Alone time

February 14th is creeping up, which reminds me that some of us don’t have partners with which to celebrate, and are perhaps feeling particularly alone. Not bad alone, necessarily, but notably alone, more so than on any other day. I’ve been there far more often than not, and have occasionally overcompensated in response. One year, while still living at the UW, I handmade dozens of chocolate-covered strawberries and gave them out to all my single dorm friends. They responded with perplexed expressions, and I explained, “I love Love!”

This week leading up to Valentine’s Day is also the week leading up to Chris’s and my first anniversary. Exciting! Chris also happens to be away this week, across the country at the annual AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference, taking part in a panel on H.P. Lovecraft. I find myself in a quiet house, fixing myself small meals, sleeping in a bed that suddenly feels much bigger. At first, this made me feel a bit fuzzy around the edges, like my aura had expanded and was reaching out for the person whose shoulder I always touch as I walk by, whose eyes I always meet when I pause and look up between paragraphs. Then I felt small, like my aura had retracted inward again, and I felt myself inside my own skin.

It wasn’t really sad or painful, but it was interesting that I had to stumble across a little emotional and cognitive hurdle in order to remember how to appreciate my alone time again. Because loneliness and aloneness are not the same thing. Just as you can be entrenched in relationships that make you feel alienated and invisible, you can also feel perfectly in touch with yourself and the world when in a state of solitude.

Isaac Newton never married, but he gave us calculus, among so many other momentous scientific advances. Same with Nikola Tesla. Ludwig van Beethoven composed music that overflows our hearts, and Glenn Gould played them with deeper feeling than anyone, and yet both Beethoven and Gould were celibate. Emily Dickinson was so reclusive that most of her relationships existed only through written correspondence. Jorge Luis Borges was so sex-phobic that he forfeited marrying the love of his life, and yet his short stories gave flesh and blood to such mind-bending ideas as infinity and free will.

Not everyone who ends up alone is alone by choice. Sometimes circumstances get in the way. Queen Elizabeth I, the “Virgin Queen,” risked the political fate of all Europe with her choice (and non-choice) of suitor. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for acting upon his true romantic feelings.

In life, it’s never a given that you’re going to encounter your person—or people—who will love and respect and understand you, or that circumstances will allow for you to develop your partnership. There are so many obstacles to love–war, disease, religion, societal intolerance, personal maturity—that it’s a wonder any of us find each other, fall in love, and manage to maintain a loving, life-sustaining relationship in the first place.

Really, we should be celebrating Valentine’s Day because romantic love is never a given, and so damn difficult to achieve. In the meantime, there’s beautiful, loving work to be done by all of us, together and alone.

Published by the West Seattle Herald 02/13/2017.

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10 Responses to Alone time

  1. Klaus,Germany, Stuttgart area says:

    “In the meantime, there’s beautiful, loving work to be done by all of us, together and alone.”
    …and sometimes this work requires courage and trust as illustrated here:
    https://image.jimcdn.com/app/cms/image/transf/none/path/s6eeb497137524bb3/image/if043ab73c59b8464/version/1448876192/image.jpg

  2. Stephane G says:

    A few years ago, and precisely on a Saint Valentine’s morning, my other half, who was only in her late 30’s, and certainly was the healthiest person I knew then, but had mysteriously started to suffer a lot from back pain, was suddenly and most unexpectedly diagnosed with an advanced multiple myeloma.

    I remember how we realized, in the evening, that we’d most likely not have the chance to grow old together in spite of our lasting romance (You can live with this thing for a few years with a rather heavy treatment, but in the end, it gradually gets beyond control and is generally incurable). Love really takes a new face when you suddenly understand that, whatever you do or choose or decide, it will be limited in time by something else than just feelings. Something you have almost no control over.

    Since this February 14th, and as the disease is slowly poisoning her, every Saint Valentine’s day has not only been a celebration of this love we share but also an anniversary and an opportunity to give thanks to Nature, Chance, Science or God – call it whatever you like – for granting us the privilege of another year together in this world. A celebration of life. Because just like romantic love, life is not forever given.

    Somebody once said “If we remembered everyday that we could lose someone at any moment, we would love them more fiercely and freely, and without fear- not because there is nothing to lose, but because everything can always be lost.” We do not want to remember this everyday, and chose to enjoy life as it is and each day as it comes. But in such occasion, it is worthwhile to give this a little thought.

  3. Michael J Butler says:

    A Very Thought Provoking Article.

  4. Harry says:

    And “you” are telling me! Yes, circumstances do dictate that I cannot be where you are! 😀

    (So creepy… hahaha, that’s why this is just a flirt! Have a great Valentine’s Day, Amanda!)

  5. komponisto says:

    A particularly lovely column — from an author whose very name calls for love. <3

  6. Tom Zupancic says:

    Great post Amanda. Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and affection, the feelings we savor so deeply.

    But it’s not always like that. Time alone. As you said “Loneliness and aloneness are not the same thing.” “Not everyone who ends up alone is alone by choice. Sometimes circumstances get in the way.” How to understand complex personal experiences?

    Events like Valentine’s Day cut both ways.

    Love is amazing.

    Understanding those left alone… Who knows…

    • Tom Zupancic says:

      In the mean time… I just received an amazing musical statement that epidomizes the essence of Amanda’s post, but, unfortunately can’t post it here. It was from a native American left alone… A musical genius who’s life went sideways.

      “Not everyone who ends up alone is alone by choice. Sometimes circumstances get in the way. ”

      This musician is alone, and not by choice. Too bad I can’t share more. His music speaks so profoundly. But who cares about such artists, anyway?

  7. Tom Mininger says:

    I sure hope he remembers to bring back a gift from the East Coast. For some reason females are so sensitive about both anniversaries and Valentines’ day.

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