true, no matter how many people seemed to occupy the
same house as I did, no matter how many bodies moved in and out of my time and
space, there was never anyone else but me; I just didn’t know it then. I didn’t
know that I have always been the one I was waiting for until I finally moved in
with myself for good.
8 thoughts on “ALONE”
SIEMPRE CONSIGUES SORPRENDERME MI QUERIDA BRIANDA UNA Y OTRA VEZ , SIEMPRE. .
ESTE ÚLTIMO ESCRITO, “ALONE”, ME HA DEJADO PASMADO POR SU BELLEZA, SU LUCIDEZ, POR COMO EN ÈL TE MUESTRAS TAN SOSEGADA, Y POR TU AUTOCONTROL. TAMBIEN POR TU SENTIDO DEL HUMOR TENUE AQUI, PERO PRESENTE TAMBIEN EN ESTE ESCRITO COMO EN TODOS LOS TUYOS .
UNA VEZ MÁS TE FELICITO Y TE AGRADEZCO QUE NOS REGALES ESTOS COMENTARIOS Y ESTAS TUS VIVENCIAS.
CON TODO NO SE SI COMPARTO PLENAMENTE LO QUE DICES.
YO SIENTO QUE LAS PERSONAS QUE ME QUIEREN, Y QUE POR TANTO ME ACOMPAÑAN EN MI VIDA, ESTÁN CONMIGO AUNQUE NO ESTEN JUNTO A MI, AUNQUE NO ESTEN A MI LADO. SI ESTO SE PUEDE LOGRAR POR ALGUIEN , ME PARECE QUE QUIEN LO LOGRA NUNCA SE SIENTE ESENCIALMENTE SOLO.
EN FIN SIEMPRE TODO NOS LLEVA A LO MISMO…QUE ES EL DIFERENTE CONTENIDO QUE CADA UNO DA A UNA MISMA PALABRA. ES POR ESO QUE, COMO EN EL MUNDO CONTRACTUAL ANGLOSAJON SE HACE, CADA UNO DE NOSOTOS AL COMENZAR A ENZARZARNOS CON ALGUIEN EN UNA DISCUSIÓN O AL DISPONERNOS A PARTICIPAR CON OTROS EN UNA CONVERSACION SOBRE UN TEMA CUALQUIERA DETERMINADO DEBERIAMOS COMENZAR POR CONSENSUAR ENTRE LOS PARTICIPANTES EL SIGNIFICADO QUE CADA PALABRA VA A TENER EN NUESTRO INTERCAMBIO DE OPINIONES Y SENTIMIENTOS. (DEJANDO MUY PATENTE QUE SOBRE IDEAS SE PUEDE DISCUTIR PERO SOBRE SENTIMIENTOS NO, PERO EN FIN ESO YA SERÍA MATERIA DE OTRO ESCRITO Y POR CIERTO NADA CORTO)
GRACIAS ORTRA VEZ BRIANDA.
Good to see you comfortable in your own skin. Positive alternative to the hook-up, get connected mania. Peace at last. Or so it sounds.
Hola Brianda, prefiero escribir en español porque me expreso mejor. Ocasionalmente me paseo por tu web y hoy al responder tu correo decidí ver como llevas el blog y me encuentro con esta maravilla de ensayo: te felicito, realmente me ha llegado en un momento muy oportuno. Disfruto tu soledad: como lo describes me encuentro con un momento feliz y desde aquí te escribo esto, gracias…
Who is this ‘I’?
WHO would you be without THIS story?
Who would you be NOW not believing any story or concept?
thank you for reading and in answer to your Byron Katie question, Well perhaps it is easier to answer “who” I would not be: I would not be writing this piece, that is for sure. And, I might add, the importance is not to be without a thought, that is not possible, I do not produce my thoughts and therefore cannot “not-produce” them. But no one says that I believe what I think. Mind is a marvelous game and I, for one, will continue to enjoy it as long as possible. Thank you for commenting. B
I was discussing this empty sense I felt at the center of “my I ” with Richard once, and he said to the effect that when I face away from it, it left me feeling lost and cut off. If I would face it, it would be the beacon that would guide me home, or something like that.
Do you perceive the delicious Silence to be different from the Loneliness, or the same but perceived as a blessing not a threat now that it is integrated within you?
I later came on the instructions from The Cloud of Unknowing in turning into the silence and staying with it, until the dark clouds begin to thin out.
I think the Hindu’s approach this with Neti Neti, and the Buddhists with their teachings about Emptiness/ Fullness and the Void.
Funny how they all say something similar, or……. maybe not.
That touched something we all experience.
Good One Brianda.
Craig: To me “loneliness” comes from thinking, from the mind; the “silence” is what I am and from where I live so it is actually “home” just as the infinite space is and the darkness that has no end. Strangely enough, the thought “center of my I” brings no experience to me, as the “within me” brings no experience unless I am referring to corporal experiences which take place within the body, but then I am not the body, although I experience through it and many times find myself complaining about its aches and pains. “I” is actually just a figure of speech: if I close my eyes there is nothing but silence, darkness and space: no body, no mind. That is why Katie many times speaks from “it” and will say things like: “it” thinks it wants some water… And I really thank you for being with me on every publication. It is a delight to read your comments. Isn’t life fun?
Love this Brianda. Thanks to ‘your mind’ for sending this out just now! No-one needs me is such a desperate cry.
I remember Richard saying something along the lines of ‘Sanity is when you can BE all alone.