I have spent the better part of the last twenty minutes carrying on a conversation with a dog. Now, that is either super relatable or cause for concern, depending entirely upon who you are as a person. For me, it’s a little place somewhere between “totally normal, everyday behavior” and “what the actual hell is wrong with you”. But the reason why may not be what you think.
I spend way more time than I care to admit talking to myself, and sometimes (read: a lot of the time) that happens in the form of me talking to the dogs so I feel slightly less crazy. Typing this all out, however, has only served to make me feel even crazier, so there’s that. Anyway. The talking (to myself or the animals) is not the part that has me freaked out, because as I have said, I do this often. Actually, in the spirit of full disclosure, I spend more time talking to the bearded dragon most mornings than I do my kids. There. Okay, we have established my level of crazy, are we happy? I am incapable of sitting in my own silence.
Which is where the actual problem comes in. I have never been incapable of this. Now, wait. Let me clarify. That is not to say that I like to sit in total, worldly quiet. Absolute quiet makes me really uneasy. Like I’m two minutes away from the Cuckoo’s Nest if you get my drift. I like sound. I just like it to be my sound. A sound of my choosing. Music or a book, or inner narration (because if I’m not talking out loud, you could put money down that I’m doing it in my head). Get my drift? I’ve always enjoyed being in the sounds of my choosing, but away from the noise made by the rest of the world.
A really simple way of saying this is that I’ve always enjoyed being alone.
Better? That took an astonishing amount of words to get to.
Anyway. I am alone, right now. This minute. As I speak. Type. Honestly, I’m talking as I type, so you get the damn point.
And I am completely undone.
Which is screwing me up in ways you cannot imagine.
How have I forgotten how to be alone?
I’ll tell you how.
This is the first time in exactly six weeks and one day that I have been utterly without human company inside a house for more than 5 minutes. And I cannot recall a time before that in the last year. I’m sure it must have happened, but I genuinely cannot remember it. The only other times I am ever alone, I am driving, and really, are you ever actually alone when you share the road with a bunch of other unpredictable people who may or may not be too busy looking at themselves on their phone to notice that the right lane is closed ahead (you know, the same one they’ve closed every day for the last month) so you have to slam on your brakes to prevent little miss sassy-pants from sideswiping you with her fancy little Mazda when she finally looks at the road? No, you are not. Driving is no longer a lonely business, it’s a death-defying feat of insanity.
Good God, I’ve turned into Tristram Shandy.
Look, I am alone. It’s just me and the dogs. Not my dogs, mind you, if they were my dogs I would be at home and I wouldn’t be having this little crisis of identity. No, I’m (happily) enjoying a weekend stay-cation with my mom’s dogs. This is also exactly what I was doing the last time I was alone: six weeks and one day ago.
And I did the exact same thing then that I’m doing now.
I had a total freaking meltdown. Because I forgot how to be alone.
I’m not panicking, or actually having any kind of freak out. I’m just… well, I am a bit baffled, a lot irritated, and quite frankly, stunned. I mean, seriously. I pulled a Mel Gibson from Braveheart all the way here. “Freedoooooom!” But no. Not really. I’m just at a loss of what to do with myself. I had goals, and I met them. I did a ton of schoolwork. And if it were possible to measure digital media in terms of weight, I could believe that it was truly a ton. Okay, but now what? I started to do a bunch of busywork. No shit. I am alone. My kids are not near me. I love them, they are my whole entire universe. But they are a lot sometimes. And right now, they are not even in the same town as I am. I am alone, actively seeking busy work? It’s just sad.
But I don’t know what to do.
How’s that for a screwy situation?
I slept, and it was awesome, but there’s really only so much of that a person can do before it gets old. I went for a run, and it wasn’t awesome because it’s raining outside and the dogs kind of freaked out and I was worried the whole time that one of them would burrow out of the house using some kind of magical dog weapon and I’d end up chasing them all over this neighborhood again and my parent’s snobby asshole neighbors already hate me, so that’s a miserable prospect.
Then I got some more school work done.
Then the thinking started.
Which is when I tend to get myself into trouble.
But really now. I hate this. I hate that I’m even sitting here writing this, because more than anything it’s an attempt to pull my own thoughts together, and what I really should be doing is enjoying a book. Which I cannot do because I left my book at home. And also, I apparently have the attention span of a fruit fly right now, so Terry Pratchett and I probably aren’t a good combination. Okay, fine, no book. I’ll watch television… I’ve paused this episode 18 times already. The show is good, but I’m not paying attention. I’m too worried about what else I should be doing.
And here we hit the heart of the problem.
I haven’t forgotten how to be alone.
I’ve forgotten how to relax.
It’s not a new realization, so I guess it’s lost some of its wow factor, but it’s still a crappy one. I don’t know how to shut my mind off anymore. I mean, I was never good at it to begin with, but I could at least get immersed in something, some other world, or game, or book, or idea. But now? Now I’m pacing around while the dogs pace after me because they think I’ve got treats hidden in my hair or something (which they both know is not true, because they are the reason I cannot even run a brush through my hair right now), while I try to figure out some magic formula of shutting off my brain.
I am not worried about missing this moment. I am not worried about missing moments tomorrow or the next day either. I am worried that I am avoiding self-truths with overthinking and stupid tv shows. I am worried that I started to do something healthy for myself, and the more into it I get, the more convinced I am that people in my life are going to work to sabotage it. And that, that my friends, is a fucked-up truth.
I am worried that the more good I do for me, the more negative shit I am going to hear. The more false-positive bull is going to get thrown at me. I’m stretching myself too thin, by going to bed an hour earlier so I can get up to run in the morning. Or, I’m booking myself up and not leaving any room for plans by dedicating a grand total of 5 hours a month to an event that makes me happy and motivates me to do more, be better.
I am worried that I have buried myself in a toxic environment. And I am more worried that I have created the foundation for it. I am worried that I will cave. That I will capitulate. That I will give up and give in because me doing good for me is too hard for other people to handle, and despite every fucking tough-girl-take-no-prisoners-give-no-shit attitude I have worn like a tattered cape since childhood, I still want the people I love to be happy.
Even if it means I’m not.
And I’m worried that I am growing out of that.
I am worried that means other people will either have to grow or have to go.
And I am terrified because I don’t know which choice will be made.
So, I sit here, unable to be alone, and talking to the dogs.
They say “hi”, by the way.
Because I know that growth is painful for me. But I never realized how painful it would be for other people. And that hurts a whole lot more. Almost as much as accepting that it isn’t my choice to make. I made my choice. I cannot determine how other people react to it. I can’t decide what the outcome will be, beyond my own small role.
Gives a whole new meaning to growing pains.
And to finding freedom.