Tracy Clark-Flory quotes Judy Ford:
“We are born alone and die alone, and deep within our souls we live alone,” she tells me in an email, instantly invoking those universal truths that hurt the most. “No one else ever abides in our skin. If we haven’t yet come to terms with this ultimate truth, we are scared out of our minds to be alone.”
In the spring of 1995, over a period of two months, I traveled alone to seven cities across the country to attend conferences, make presentations and lead workshops. I was 25, and it was a bit overwhelming–given the average age of the conference attendees was 47. Near the end of my U.S. tour, I was in Greenville, South Carolina, and it was only then that I finally got the hang of it. I remember quite fondly my first dinner alone at white-linen-napkin restaurant. I ordered a glass of wine. I read a book. I gazed out the window. I didn’t feel self-conscious.
That sense of calm was a long time coming. The previous year, I had moved to Washington, D.C., to start a new job at a think tank and be in the same city as my boyfriend at the time. I quit the job after four months (it was an awful place), and on the same day I quit (October 3, 1994), my boyfriend quit me (we were an awful match).
It was devastating. I started a new job with no confidence whatsoever, waking each morning with the painful recollection that I had been dumped. I felt unworthy, ugly, useless, stupid, weak, and generally, hurt and angry. A friend of mine recalls that period of time and described me as “utterly inconsolable.”
But I distracted myself with work, with friends, and with countless reruns of “Roseanne.” (It was a dark, dark time.) I was fortunate to have friends with shoulders to cry on, and a roommate who made sure that I ate and slept.
One roommate, two jobs, three relationships, and about four years later, I moved into my own apartment. I had lived without a roommate once before (second year of grad school), but this apartment was different.
I actually had an income, for one thing. I was better able to create my own home. I loved spending time alone in those 750 square feet, reading, or cooking, or watching old movies on AMC. I loved having people over, too, as much as I loved going out. And I loved my job.
I felt worthy, beautiful, useful, smart, and strong. My general sense of hurt and anger had been replaced with a general sense of optimism.
I was happily single, but I don’t think I learned how to “be alone.”
I learned how to be.
Maybe I can invite Woman B. to read this.