Unintended Solitude

EmptywindowWatermark.pngI used to enjoy solitude.


My mother tells me that when I was a child, I used to prefer playing in my room by myself with my toys and books to playdates with friends. She said I’d spend hours up there alone, and even thought it was a bit odd for it.  Not to say I never played with other kids - of course I did. But a lot of the time, I was perfectly happy there, spending my time doing what I wanted with no one else to interrupt my own games and stories.


In college I always had roommates, except this one summer when I stayed to take extra courses I had a dorm room to myself and thought it was absolute luxury. 


I lived with a boyfriend for several years after college when I moved to Los Angeles but after we broke up I spent the next five years in my own apartment. Most of the time I loved it. No one to mess up my space or cramp my program. 


Towards the end of that period, though, I was feeling like something was wrong with me because I hadn’t found that special person we all hope to find. I was single at 31, had been that whole time other than one memorable but short relationship and the occasional flirtation…so when I met Mike I allowed myself to get swept up and over. Mike really did literally sweep my off my feet. It was glorious, in so many ways. We moved in together almost right away.


However it soon became clear that the princess and the pea, as I had become, was not able to easily tolerate the bearish snoring that accompanied my new husband, not to mention I needed more space than I had with him there beside me, large a man as he was…so after awhile we did end up with separate rooms for sleeping. It stayed that way pretty much our entire marriage. It’s one of the things I regret deeply…so deeply. After he died I slept in his bed with our dogs - even that very first night, in his room, for over six months. The very place he died, I wanted to be; I wanted to feel near him, I wanted to feel him near me; I suddenly felt very much alone and abandoned, and sick to my stomach that I hadn’t shared our sleep more often when he was here. He had really wanted to - he really always wanted to be where I was, but understood how hard it was on me. I just wished I’d tried harder to find some way to do that.


Not to mention, Mike was…well, loud. He seemed to always be making noise. Those who ever knew him know exactly what I mean. He was always taking over a room. Looking back now it seems like a quirky and sweet trait, but over the years when he was alive, it often pained my comparatively quiet nature; he would whistle, hum, play loud video games, play any of the many instruments he had like the ukulele or a flute…and he was a talker too. I remember sometimes having to go to another room just to get some peace and quiet. You might only imagine how sick I feel about that now too. If only I could hear him - just one more time, making any noise at all…


The musician is a different man altogether. He is much more independent. While he can be a talker too at times, he has much more tendency towards his own quiet and solitary moments. And though neither of us really snores he has much the same feelings as I had with Mike, that sleeping in the same bed together can often be difficult, when it seems much more important to be actually sleeping than tossing and turning because one cannot spread out the same as we do when sleeping alone. Plus he is kind of an insomniac; the rock and roll lifestyle I know doesn’t help.


He is often gone in the evenings because as a musician that’s when he works. Sometimes I accompany him, and I do look forward to those evenings. But most days I don’t; I have my own job a few days a week and other things I can be doing at home (like writing). So there are evenings when I am in the house alone and feel really, truly lonely. Lonely like I’ve never known. Achingly lonely. Why can’t I enjoy my alone time like I used to anymore? Is is because Mike is dead? I don’t have the choice now simply to move to another room; I won’t know he is just a few feet away, reassuringly, like I used to. This time, he was the one to leave the room - and I likely will not cross that particular threshold for quite a while. 


It’s worse at night. I try and keep myself on task, or entertained with a movie or a book, during those solitary hours. And I talk to Mike sometimes, when I’m alone. Not in any crazy way. It just happens without thinking about it I guess. I try to focus on my own world…but in the back of my mind I’m always looking forward to the musician coming home and wondering whether he will stay the night upstairs or not be able to sleep and disappear back down into the man cave. The most telling detail I suppose of my state of mind on this issue is that once I fall asleep I do sleep better when he’s not there; lying awake though in an empty bed, or waking up to one in the middle of the night, leaves me feeling abandoned - even with the dogs. We’ve talked about it (and I talked to my therapist about it too); he does the best he can I know, and feels awful when he can’t, but he works at night and it takes awhile for him to decompress - as it is with all of us when we come home after a long day, I suppose. I can’t deny him that just because of my own grief-related abandonment issues. No one can fill a void of that magnitude. 


It’s something I have to work on myself. Trying to recapture what I used to love about my solitude; trying to find a way to live with that void. Trying to rebuild my own independence and self-reliance. Trying not to sink into that pity-party we all know too well. But it is very, very hard. Maybe I’ll just never really be the same again in so many ways.


Showing 5 reactions

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  • Stephanie Vendrell
    commented 2015-06-27 16:09:51 -0700
    Thank you Rebecca. Right it really is like torture some days; hard to draw myself away from it at times. And our personal space issues – as with so many things – do shift after our losses for so many reasons. Thank you for commenting.
  • Rebecca Collins
    commented 2015-06-27 03:59:29 -0700
    It’s so easy for me to torture myself with my regrets. Missed opportunities, chances I had to maybe help Dan more with his disease that neither of us really understood. It’s so hard to let go of that.
    Like you, I too generally felt comfortable with my personal space but worry there may be a chance I’ll change in a future relationship. One of the many things to wait and see and work out I guess!
    Thank you for sharing x
  • Stephanie Vendrell
    commented 2015-06-26 16:18:14 -0700
    Oh Tricia…I feel the same way, that I was selfish and mean at times with Mike, when I should have just appreciated the character that he was more in the moment. And Helen, I too just liked doing things a certain way…but I wished I’d been more amenable…now all we can do is mourn the loss of our loves and the loss of a whole life with them…that regret is so deeply painful. Thank you for commenting and sharing…amidst it all, it really does help not to be alone in it.
  • Helen Lipson-Fox
    commented 2015-06-26 07:43:21 -0700
    Stephanie, I also can really relate to your post. I married later in life and had lived on my own for 17 years. My husband used to call me the “bachelorette”. I have a lot of the same regrets that you and Tricia have. Often, my husband wanted me to join him outside and I would tell him that I could only read the paper inside because I can spread it out on the table. It seems like such a silly excuse. I was just used to doing things a certain way. There are other regrets too. However, what does make me feel a little better is that I know he knew how much I loved him. I don’t think that he doubted it. I just would do things differently if I could do it over again.
  • Tricia E. Bratton
    commented 2015-06-26 00:56:48 -0700
    This post had me bursting into a flood of tears. Oh. I regret so much the many times I left my husband on the sofa, with his beloved music, while I went upstairs in search of silence and space. He would have this look of betrayal on his sweet face, as if to ask why in the world would I not want to sit with him and share in his music? I loved his music. But not as much as he did. And I craved silence, sometimes. Other times, I would let him go upstairs to bed without me. He always wanted me to go to bed when he did, but we had different rhythms, and I couldn’t sleep at night, and he didn’t like me to read in bed, because it disturbed his sleep. He just wanted me to be with him. I so regret that I didn’t accommodate him more often. I feel selfish and mean. And I missed out on so much, just trying to satisfy my own needs. Were they so important? Now I have all the space and silence I could ever want. And all I want is him. God. this grief is so painful. And all these regrets. I wish I could hear it gets better with time. Maybe it does. But maybe we just learn to forgive ourselves.
    Thanks for this post. I think. Haha. Powerful words.