How to Be Alone

Musings

I listened to this song by Jason Isbell this morn per a friend’s suggestion and here is how it starts:

I been working here, Monday it’ll be a year
And I can’t recall a day when I didn’t want to disappear
But I keep on showing up, hell-bent on growing up
If it takes a lifetime

I’m learning how to be alone. I fall asleep with the TV on
And I fight the urge to live inside my telephone
I keep my spirits high, find happiness by and by
If it takes a lifetime

When I heard that line about learning how to be alone I stopped what I was doing, which was heating water on the stove for coffee in my french press. Which funny little thing about that. I have a morning ritual of talking to my best friend every morning around 7:30 a.m. She is basically my alarm clock and the only person I would deign to talk to at that unholy hour, especially before I’ve even had my coffee.

I grumbled to her the other day that I am negligent about cleaning my french press after my morning coffee and then I am mad at myself the next morning when I have to clean it out before I can make coffee, to which she responded deadpan, “wow, first world problems. I don’t even know what a french press is.”

Anyhow. Back to that line. Learning how to be alone. I loved that line and admittedly thought about it all day. Though if truth be told I had already been giving considerable thought to my learning how to be alone before I even heard the song.

Admittedly I have never really enjoyed or relished the prospect of truly being on my own. And not in the way of singlehood. But being without my sisters or my friends. Now initially the thought sounded novel to me, before I had experienced it. But once I had experienced ‘on my own’ for the first time when I moved to New York City, I warmed to it with all the excitement of having a cavity filled.

I blame growing up in a big family. Because of this, I have always been surrounded by people, chaos and noise. And this has always comforted me. As a child if I fell asleep to silence it meant I was the last one up and I hated that. I would strive to go to bed before everyone else, that way I could still hear the TV downstairs and kids chattering. A silent house put me on edge and frightened me.

Now there have been plenty of experiences I have done on my own and loved. I set off for college seven hours away from my family and after the initial shock, adjusted accordingly. After college I moved to Green Bay and while my only friend there was at work, I took myself on museum dates, movie dates, I even once did a wine tasting by myself. I like myself and I like spending time with me. It’s just the whole truly being on my own thing, as in falling asleep alone and coming home to my computer, book collection, and stuffed giraffe somewhat heebs me out.

But that is where I am at these days and I will admit, I initially reacted in much the same way as I did in New York. Funnily enough I wanted to be back in Wyoming bad. Oh something fierce, so I shouldn’t have resorted to pissing and moaning about it, but that is exactly what I did after the new and novel wore off a few days in.

The intensity of being alone, coming home to an empty house, having no one ask me about my days adventures, and then the nights, oh gosh, nighttime was the worst. Mostly because I am a giant toddler who thinks every noise is something about to snatch me or kill me or both. Also, I am woman enough to admit I am sort of afraid of the dark. On my own in the dark, okay! The first couple nights I slept with one of those fake plastic tea light candles in my bed as a makeshift nightlight.

And then one night I looked in the mirror across from my bed after I’d shut off the lights and remembered that childhood tale about Bloody Mary. I became intensely overwrought that I would accidentally think Bloody Mary the obligatory three times and what if it wasn’t just a legend and I was stuck in a house by myself with a bloody apparition in a town where all my nearest neighbors were deer and the elderly. Although, let’s be real, this is Wyoming, people here have guns. I would totally be okay. But if it’s an apparition… Anyway.

Besides night frets and an overly quiet house that caused me extreme discomfort, I forcibly settled in with that discomfort, set on this being the one time I would not run away from any of my fears. And they are plenty. Reference my earlier blog on highly irrational fears.

I would face doing my work. I would face a quiet house. I would face being hundreds of miles from my comfort zone of friends and family. I would even face the dark without Nyquil or whiskey, though I considered both viable options if I wasn’t big girl enough to handle all my fears. Though turns out I am.

Last night was my epiphany moment in bed. You know that scene in Home Alone where Kevin is irrationally afraid of the furnace in the basement? Well one day he goes down there, still sort of afraid and then has his ah-ha moment and tells the furnace to shut up and he’s over it. Yeah if Kevin—an eight year old—can do it, I probably could too.

I was lying in bed exhausted, watching The Office on my laptop when I heard a noise. I suspiciously paused The Office listening intently to see if I was about to be murdered and I was about to press play again to drown out my worries in Steve Carell’s nonsense, when I got fed up with my own nonsense.

I shut the computer, enveloping myself in complete blackness, because I was tired. I told myself the noises were normal house noises and if I were about to be murdered then so be it. Go to bed, you idiot, I thought. And I did. I just went to bed.

That was kind of huge for me.

Not only that, but I have adjusted. While I do want to come home and tell someone stories, there is a certain empowerment in coming home, tending to my own needs, cutting potatoes, cleaning the kitchen, jotting down notes in my journal and curling up to watch I Love Lucy that makes me feel, well… kind of like an adult.

And the loneliness thing? It’s easy to see it that way at first, like the loneliness would swallow me whole, but it’s hard to feel lonely in a town of 75 people. It seems the opposite would be true but it’s not. In a town this small, people care. People learned my name right away and use it when they see me. Everyone waves. All. The. Time. Which is my favorite thing.

In fact I have been running daily and if someone passes me from behind they make sure to hold up their hand and wave anyway so I still get a wave even if I didn’t see them head-on. I get waves from tractors and hellos from people in town who I haven’t even met yet, but they will take time to stop and ask me how I am doing or comment on my running or that they heard I was a writer.

The friends I have made include me and ask me to do things with them or text me to ask about my day. Or perfect strangers offer to teach me how to rope because I mentioned wanting to learn. And that in itself is incredible because the woman who offered to teach me to rope is a rancher and this is a busy season for the ranchers. The fact that she would haul a hay bail, cow dummy head and rope over to my house and give me a roping tutorial when I am sure she has better things to do is mind-boggling.

And it has made me fall in love with this town and feel the furthest from being alone when in fact, I am alone. If this being alone, I don’t think I could’ve found a better place to give it a whirl.

I’m learning how to be alone. I fall asleep with the TV on
And I fight the urge to live inside my telephone
I keep my spirits high, find happiness by and by
If it takes a lifetime

Math Didn’t Stick… But Carlos, Luke and Kirk Did

Musings

Lena

I’ll be honest, sometimes my expectations are a little ridiculous. Like how I check my mail with the serious hope that a love letter from a secret admirer will be awaiting me. In truth if normal people actually received a random note of love professions from an anonymous person, most people would assume they were being stalked by some crazed loon who wanted to cut their hair off and wear it, probably along with their skin. I however, believe differently. I am of the Jane Eyre persuasion that a well placed letter of undying love would be welcomed joyously. And okay, fine maybe it shouldn’t be anonymous because yeah, that might be weird, just sign your name man, but I do like the idea of secret admirers. But maybe it’s because I never had one in the fourth grade when that sort of thing was going around with cooties.

Besides expecting love letters in my mailbox, I also have high expectations when it comes to love. I wouldn’t say they are unreal or that I expect a knight on a white horse to ride up to my door, though I mean, come on, that’d be seriously awesome. Natalie Portman got to land Thor, that lucky wretch. I want some time-travel, world-saving, sword-wielding, scantily-clad Chris Hemsworth to land in my backyard. And okay, I actually do feel like I should point out that in no way is Chris Hemsworth normally my type. I don’t care all that much about bulging muscles and blonde hair almost never revs my engine, but that accent and that whole defend his kingdom bit, well it’s just sexy okay? So I’ll forgive the lack of beard and flannel but alas I digress.

It’s just that I had a realization the other day. As I  was helping out in the first-grade classroom where I used to work assisting the little munchkins with rudimentary math: 4-3, 7-6, 9-7… I thought back to when I was in first grade. I tried to recall if I could remember being taught basic addition and subtraction. I couldn’t recall.

What I could recall, however, with sparkling clarity was my crush who wore a white leather jacket. I think it had fringe and maybe some red birds swooping between the shoulder blades. He always hung it on the back of his chair and I stared longingly at it, wishing I was his girl and that he’d drape that fine piece of fashion over my shoulders, proclaiming to the world that I was his. I think his name was Carlos. And he was Hispanic. Oh those dark locks and that white leather. Carlos, you made it hard for a girl to remember silly math with you around.

I ended up with a different boyfriend in the class who had an obsession with the Phantom of the Opera and would never shut up about it. Ah, my first gay boyfriend, every girl needs at least one in life.

Okay, so maybe second grade I would recall some math? Hmmm, having a hard time locating the numbers, but I remembered how much fun I had in the reading corner and also my crush Timothy Driver. He also had lustrous dark locks (told you I’m not really into blondes) and was already popular as when I tried to befriend him he clearly knew his station was above mine and wanted nothing to do with me and my unruly curls and propensity for reading.

So odd that I couldn’t remember learning basic addition and subtraction but I remember Carlos and Timothy… what about third grade? Any math there? Nope. But I did have another crush on a Timothy but this one was red-headed. Red-headed Timothy actually was my friend and would play with me on the playground with my other friend… gosh, I cannot remember her name though… I’m starting to see a pattern here. Well let’s say her name was Rachel. One day I felt like Red-headed Timothy and Rachel were having too much fun with each other and not giving me enough attention.

Did I show them? Oh boy did I show them. I ran away from school. I just up and left the playground and walked across the street to the apartment complex where I knew my aunt lived. She wasn’t home, so I sat on her stairs in front of her door for awhile mulling over how boys were stupid and a total let-down. And then I walked back to school, where I was promptly told to march myself to the principal’s office. So apparently school is like jail and you’re not allowed to leave the grounds without serious consequences. Gosh, how was I to know? I had just wanted to send Red-headed Timothy a message. Don’t pay attention to me, and I will make the biggest spectacle you’ve ever seen, making it impossible for you to ignore me! 

As memory served, math clearly wasn’t on my mind as a young lass. Not even one problem survived when having to compete for space with my childhood crushes.

I knew the fourth grade was a bust for math because that was the year I discovered writing as my calling in life. I became consumed with writing stories and penning author’s bio’s. I don’t even recall having a serious crush that year. Writing was my new boyfriend and that was all I cared about. I mean sure, Alan was a hoot but he knew it, so that was a bit of a turn-off, I didn’t need anyone competing with me for attention. And Luke was really cute (for a blonde) but he was also the smelly kid so there was no dealing with that. And then William who sat next to me and happened to be blind but could play the piano and sang Billy Joel at our school concerts, really had me considering throwing all caution to the wind to start wooing a blind man, but I just didn’t have the time. Not with my newfound love, writing.

After doing a full-on mental assessment of my entire schooling career I found that while math was unremarkable to me in every way (shocker, I hate math) I could clearly pinpoint every crush from every grade and something that stood out about that crush, along with books I read or writing assignments I enjoyed. What this so obviously encapsulates is my two great loves: romance and the written word. Which clearly have been with me as far back as I can remember. I vaguely recall having crushes even in preschool, though what I remember more about preschool was really enjoying nap-time. Also nothing has changed much there.

Sure I loved love so much that by the time sixth grade rolled around and I still didn’t have a boyfriend I made one up, grabbing the name Kirk from Star Trek. I thought that the name Kirk was so obscure that it would have to be believable. Wrong, the fact that no one has ever had the name Kirk, ever, except for Captain Kirk and the fact that Imaginary Boyfriend Kirk attended a different school, led all my incredibly sweet and kind friends to just politely play along while raising suspicious eyebrows at my insistence on having a boyfriend, even if unreal and horribly named Kirk.

And yes I loved writing so much that when LeAnn Rimes had her hit single, “Blue” at fourteen, I began scrambling to start my book, so I could be the next child prodigy in the writing world. As a youngster, while making up boyfriends and practicing kissing on oranges and trees (laugh now but I’m a damn fine kisser thanks to those willing participants) I also dabbled in writing short stories, mostly angsty romances but I really kicked it up a notch thanks to LeAnn and began trying to type my novel at my babysitting job after the kids went to sleep. I still have all forty some pages typed out and stored in a manilla envelope with Top Secret written all over it. I may not have gotten my novel done or picked up by fourteen, but my commitment in even typing out forty pages is still slightly impressive to me even now.

These two constants in my life, my love of love and getting my book deal permeate my very existence. So all right, maybe math didn’t make a big impression, but that’s just not my cup of coffee, ya know? And maybe my future love will have to suffer through my hideous want for attention (I blame my nine younger siblings on why I didn’t get enough as a child) and maybe I’ll run away again when I don’t get it? Who’s to say? But he will also get quality kisses, more romance than a Danielle Steel novel and if he’s really swell, he’ll probably get a book dedication too.