Learning to be lonely

When I spent a summer singing in the Italian countryside a few years ago, I had a roommate for the first time in years. I found out during the course of our time together that she thought I was horribly rude and hated her, for I didn’t talk to her very much. Problem was, I was so used to living alone that I could go hours and hours without talking to anyone, and I did so, even when she was in the apartment. It wasn’t personal, I was just used to being alone.

Over the past year or so, this blog has traced the outlines of my story of falling ill with Crohn’s disease, but the story it has traced even more lightly is my story of falling in love. It began long before my diagnosis, and savvy readers may have been able to see its shadow over many of the posts that ostensibly have nothing to do with romance. But I resist writing much about it: there’s another stakeholder in this story, and besides, I need to save something for my memoir.

We live at a distance just close enough to see each other often and just far enough to be a pain in the rear. For this reason I didn’t really expect our initial flirtation to go anywhere. I had cut off plenty of other budding relationships for much less than a three-hour drive. I was wrong, and now it’s been well over a year that we haven’t gone more than ten days without seeing each other.

Being part of a partnership after many long years of being single was not easy. I was quite happy as a single person. I was focused and had wonderful relationships with lots of people. I was master of my domain, free to arrange my schedule and my apartment however I saw fit. I didn’t have to clean if I didn’t want to. And I rarely wanted to.

This weekend I am in the middle of one of those horrid ten-day stretches when we don’t see each other, and I am terribly lonely, and that is new to me. I never felt lonely when I was single. In fact, I felt complete. But love finally succeeded at cracking open my heart and now there is part of it that is exposed and raw. I am convinced this is a good thing.

There is a Joni Mitchell song in which she confesses “when he’s gone, me and them lonesome blues collide. The bed’s too big, the frying pan’s too wide”. When you compare your life to a Joni Mitchell song you know you’re in trouble. But she is beloved for making pain tolerable – even beautiful.

There is beauty in this loneliness.

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8 Responses to Learning to be lonely

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