on being alone
— Marcel Rieder, Jeune Femme Songeuse
Note from Srish:
Among my screenshots compiled in 2019 is one of a tweet by singer Halsey: “I will be lonely a lot forever and this brings me peace”.
The phrase reads like an urgent reckoning, complete with lowercase honesty and dismissed punctuation. I will be lonely, but there will be immense good in it; a lot forever, it may entail prolonged periods of unsustainable solitude, no husband, no friends; and this, my longing, my awareness, my appetite for emotional consumption; brings me peace, I have come to terms with the world and its harsh imaginations. I have attained the true anticlimax of salvation: being alone.
After a bad breakup, I took to being single for about 2.5 years. Those years made me see being alone not for its depressing multitudes, but for its potential to provide quiet relief, a relief that merits preservation and examination amongst dates to be gone on and romantic connotations to be delved into. All this without anything materially piercing through my foundation of blissful solitude. Which begs the question, what is blissful solitude?
To Beauvoir, blissful solitude was a space for singularity un-obviated by the constraints placed upon women in having to justify their existence by loving others or needing external validation to confirm a state of meaningful existence. To me, blissful solitude was standing in my balcony at 6 am, looking at sections of the city's merged streetlights, with the ghost of existential perfection vanishing before me. It looked like the possibility of stability before and beyond a partner.
If I am to look at my present life- shared time and space and decisions with someone I love- it is mostly filled with the daily humdrum of TV shows and ordering groceries. But every now and then, examination turns up strange delights of memory. The dailiness of work, and love. Avocado toasts and orange juice while checking our meetings for the day. The anxiety of a body riddled with intense PCOS. The insecurity of being left behind because of the shape of your body. At times, the desire to forsake it all and be alone forever takes over me, but I do not want to run away from this fear anymore. I want to sit in its company. I want to be present. I want to embrace the grief of a lost father, and a family grappling with its identity. I want to wear these lessons like hard-won epiphanies of a woman who had to learn to be still.
Writing about this is like eating cake batter whilst baking a cake- I doubt I’ve made any revelation here but somehow, both the process and its outcome are rewarding. There are a million articles on grief and moving on, some offer respite, some offer tearful indulgence. None of them surprise you. They may or may not fix anything. Lives rebuilt in the aftermath of wreckage still carry wounds of alienation. But I believe in the magic of time as the perfect antidote. I believe that love is, and should be a core desire, and that being in love is first and foremost a singular activity you perform towards yourself, even while carrying that ribbon of loneliness inside.
I think about that big bad break up from the past, and how small it seems now. I have not revisited remnants of that broken relationship in years. I know that what I found in being in love … I’ll never find in anything or anyone else. But that’s alright- I found other things … and these things are beautiful beyond my imagination.
I will be
brings me peace
— Charlotte Ager
— Jenny Slate
— Sharyn Bursic
“You come home, make some tea, sit down in your armchair, and all around there’s silence. Everyone decides for themselves whether that’s loneliness or freedom.”
— Beya Rebaï
— Sean Thomas Dougherty
— May Sarton
...so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.
— Pablo Neruda
I know Neruda penned these lines as he yearned for his beloved. But in my mind, all the houses I couldn't quite make into homes call out to me through his words; their windows clattering, the four walls sheltering nothing and no one but emptiness. No one to keep the wind from echoing by filling up the void with mirrors, books, and crooked frames. No one to beat the darkness with vanilla-scented candles, to light the nights up in smoke, and make each crevice dance to the music. When I think of them, they're not lonely anymore, I am a lonely house too; and in these brief moments, I see them, I live in them, and the ache feels sweeter.
Vincent van Gogh, The Bedroom
Still never had any friends because I hated everyone, for they were so phony.
— Kurt Cobain
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone
— Edgar Allan Poe, Alone
Note from Snigdha:
Over extended periods of being alone, I tend to retract into my own shell, giving up the company of others for my own. When I was first about to leave home to live on my own, this had me worried. What if I liked being alone so much I disappeared into a chasm of self-hugs, only to resurface weeks later when the world had forgotten my mere existence?
It's been two years now; I've realised these bouts of collapsing into my own self are necessary. I needn't fear them. For when people do try to forget me, as they will, be it out of their selfishness or their own need to be alone, or even isolation mandated by science, I will know how to fall back into my own arms.