From the Heart:
The Downside of Independence

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Independence is often lauded as a great virtue, which it can be, until one day it dips into loneliness and then really the two combined become a self fulfilling prophecy where the more independent you become, the harder it is to let someone into your world, so you become lonely, even though you desperately want to let someone into your world to cure the loneliness. I’ve been independent in the spirit sense most of my life – I’m a loner by nature, and also, sort of a perfectionist in the way that makes doing things by myself and on my own a natural choice.  I’ve been independent in a broader sense in the last 4 years because I’ve been single and living on my own. Being single is a whole new beast of independence – when my “check coolant” light comes on in my car, I’ve got to figure it out on my own; when I’m cooking dinner and I can’t open a jar, I’ve got to forfeit that portion of the meal; and when my washer/dryer unit somehow becomes totally displaced and I don’t have the strength to push it back to its proper position, I’ve got to live with a displaced washer/dryer unit. These things are annoying, but tolerable. What has become intolerable though is the lack of togetherness that is separate and apart from convenience.  This type of loneliness has been most evident to me in times of sickness. Unfortunately, I’ve been sick now for the last month, so there it has been, underlying almost everything, reminding me that there is a better way to live and it’s not alone. It started with a surgery – my best friend was kind enough to drive me to the surgery center but the moment the nurse took me back to the pre-op section and I walked past families and then into my little curtained off section where I would lay alone for 2 hours, I was unexpectedly struck by on an onslaught of tears. Mostly of sadness and disappointment – I didn’t imagine being 33 and having to go through these things alone without someone to hold my hand and kiss my forehead and make me feel not alone. A week later I found myself in an Uber on the way to the ER and later admitted to the hospital where I spent the night and the next day alone, terrified, but mostly sad about my loneliness. Most recently, this week, I caught the flu the day before I left for Paris. I had a list of about 30 things I had to get done before leaving. Suffice it to say, most didn’t. By some miracle though I managed to make it to the airport, with every flu symptom
at it’s absolute worst. For the first 7 of 10 hours on my flight I sat covered in about four airplane blankets, with the chills, on the verge of tears at the pain I was experiencing, yet trying to remain incognito so as not to disturb those around me. I bought a blanket at the airport that I literally put over my head to trap the heat because I was so cold. I hid under the blanket and cried intermittently, telling myself it was going to be ok, I was going to be alright if I just made it through the flight. Mind over matter, blah, blah, blah.  Every time I got up to use the lavatory, I considered what would happen if I fainted on my way there or worse, when I was locked in the tiny compartment. I was too weak to pick a movie, to concentrate on a movie, but in too much pain to sleep. So I sat staring at the airplane flight map which was most disheartening. What felt like at least 20 minutes of my life appeared on the screen as a mere 2 minute gain on our destination. What I dreaded most though, was what would happen after we landed when I was really on my own. I knew the flat I rented required a one story ascent on stairs. While in the taxi from the airport, I mentally prepared by replaying the scene in Wild where Cheryl Strayed struggles at the beginning of her hike to get her overweight backpack on her back. It took every last bit of my strength to lug three heavy suitcases up an extremely narrow and curved staircase to my unit. My head was burning and I could feel every muscle in my dehydrated little body wanting to collapse. Once inside, I literally found a bed and crashed. I’m here now in Paris, sick and not exactly sure what is causing it or when I’ll be better. But over the last 48 hours of my life, one thought has resonated in my mind: I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be alone anymore. I’m strong, but I’m not that strong.  I’m 120 pounds fragile, with tiny little bones and physically, it’s too demanding. I don’t expect someone to carry my weight, but to have had someone to hold my hand on the plane, let me rest my head on their shoulder, make sure I was getting enough hydration, handle my luggage – these small things would have made the world of difference. I don’t know when I got it in my head that I could do everything by myself and that it was essential to be strong and not need someone else, but it needs to get out. So first and foremost, before I figure out life, my next career move, where I’ll end up after Paris, I’ve got to kick this alone thing.

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