I only became worried when I started talking to myself. And not for the reason you may think. I find it endearing when people talk to themselves; it shows a level of independence of spirit that is both adorable and fascinating.
But my grandmother died a bitter, lonely old woman and she didn’t only talk to herself. No no, she had full, replied-to conversations.
Like me, she was a fierce introvert. Unlike me, she found humans deplorable and uninteresting. So when her goldenest of golden years arrived, she was thrilled to spend it alone.
If you had asked me a year ago if I want to die alone, I’d have replied: “Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!” It would have been an exaggeration, but then, I tend to speak in hyperbole.
The crux is true though: I like being by myself. I don’t fit in easily. I’m a steak in a vegan fridge. So when the December holidays rolled around I rushed to apply for all the leave that reason and human resources would allow, which, as luck would have it, was 45 days.
I have no family apart from a sibling who lives a thousand miles away and all my friends left our small, dull little town for greener and bluer pastures over the holiday season. So the scene was set. I was to recharge batteries in accordance to every introvert’s wildest fantasies.
The first two weeks of solitude allowed me to be at peace, to read what I have been yearning to read and to fall down a rabbit hole of bad habits. You only know the devastation of high sugar and horror movie marathons when you yourself have witnesses the gastric, physical and moral decline…
But after a month of being alone I experienced something I’ve seldom encountered: loneliness. I had moved beyond the comforting and safe and nourishing realm of solitude to that most disturbing of places.
And suddenly I feared becoming my grandmother. This fear forces you to analyse relationships like a mother baboon looks for lice on her babies.
And slowly, like grass grows, I recognized the beauty. The things I take for granted when it’s there.
Like friendships. I’ve become great at keeping friends at arm’s length. And yet they keep coming back. They keep sending texts and calling and taking me to Mexican restaurants and feeding me tequila that they know all too well will result in regret and headache…
My best friend, although we are deeply different humans and I often want to headbutt sense into her, has developed a hypersensitivity to my complicated needs. She makes me laugh and she makes me feel like she’ll always be there, even if I crawl so deep into my shell that a Labrador Retriever can’t catch a whiff.
A bunch of my friends threatened me with a surprise birthday party last year when I turned forty. I responded by booking a two week trip to a tropical island around the time of my date of birth. But now I revel in the idea that I have friends. Wonderfully colorful, clever as hell, caring, tequila-drinking friends.
I’m quick to whine about my job. But I’ve come to understand that whining about my job makes me a bit of an asshole. I just had 45 days of leave, for crying in a bucket of oats. I have an office. With my name on it. An office with my name on it amongst many other offices with names on it. My place among other people.
I have a place.
My work also gives me purpose. I can tell that by the 6 million as yet unread e-mails that lie in waiting like puff adders in the sand.
I have a place and purpose.
And one day I might find love again. Many years ago someone I loved died and I have since placed myself out of reach. But one day…one day I might stumble upon the miracle of finding someone I don’t want respite from.
Then I’ll be the best of partners. I’ll love without reservation and spoil and worry.
Because having someone in your life…friend or family or lover or colleague…is a precious thing. I tend to neglect those I love or those who need me, but I now know what a travesty that is. Human connection doesn’t have to be conventional, but it has to be. It doesn’t have to be frequent, but it has to be on purpose.
Perhaps I’ll invite someone over for some chococino…