I go to a lot of places alone.
I have never had a problem with spending time alone, even before my husband died.
I moved out of small town Massachusetts when I was 18 years old, to NYC, to go to Theatre school and pursue a career in acting and comedy. After having roommates for years on end, I lived by myself for 4 years in an apartment in New Jersey, before my husband moved in with me. I have been to countless movies by myself in my lifetime. I have no issue with going to a cafe and sitting down for lunch, by myself.
There are some things I wouldn't do alone, just because they seem extremely lame and I would absolutely look like a complete loser if I was alone doing those things. Like going to an amusement park. I would never stand in line for a ride and then get on a roller coaster all by myself, with nobody else to speak to the entire day. That seems weird. Or a concert. Standing and cheering and singing a band's hit songs, by myself, seems a bit pathetic. However, if it was someone I really truly wanted to see, and the only way I could go was if I went alone - then I would go. It just wouldn't be my first choice.
When Don first died, those first few months, I hated being alone suddenly. Even though I had always been alone and it had never bothered me, all of a sudden I would fall into a panic and start breathing fast and feel really clausterphobic if left alone for too long. I felt suffocated by the silence and the empty space that filled the air where he used to breathe. Whenever I was alone in our apartment, it was as if someone had turned up the speakers on his death, and I couldn't turn them down. I tried to disappear out of that apartment, and into social gatherings with other people. Everywhere I went those first 5 or 6 months, I was not there.I couldnt be home, and I couldnt be out. I was not anywhere, for a very long time.
Then a funny thing started to happen. Well, it isn't really "ha ha" funny, but more interesting-funny, in a silent and subtle kind of way. That same clausterphobic feeling I was getting those first few months being alone in my apartment - I was now getting whenever I was around groups of people for too long. There was no warning either. I'd be fine one second, and then literally the next second, would have the urge to scream at the top of my lungs: "I NEED TO GET THE F**K OUT OF HERE - NOW!!!" It was as if being around other people amplified his being gone and dead forever. Other people were happy. Laughing. They had partners and families and kids and giggled as they shared ice-cream cones and walked along merrily. I was dying inside, and all the people of the world were ignoring it.
Now, 3 years later, I am alone quite a lot. I have a roommate, and I have lots of good friends, and I have family. But, even so, there are lots of times when my friends are busy with their families or their partners - and my own family lives 4 hours away. Sometimes, if I want to take a walk and go get a cup of coffee or have a drink somewhere, I will just go. By myself. It's not a big deal in NYC. Literally, nobody cares or even notices. Lots of people sit with a book or playing on their phones, alone. It's very normal. But despite that, it has taken me 3 years to be able to sit alone in public, without feeling like I must somehow have a giant sign on my head that reads: "LONELY WIDOW. I AM ALL ALONE. LOSER. "
There are many times when I am alone nowadays, that it brings a certain sense of peace or clarity. Just looking at a sunrise or at something in nature. Hearing a piece of music and really paying attention. Breathing in the silence, which no longer carries his death in it with every inhale. Many times, I feel closest to my husband, when I am by myself somewhere. Sometimes, I will even sort of pretend that he is there with me, or I will just feel somehow that he is there with me. It's not the same as having him there with me. How could it be? But it does offer a strange sort of odd comfort that can't really be explained to other humans.
On Saturday I am going to a Yankee game by myself. This was one of our favorite things to do together - see the Yankees play. A friend of mine who has connections at the stadium was able to score me a ticket for Saturday's game, where they will be honoring Paul ONeal, my all-time favorite player. He could only get me this ticket BECAUSE I am alone. It was a single ticket. If you go into a very busy restaurant and large parties are waiting to be seated, you can almost always go right up to the front and say "Is there a wait for one?", and they will almost always say: "Right this way." That happened the other day, when I was walking back to the subway in the city, after having just gone to see a friend of mine who was starring in an off-broadway show. I went by myself to the show, because none of my other friends could go. Afterwards, I was hungry, so I went into this cafe and ate something. They seated me in the corner, and right next to me was a large party of young friends, maybe 12 of them. I kid you not, the very second that I sat down - one of the guys stood up and said triumphantly: "A toast to Cynthia, who is celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary today!!!" Everybody clapped, and a sharp dagger went through my heart. 3 years later, and it still hurts. It silently hurts to watch total strangers celebrating 25 years of marriage that I will never ever get to have. Oh boy does that hurt.
It hurts so much that I think I need to order me up some chocolate cake and a cup of coffee. And in that moment, I am happy to be alone, because that cake is all for me. GET UP OFF OF MY CAKE!!!