After almost a year living alone, I still feel like I’m finding my own way around out in the world. The novel freedom to do whatever I like, whenever I like and decorate the way I always wanted to has given way to a general feeling of blah. I’m sure the television’s demise has added to the feeling that it’s always silent and lonely. The crippling heat of August means less outdoor fun and everyone is starting to have that weary, melted look. My tiny living room has become a bit cell-like, with all the nights I spend on the couch to sleep in front of the air conditioner, followed by days on the couch writing, reading, and filling the void with Hulu tv on my laptop.
To make a long story short, I’m lonely. I work virtually at a borrowed office with no co-workers nearby. Then I come home to my perfectly lovely, but quiet, house. Sometimes I worry that all the silence is making me a little weird and overenthusiastic when I’m out with people- a little too gushy, too chatty. BC, an expert in the art of living alone, describes it as the fine line between Thoreau and Emily Dickinson. And there are moments when I start to think that my little independence project is starting to look a little kooky.
Pittsburgh, which I love, can also be a notoriously hard town to make friends in. Most of my friends have large social circles built up over years of Catholic school and co-workers, longtime neighbors and large nearby extended family. Through the coupled years, I relied on the ex’s vast cohort of friends, family and acquaintances for a built-in gang, but now that we are done, I enjoy running into them out on the town, but don’t feel right crossing the line into making actual plans with them. It took me so long to get untangled from the ex in the first place, that I don’t want to risk getting back into that twisted web.
So, I’ve tried all those corny suggestions for how to make friends- taking a class here and there, volunteering and joining my alumni board, taking myself on “artist dates” and going out alone at night and being open to meeting new people. These things take time. I get it. But, some days, I admit, the loneliness feels like more than I can bear. It’s not the kind of loneliness that getting back into the dating game could fix. It’s the heat-based equivalent of being snowed in for the blizzard in February.
Two weeks ago, I went to a work conference in Denver and for five days I had co-workers to meet for breakfast and happy hour every day. We blabbed into the night, watched baseball, laughed while we were evacuated for a fire drill at midnight. It made me think that maybe I need to start looking for something more interactive to do for a living. My job is fine, but after two years living by email and conference call, I’m missing face-time with actual living breathing humans.
Vacation with BC helped. Five days of being un-alone was exactly the vacation I needed. My job isn’t particularly stressful most days, and I didn’t need to get unwound from my (almost too) peaceful house. I just needed a vacation from silence and flying solo. I needed to get away from feeling trapped in my house, in my skin. So I walked around in the woods, lounged on the beach, ate good seafood, and talked until I ran out of things to talk about. I narrated entire episodes of Jersey Shore on the hotel tv. I made up stories about strangers sitting across from us at the bar.
But now I’m back to my new normal- lonely, with a big empty social calendar and a very quiet phone. I need to figure out how to do this better, before I make myself entirely miserable. I watch the much-linked Tanya Davis “How to Be Alone” poem on YouTube. I remind myself of one of my favorite quotes: “I used to believe that anything was better than nothing. Now I know that sometimes nothing is better.” (Glenda Jackson). I’m just learning how to live with the nothing more comfortably. And apparently, I’m a slow learner.