Friday, July 30, 2010

The lonely road

Many years ago my world ended at the age of 30. It happened the day I moved out of my house, away from my wife and four-year-old son, and into a drab apartment. Divorce happens and when one is young it truly seems to be the end of all that matters.

Happily, we are profoundly ignorant in youth.

These days, nearly 30 years later, I travel with my darling Carolann and our precious girls,
Cricket and Lady. Our 35-foot Class A motor home is perfect for us and so are we. I also hit the road alone frequently because I must. For that I have a Lance camper and Ford F-350. And when I go, I travel in my own good company because after my first thirty years of living I learned something rather delightful.

I like me.

"In solitude, where we are least alone." -- Lord Byron

Shortly after the separation I was forced to go on vacation alone. Still buffeted by the emotional storm I set out for a week by myself in a too-big rented house along the Northern California coast which, of course, was where my now ex-wife and I had spent many happy times together. Great choice, huh?

For the first time in my life I was truly alone. At the age of 30 I spent my first night ever in absolute and despairing solitude. I cried myself to sleep and the sound of it was disturbing.

"With some people solitariness is an escape not from others but from themselves." -- Eric Hoffer

It's odd, I remember thinking, to pass entire days without uttering a single word because there was nobody else to hear it. So, several days into my forced solitary confinement I tried talking aloud to myself. It was a comically depressing exercise and I soon gave it up. But then a funny thing happened. I continued to hear my thoughts.

This, too, was a first in my life and a stunning one.

It was a distant voice, quiet and almost shy. It was I, trying to get my own attention. And so, I began to listen.

I told myself to get out of my wallow and take a shower. Leave this place for awhile, I said. And so, we did.

"I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity." -- Einstein

I put on nice clothes: slacks, dress shirt, tie and jacket. I took myself to a nice restaurant and when I boldly asked for a table for one I added, "by the window, if possible." I ordered wine, treated myself to an expensive meal and had a nice, long, quiet internal conversation while watching the sun slide behind the Pacific.

"People who aren't alone are rather noisy, aren't they?" I commented. "Yes, they certainly are!" I replied with a grin. And then I opened my notebook and began to write my impressions of the people around me in the restaurant. My inner self did the eavesdropping while I wrote descriptions. I gave them names. I invented their lives and I found I enjoyed them as well.

"What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely alone can be." -- Ellen Burstyn

By the end of the evening we went back to the rented house near the thunderous surf and amazingly, it was no longer empty.

No place ever has been since.

Copyright © 2010, David L. Williams. All rights reserved.

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