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EXPLORING OUR CONNECTION TO PEOPLE AND PLACE

13 March 2020

Adulting is hard. No doubt about it, There are absolutely days when being an adult can feel overwhelming. And yes, there are times when I wish I had someone – a partner – to help me make decisions.

This is not one of those times.

Just like most folks, there are days when I want to relinquish responsibility. I want someone else to just make the decision. Should I have bought insurance for this trip? Do I book this flight or that one? Do I argue with Avis about their astronomical and unprecedented high fee? Or what about AT&T screwing up my order, leaving me high and dry and then charging me anyway? Yeah, those kinds of things. But those times when I want someone else to take over only come when I am afraid. When the six-year-old inside me starts to panic, when I forget who I am, and the little girl takes over. And you know, when your inner child has the upper hand, that’s never the right time to want a partner. If we’re honest, what we want is a parent. But a parent as your life partner is never a good idea. That kind of relationship is bound to fail. It keeps you stuck as a kid and every kid eventually acts out or, at the very least, wants to grow up. So I’ve learned to allow my kid to express – and – I’ve learned that I’m the only one who can comfort her. Essentially, I parent myself. Which somehow seems easier than just being an adult. It’s easier to be strong and to make decisions because someone else needs you than it is just to do it for yourself. At least, that’s true for me.

So here I am in Sicily during a complete lockdown, and I do mean complete. Nothing is open. Only grocery stores and drug stores and gas stations. No bakeries. No restaurants. No hair salons or clothing stores or bars or schools. Where are all the people? Not on the streets. One on the beach, four on the pier, one or two walk by with their dogs, a few peep out from their homes to hang their laundry.

I’m no stranger to being alone. I’ve been single a long time. More than that. I lived by myself in a town of 65 people, twenty miles away from the county seat (in a county of only 21,000) for ten years. It was rare to have a visitor and entire days could go by without someone calling. Of course, there were my dogs…

Admittedly this is different. There is a certain eerie quality to this solitude. My Airbnb host left for Palermo the day after I arrived, saying he’d be back in three days. But then the Prime Minister ordered everything closed and papers are required to move from place to place. He feels unable to return. So I am alone in a building of five empty apartments, sequestered in this tiny coastal town that I never intended to visit and hadn’t even heard of until a few days ago.

In response to these circumstances a few friends have written, ever so kindly and with well-meaning, “I wish you weren’t alone.”

This has given me pause. I consider the alternatives. Do I wish someone else was physically here with me? A partner, a best friend, a sibling? No, not really. This was my choice. I didn’t know it would be quite like this, but I did know I was choosing to stay here, by myself, in a foreign country during a global health crisis. I’m responsible for that. And when my six-year-old starts to get scared, I comfort her. Mostly, at least during the daylight, we just enjoy the silence and find exploring our surroundings to be a curiosity and small adventure.

But here’s the real surprise: I’m not alone. I thought I would be. A part of me even wanted to be (see my first post). But, unexpectedly, I’m not. There are well over one hundred of you now that have reached out. You’ve liked my posts, replied with encouragement or messaged me. You are thinking of me, holding me in prayer, sending me love and light. Some of you I’ve known for more than half my life, others for only a few days. It really is quite overwhelming to feel this much love. Not the normal Facebook likes that can feel so superficial, but genuine, heartfelt, honest love. I can feel it. Truly. All of it. Your love washes over me, wraps around me, and pierces my heart.

I hope you can feel my love in return. Meeting you in an embrace that isn’t cut short by awkwardness or social norms. A long embrace. A focused, ten-second embrace that ripples through every cell of our bodies and boosts the immune system. Each time I hear from you, I allow myself to feel this. I take it all in. Against the laws of geographical distance I hold each of you, independently, with so much gratitude.

You are with me. Your presence provides a safe container for my fears and amplifies my joys. And really. I don’t need anything more than this. This is everything.

Well, okay, this and maybe a dog.

Ok, definitely a dog.

But as long as I have you, right now, I’m good.

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10 thoughts on “On Being Alone”

  1. Jan, I love following you on your Italian adventure. Rob and I were scheduled to leave in a couple of weeks for our own Italian experience. You will have to do it for us! Thinking of you and sending best wishes for your happiness and health. (Wish I could send a virtual dog or two.) Keep writing! xo Carole (Freund that is!!)

  2. David Wilkinson

    Being alone, isn’t it just perfect to have the truth of our being reflected so clearly that we need not step in any direction.

    1. I brought with me Robert Johnson’s “Ecstasy: understanding the psychology of joy.” Lol! Actually, I have plenty to read on my tablet, just haven’t found the time yet.

    1. M’lady I believe I met you when you were a baby, so a little longer than half your life <3
      I am grateful to be able to share this journey with you.
      You do realize of course that we'll all completely panic at an extended silence from you right?
      OK, then go wash your hands.
      Stop touching your face!

  3. Have your inner child remember the days at grandma Bairds. Up stairs making chains out of him wrappers.

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About this blog

Everything begins at home. Our relationship to home influences how we see the world and how comfortable we are in it. My research of many years, including my PhD dissertation on the psychology of home, reveals key ingredients that are essential to feeling at home. To finding home and creating home when feeling very far away and disconnected. These blog posts are mini meditations of sorts. Enjoy.
For more information, please contact me directly. I always love speaking to groups!

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