“But lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless, and lonely is healing if you make it.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about separation ever since these friends left Nashville. Even though I still have people here to spend time with, there always seems to be a small empty space when particular people leave. It makes everything look different for a while. It happened this summer, and it happened last fall when a couple of my Purdue friends visited for the weekend and then had to return to Indiana. It happens every time my parents visit.
And I always want to fill this space—not with other people, but with the people who have left—which is usually impossible, since I live apart from many of my closest friends and family. That puts me in the awful and often-debilitating space of simply missing them. And I get so tired of living away from the people I love—it feels like an unnecessary hurt, an annoyance.
I read a post on Boundless the other day about “at last” moments. It reminded me of how relieved I always feel when I am reunited with people I miss—at last we are together again! I still hold that seeing people you’ve been missing is one of the most beautiful things in the world, but I think I do too much living for those moments instead of simply accepting them as gifts, letting them surprise me when they come, and appreciating their goodness without worrying about the separation that will follow them. I fail at this all the time.
All that said—I’ve been lonely a lot since leaving Purdue. Nothing, except perhaps the community I had this summer, has come close to replacing what I had during my four years there. That’s just been a reality of the past year or so. I’m not proud of it, because I feel partially at fault for it, but it’s what I’m working with.
I think I came across this video during the first semester of my senior year at Purdue, when my roommate and best friend was studying abroad and I was often alone in our apartment. The poem is by Tanya Davis, and here’s the full text.
I’ve found that the only way to be okay with being alone is to be alone. I wrote this post on my Tumblr last year after I went to the movies alone—and I think part of accepting that some of my days will be largely spent alone is to go places where it is okay to be alone. And then to go places where I might be the only one who doesn’t have someone else to talk to. And if I have “an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it.” (I do. I have my poems, which are a home in themselves, with rooms full of people. Because art can do that.) And then keep living, because “if you’re happy in your head then solitude is blessed and alone is okay.”
I’m writing this from a coffee shop with my headphones in, by myself. And the fact is, I wouldn’t be doing this if people were with me. Instead, I’d be having a good conversation with someone, which would be just as valuable as what I’m doing alone. Because being alone doesn’t mean I lack community or will be alone at coffee shops forever—instead, it means that today, right now, I have some time alone. And if I wanted to, I could be with people fairly instantly.
But there’s something to being alone. To be a person who knows how to be alone well is something I value. I’m not sure I know why yet, but it feels like this is important. As if the time I have in my own head, on my own schedule, may not last forever, and that when I look back, years down the line, what I figured out during these moments of being alone will be what carries me. That when I feel like everyone is watching me, I will be able to remember what it felt like to be in a place, like a coffee shop, when no one was watching me, and use that. That somehow, I need to be alone for reasons I won’t know for a while, and that these times now ask me only to trust in them.
You could be, in an instant, surrounded, if you needed it.
If your heart is bleeding, make the best of it.
There is heat in freezing; be a testament.