“When you step out to face that creature, you will step out alone.”
–White Queen to Alice
Perhaps one of the main reasons my mom never left my dad is because she was afraid to be alone. After all, being alone can be…terrifying. Especially if you have kids. Because then, not only do you experience the threat of loneliness that often accompanies solitaries, but you also bear primarily all the responsibility in taking care of your children, entertaining them, educating and guiding them, and looking after their emotional needs. That’s scary!! Even for two people. But many a single parent have been successful at doing it alone. And now I’m one of them. I’m proving to my mother, to anyone petrified of braving parenthood on their own, that it can in fact be done. AND that a person doesn’t (shouldn’t) have to be defined by their relationships, especially if those relationships require a loss of self.
As for the loneliness, it’s very real. Especially when you’re still in love. But at the same time, I enjoy being alone. I’m good at it. I’m used to it. Growing up I always felt isolated from my family. My older brother who once offered to protect me from bullies grew to resent me and became a bully himself. Maybe because I had friends and got good grades and he didn’t. Or because our dad mostly left me alone while my brother suffered constant berating. Repression has a way of bringing out the worst in us. He used to barge into my room while I was undressing. At first I dismissed it as coincidence, but I got wise to him quick; he was doing it on purpose. I felt so uncomfortable in my own home, my own room even. I learned that no where and no one was safe. I couldn’t change my clothes or use the bathroom without fear of him peeking in to get a look at me. I learned where I had to stand to undress while blocking the door and staying clear of any cracks he could peep through. (And it’s just now occurring to me–his nick name for me when I was a teen oddly became ‘peep’. I thought it was endearing at the time. Now it’s horrifyingly derisive.) Suffice to say, I was never close with my brother.
In fact, I’ve always felt disparate from everyone in my family. Their perception and expectations of me were never in accordance with who I felt I was inside. So naturally, I learned how to isolate myself as I painfully tried fitting into their mold of me. It was either that or risk being rejected having revealed my true thoughts and feelings, desires and interests; having failed to be who I was “supposed” to be.
My dad was never around (he worked 2nd shift, how convenient). And even when he was, he wasn’t at all available. He isolated himself (one of few things my father taught me to do). My mother was the only source of love I knew but I felt the threat of its revocation whenever I attempted to be myself in front of her. Whether it was listening to Madonna, inviting a black boy to our house, piercing my nose, or being friends with a lesbian, my mother who promised to love me unconditionally in one breath, threatened to disown me in another if I so happened to step outside the lines of what she deemed appropriate, acceptable behavior. I’ll love you IF isn’t unconditional love.
Consequently, I quickly learned that being alone was preferred to being with others. Because when I’m alone with myself then and only then do I really feel free to be myself without the threat of rejection and without the need to conform. I can do what I want when I want. I can associate with whomever I wish. I can listen to any music I like. And no one has to know. Some people are meant to be alone. I suppose, maybe, I’m one of them. And the sooner I accept this, the better off I’ll be. Looking for something (someone) that isn’t there brings nothing but heartache.
And anyway, far too many people try escaping their fear of being alone by investing themselves in a relationship at all times; it is as if they are afraid of themselves. Because being alone teaches you about yourself. Being alone allows a fresh perspective of the world and your place in it because it finally becomes possible to look at everything through your eyes, not someone else’s. Being alone enables you to examine your wishes for your life and motivates you to get going because there is no one holding you back and no one to blame when your accomplishments don’t meet your expectations. I know I don’t want to hold anyone else back or be a burden to someone. I suppose this is a fear I have about not being alone.
I always felt that being part of a family was a huge burden to my dad. He never wanted to be bothered. He preferred to watch TV or nap. These two activities normally went hand in hand as he would lye in his recliner watching TV intermittently between snoozes. If he wasn’t doing that he was out sleeping with other women (apparently). Or in the garage tinkering around. Or getting ready for his next fishing trip which seemed to occur every weekend (just to ensure he wasn’t home I suppose). When childcare would fall through or for whatever reason my dad would have to watch me unexpectedly, he’d be terribly frustrated if it interfered with his fishing plans. Rather than cancel his trip, he’d take me with him. And I hated it. I wasn’t allowed to talk and I wasn’t allowed to move. Heaven forbid I spook the fish! Once he took me ice fishing in the middle of winter, which was torturous because it was FREEZING. But I didn’t have a choice. It was all about him. It was never about me. Or family. Getting him to come along for family gatherings has not always been an easy task for my mother either. Not to mention, he couldn’t be troubled to be there for my mom when she was in labor with me.
If withholding his love wasn’t enough to clue us in, then withholding his time and interest in our lives was certainly a lesson in how I am nothing but a burden to him and, I began to translate, to others as well.
Makes it hard to speak up about things when you’re worried you’ll “spook” or upset someone by having thoughts, feelings, opinions, needs. Makes it hard to feel anything but better off alone.