For all my To Do lists, when faced with the reality of being truly on my own, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I wandered around for a few minutes like a ghost, disoriented, knowing there was a light somewhere meant for me disappear into, yet unable to find it.
I finally decided I was being ridiculous so I slipped on my swimsuit, grabbed a towel, and shuffled out the door.
And shuffle I did. Since Sunday my pace has slowed considerably. With no deadlines, demands, or people to satisfy, there’s been no need to constantly check a clock or step harder on the gas pedal.
It was overcast and humid, the grass still wet from recent rains. It’s my favorite time of day to go swimming – right before dark when everyone else is inside eating dinner and the lake is smooth and quiet.
Diving into the water and swimming just beneath the surface is one of the best feelings in the world. It envelopes you, feels like silk rippling over your skin every time you move a limb. I lay on my back underneath it and waved my arms lazily to stay down, looking up at the play of shadow and light.
I came up for air and struck out toward a neighboring dock, intent on swimming laps. But after only a few passes there was a buzzing around my head. I squealed and dunked under the water, swam a few yards, and resurfaced. A horsefly was determined to make my head his resting place and he chased me all over the cove before I finally conceded defeat and got out.
Back at home I took a long, hot shower and did something I never get to do: walk around in a towel. It seems so simple, but it’s a luxury I don’t get often. I was riffling through my dresser, looking for a t-shirt, when my hand found something unexpected – a short, blue silk nightgown with thin straps and a plunging neckline. I’d never worn it before – partially because of where it came from, and partially because it would just be silly to walk around a crowded house in such a thing.
I wrapped my wet hair in a towel and slipped the nightgown over my head. I reached back into my dresser and pulled out the sheer, matching robe. Shrugging it on and standing in front of the mirror, I felt just a tad silly. Maybe other people walk around their homes in silk and satin, but I’ve always been a cotton t-shirt kind of girl. I kept it on anyway. When would I ever get the chance to wear it again?
I could go on to tell you about how I ate a helping of chicken salad and watched the last half of Dirty Dancing. Or how I sat on the dark porch and smoked a cigarette, feeling every bit the old fashioned diva in my silk. Or about when the cat ran out the door and I had to chase after him in the dark, feeling not so much like a diva and more like a lunatic. Regale you with all my solo activities - exciting or otherwise.
Instead I’ll tell you this:
Being alone for an extended period of time is not exactly what I expected. I thought I remembered what it was like when I lived by myself, but I’d forgotten a few things.
Like the fear of walking past an uncovered window, seeing nothing but your reflection surrounded by black, and wondering if something or someone is looking back. Or the way that so much quiet time can make you think about things that you wouldn’t normally have the time or energy to think about. Or that feeling of isolation and disconnect – like you’re the only person in a 100 mile radius (except, of course, for the thing that may or may not be staring in your darkened window).
Last night I stared into space and listened to the fan whir overhead. I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts strayed from one thing to another – my day and the parts I enjoyed, the fear of the unlikely lurker outside my locked doors and bolted windows, how hard my family would laugh if they could have seen me decked out in my fancy night attire. I tossed and I turned, though I was physically more than comfortable.
Finally I picked up my cell phone and went to my messages. In the inbox were two videos my mother sent me earlier that day. In them my daughter is standing by a pool in her bathing suit, hands on her hips, demanding that everyone “watch this!”. She turns and shoots a grin over her shoulder before jumping into the pool, going underwater, and popping back up triumphantly, then running back up the stairs to do it again. I’ve been trying to get her to jump off the dock and stick her face in the water forever, and she never would.
I felt a mixture of things – pride for her little accomplishment, disappointment at not being there to witness it first hand, jealousy that my mom was getting to experience her first beach trip and I wasn’t. But mostly I just felt better. Because as much as I’ve enjoyed (and will continue to enjoy) my quiet time this week, the truth is I’m not actually alone. I won’t ever be again. And who really wants to be anyway?
I relaxed back into the pillows, closed my eyes, and fell asleep knowing I wasn’t so ridiculous after all. I found my light right where I’d left it –