I bet I was born with my hands out. I was trying to find another body, a way to be less alone. I bet I screamed. I wanted to be heard, to be touched, to be held by another human. I did not want to be alone.
But the the other day, it occurred to me that I am alone. This isn’t a fact someone can remove by loving me more. It’s not an aspect of motherhood that will vanish if I find more friends.
I’m alone. I’ve always been.
“No you’re not!” said my husband. He was worried about me when I announced my revelation.
It all started when I’d stopped breathing during a spin class. I simply couldn’t find air. I got dizzy, had pains in my neck and chest. My mouth grasped at the hot stuffy darkness of the spin room and could not find a bit of oxygen. I was terrified. I stumbled out of the class only to find myself sitting on a bench, staring out a window, no longer spinning, feeling utterly alone inside.
The woman behind the counter rushed over to help me. “Should I go to the hospital?” I asked her.
“You know your body. You have to decide,” she said. No, I thought, I don’t know my body. I can barely remember to stretch my healing stupid broken hand, I thought. I workout like mad. I spin, run, swim, walk, something moving, going every day. But I rarely actually accept how I really feel. Alone.
“Maybe you had a panic attack?” A friend offered. But my my voice was raspy, I had a cough and more chest pain after the incident (that has now lasted for days.) I was dizzy. I didn’t feel panicked about much except for the fact that I couldn’t breathe.
I texted a couple of friends and my husband who tried to help me figure it out. Ultimately, I had to decide (alone) to go the hospital.
Now before you start to tell me that you too are worried about me, that I’m not really alone— that I have friends and family and children and a church and a school and so-on— I must interrupt.
I am so alone. And dare I say— so are you?
Though I’m a mother surrounded by loud children, a husband, dogs, cats and geckos, and if I’m lucky friends and family— the “I” in me is buried. She’s somewhere inside freckles, pale skin, long dark hair, and a bunch of bones that have been housing her for fourty eight years. The “I” in me sits in this mother— all bloody alone. There’s nobody else swimming around in there, except God.
I alone make decisions about how I’ll spend my days, what friendships I’ll make, whom I’ll love, where I’ll go, what I’ll do with my body, what I’ll bother my mind with, what I’ll write about, what I’ll forgive, what I’ll allow myself to cry about, laugh about— see? I’m alone.
But as I rested at the hospital getting EKGs and so forth, it dawned on me that “aloneness” is something we try to forget, to cover, to cope with our whole lives.
Most of us are absolutely terrified of being alone.
I see proof of the fear of “aloneness” in selfies and group pics on Facebook and Instagram proving to the world that this person and that person is popular, is liked, is beautiful, is not ever alone. Ever. (Sometimes, I’ll admit, these photos make me feel terribly, horribly alone.)
I see people (like me) sitting in cafes, on trains, walking down the street, not looking ahead, not watching the sunset, not mulling things over inside their own heads, but texting and surfing online to ensure themselves, perhaps that they are certainly not alone.
Later as the doctor explained that I’ll need to get more scans, etc. in the coming weeks. It it dawned on me that though I might just have had some asthma attack induced by the virus they told me I suddenly had brought on by spinning too hard….that one day I will die. Yep, I will die as I was born, absolutely by myself— alone. (Stop saying this! you might be thinking.) But I know this. It’s true.
“This is depressing,” you retort.
I disagree. What’s depressing is that I’ve spent my life running from aloneness, from my independence, my little teeny soul.
Perhaps becoming comfortable alone is the way to peace, to popularity with the self, to living without fear, to making healthy decisions, to becoming a truly good friend. Perhaps more moms (myself clearly included) need to find the little “i” buried inside the mothering— the magic there who knows how she feels. The one inside the running, spinning, feeding, shopping, fighting, driving, schooling, socializing, selfie-taking, texting madness.
Where are you? Where are you really?
Maybe I need to remember that sometimes when I look the least alone, I feel the most alone. When I’m surrounded by people, when I haven’t tended to whom I really am, that I feel, still—incredibly alone.
“But we need people,” you say. “We need friends. We need family.”
Of course we do. We need friends and family so that we can be held in space and time, so that can sense our own galaxy in the stars of others, so that we can give. We need friends so that we can sing and be heard, so that we can listen and love other voices, so that we can find purpose (God) beyond our little selves. We need friends so that we can be sure we are warm, that we are, indeed here.
And maybe we will connect and find one another today (and for eternity) only after we’ve truly found ourselves— alone.