Lone lonely alone

I recently ended a relationship with my first love. This is probably the first in a series of breakups that will inevitably happen throughout my life, but it’s still hard. And while The Great Whatsit might not be the best place to post my sad sob story (don’t worry, I’ll spare the details), this has been a life-changing event that I can’t get off my mind. The biggest change for me was the transition to being alone.

Night one of post-relationship was hard (as expected), but I really wasn’t prepared for the shock of being alone. I made up my new bed, put on a twin-sized sheet and fluffed the only pillow. I drank my tea alone, brushed my teeth alone, and listened to the stereo … alone. It was an uncomfortable new feeling and one that made me squirm. My automatic reaction was to pick up my cell phone and relieve my loneliness, but as I flipped through my contacts (well, Cobble Hill Cinema is not a friend!) I realized I needed to sit with myself for awhile. I thought back to my first week in New York, days spent listening to Wilco’s “Alone.”

Go for a walk, go for a drive
Listen to the stereo stay inside
Alone, alone, alone

Feel like a book, but I just can’t start it
Feel like a lover, brokenhearted
Look in the mirror at the face in the glass
Look like a question no one ever asks

Like I’m supposed to be
Lone lonely alone
Like I’m supposed to be

This was my anthem! (But I can see why it didn’t make the album.) As the weeks went on, I decided to make a conscious effort to limit the use of anything that potentially distracted me from me. I wanted to be alone in solitude, with nothing but my own thoughts. That meant limiting phone calls, not watching TV (which is easy because I don’t have one after the break-up), and taking it easy on my internet usage. It was a tiring exercise, and probably not necessary, but I learned a lot. I was getting better at being alone, and I still am.

Just as I started to feel proud of myself for conquering my fear of being alone, I got sick. It went on for a few weeks. First a cold, then I got strep throat. As I ached in my bed, proud and alone, I started to realize why people desire company or help. It wasn’t even the sickness. I just missed people. Luckily, my brother took me in for a night and even had buttermilk pancakes for me the next morning.

I might be over my break-up. The air is definitely different. I can feel spring is just around the corner and so is hope for warmer days. I no longer desire to be alone all the time, but once in a while will do just fine. I guess it’s natural to want some space after living with someone for nearly two years. Right now I’m happy with friendship and family and I’m excited to be with people this weekend, one full of art and music –- I even get to see my niece Anna’s band perform! I’m excited to spend time with new friends and old friends, making new connections and re-building old ones. I just finished making my bed. I’m still by myself, but I don’t feel quite alone.

11 responses to “Lone lonely alone”

  1. ssw says:

    good for you nate for getting in touch with an issue that many people run and hide from. One of the first times I grappled with the existential crisis and feelings of being Alone, I found this great book by Irwin Yalom called Love’s Executioner. It’s a set of short stories by this analyst who runs through his relationships with various patients. One core theme is about how we’re all truly alone. I remember finding comfort though in the idea that even though this is true, it’s nice to see other people’s lights on in their little boats as we all float down the river of life (or something like that!). He also argues that this position is why religion is so powerful–people have a lot of ways of staving off thinking about being alone. small sidebar–he also argues that he’ll never treat people in love, which i find funny.

  2. celia says:

    It’s so hard to lose someone so close to you because you’re not only losing a lover, but a friend, companion, confidant and advisor. It is interesting, however, to figure out who you are outside of that relationship and what you need to be happy. I’m glad you have good friends and family close by to buoy you up and help you through the hard times. I envy you that you have family close by and that you get to go to Anna’s concert! May your spring come quickly and bring the fresh air you need!

  3. G-Lock says:

    It must be said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And just because two people love each other does not mean they belong together. Tough words but really spot-on. You’ll look back at this time in your life as an amazing growing and learning experience, glad and perhaps even nostalgic for your relationship … as a wiser, more self-possessed individual.

  4. Jeremy Zitter says:

    I thought the line was, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stranger.” (well, according to one of rachel’s students.)

    keep that in mind, nathan.

    also: we’ve all been there. definitely. post-breakup, i would crave being alone in public: i remember going to the coffeeshop just to be around people, but without actually having to (or wanting to) talk to any of them. i guess what didn’t kill me made me stranger.

    i enjoyed the post, and it made me wonder what sort of list the greatwhatsit music types would come up with if challenged to name favorite all-time breakup songs. (i’ll vote for phil collins’ “against all odds,” but only because i saw robbins perform it at a karaoke bar in seattle).

  5. Nathan Waterman says:

    G-Lock: And just because two people love each other does not mean they belong together.

    so true.

    Jeremy Zitter: …it made me wonder what sort of list the greatwhatsit music types would come up with if challenged to name favorite all-time breakup songs.

    “i know it’s over” by the smiths — holy fucking depressing. i come from the post-pavement generation… we can only take this kind of sincerity in small doses.

  6. Mikelle F says:

    There is an opportunity in that kind of loneliness. I also felt a profound sense of loneliness after I broke up from an eight year relationship because I’m a twin and hadn’t really been alone. Ever.

    I remember that first day. I rode the train from Boston to NY. I slept in an empty apartment with my dog and my suitcase waiting for my furniture. There were a few hours (before my twin came to rescue me from my loneliness) where I was so completely alone. I was acutely aware of every movement, every action. I had a narrator in my mind describing everything I was doing. I was hyperconscious of everything I was deciding. What food did I want to eat? What music did I want to listen to? Where did I want to go for a walk? I was noticing myself for the first time.

    The acute sense of myself wore off over time and eventually morphed into liberation. I got to decide what I wanted with no negotiation, no compromise.

    I’m in another relationship now, so I can’t live (completely) like that any more. But for a while, being my own best friend was, in a way, it’s own love afair. I got to adore and love and be with myself.

  7. Rachel says:

    Your post reminds me of another Wilco lyric: “The first thing that you want / Will be the last thing you ever need / That’s how you fight it [loneliness].” Sounds like you have that part figured out, which is half the battle.

  8. Stella says:

    I think a little heart-rending Edith Piaf might help you through that pain…and when you finally feel less lonely, some uplifting Charles Trenet? But only when fully recovered could I recommend Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin…

  9. Nathan Waterman says:

    That’s funny… I was just listening to “Je t’aime… moi non plus” by Serge Gainsbourg last night! Or at least it sounded like that.

  10. Rachael GIlkey says:

    Sometimes, in my more dire moments, I feel an urgent need to play one particular song or another. Essentially I am taunting my own emotions by dangling the memory connected to the song in front of it…”play that one, you know you want to”, or sometimes “you could listen, or you could not give in and decide it’s time to move on”. It’s funny how listening to particuarly apt songs can both alleviate and aggravate your feelings, and somehow, both are completely necessary.

  11. […] Best of Nathan Waterman: “Lone, lonely, alone” […]