I wrote a poem many years ago called, “Single, Childless and Living Alone.” I have yet to share the mixed emotions that are etched within its meter; it is just too close to the inner workings of my soul. But today I consider the meaning of being alone.
And of course I am not discussing being physically alone. We have all, at some point in our lives, experienced solitude of some type – even if it is only the solitude of the toilet within a house of six children, two adults and countless visitors. That was the solitude of my childhood. I could only be alone with my own thoughts in our single bathroom.
After fifty years, I finally realized the bathroom’s symbolic potency within my dreams after reading Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space. “Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, but recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams …”
And so the eternal search for a toilet within my dreams suddenly became meaning-full when I recalled how often I search within my life for the rare and often precious sliver of space or time just for me. And when I find this oasis, this pocket within my busyness, what do find nestle within?
I find myself, alone.
As an introvert, time alone is like a life giving elixir. It rejuvenates my souls and recharges me at all levels. I crave this solitude like a drug, like a junkie slapping my arm searching desperately for the vein to inject this glowing potion of quiet, calm and emptiness.
But deep within the darkness, swimming deep down within my fears and sorrows lives another kind of alone. Loneliness can be such a cruel mistress. She raises her head above the threshold of awareness and suddenly without warning I am gasping for air, clawing along on the edge, fighting to keep my head above water.
And that is where I discovered myself at the end of last week. After several glorious days of contentment, I was suddenly fighting against chains stretched taut around my heart. What happened? How did I end up here?
The melancholy lasted all weekend, till just as suddenly I remembered – I had watched a movie. The movie was Notes on a Scandal, starring Judi Dench. And in it was some of the most heart-breaking narrative of her as a desperately lonely unmarried ageing woman. And it was that narrative that had triggered me and, as I wrote in my journal, had literally stolen the joy right out of my mouth.
It is not the first time that something in a film touched me so deeply within my core. But it has been a long time since something snuck in past my defenses and sucker-punched me without my even knowing it had happened.
I have been very good at explicating sub-text and identifying misogynist and racist messages. But now, with me in my early fifties, I find that I am now more susceptible to messages about women and ageing.
And oh my gods did it hurt. It was gut-wrenching, soul-numbing sorrow upon sorrow, fear upon fear … and all that lives inside my darkness – oh my gods, I had no idea it was so huge.
So now I know where my work lies. I have discovered yet another frontier within me. It is the path of age. I have dipped my hands into it briefly from time to time, and now it beckons to me from beyond the land of dreams. I turn my steely gaze toward this land, not with strength or courage but with humility and surrender. I do not plan to give up, but I do plan to let go and release whatever is toxic within me. And claim back the ancient heritage of crone, the throne of the bearded woman and the narrow eyes of the waning moon.
And once again I walk the path of a shaman and witch into the unexplored territory of the next leg of my journey – a journey into my inner world and my journey into and through the worlds beyond me. My journey along the path of ageing.