Saturday, October 3, 2009

Life Lessons...How To Be Alone

How To Be Alone
by Susanna Sonnenberg

In 1984 I was 19 and on any given day roamed from dorm room to cafeteria to classroom, then on to dance class or movie theater or Chinese restaurant.  Always with friends, always out with everyone I knew.  We hurried to meet up at coffeehouses or gathered outside the library, bound by lethargy.  Of course, we had no cell phones then, but our society was strung tight by perpetual interaction, presence, plans.  We went for groceries together and to the bank machine.  Everything happened outside my head.  There was no such thing as the interior life.  I needed my friends for the noise and motion, to be entertained, to be watched.  Partly this was the teenager's way of life sophomore year, but I'm sure some college kids liked isolation and privacy - just not me.  Solitude looked gloomy to me, held no uses.  I read better when my roommate was reading across the room on her bed.  I endured the subway ride after starting a conversation with the neighboring stranger.  Even falling asleep, for those of us who had boyfriends, was social.

Did I notice, after I got my first apartment, that a certain crucial thrill came from finding everything just as I'd left it when I opened the refrigerator door?  I must have, and stored the memory away.  But it wasn't until I had a baby that solitude looked interesting, became an elusive commodity. Now with the baby, I couldn't choose my state of being anymore:  Accompanied, by myself, quiet, festive - nothing was up to me.  Now instead of finding time to fill as I would  (a chance to make phone calls, to meet my husband for lunch, a chance to fill up with other people), I was with my baby, the glue of his saliva dampening the front of my shirt, his tendril limbs wrapped around my body, and his thick, soft fingers in my mouth when I opened it to say something.

For work I was reviewing movies, and all of a sudden this was the greatest job in the world because it gave me a chance to undo myself from the baby and go.  Alone.  There in the car at the stoplight, there in the line to buy a ticket, and in the brief, crackling dark before previews, I felt quiet and wonderful, there was a pause and a peace.  And when the movie was over, I returned to my family, renewed and ready.  

I like to be alone now.  I like to taste the honey on the toast, to consider the bee batting against the window. In solitude I come together, collect the errant bits of me that have wandered away, and reassemble them .  Solitude is so fiercely that:  the chance to still oneself.  From its sacred corner I look out, see the wide world, and feel my singular place in it.

repost from American Elle: "The Most Important Thing I've Learned"

We welcome your comments & suggestions. "Life Lessons" now appears every Saturday... If you have a Life Lesson article or topic you'd like to post, please email us at


{à la mode} said...

Absolutely loved this. It perfectly describes my freshman year of college and the things I wish I'd known.

zupu said...

Such a beautiful writing dear.. I had to learn how to be alone and it was not the easiest thing but now I have to say I enjoy my own company very much and I need it even though I love being with my family and friends.. Buona giornata bella!

Bella said...

It certainly isn't an easy circumstance to live by, but sometimes we need those moments of isolation just to get in and out of our own heads. And considering the bulk of society practice a ‘being alone’ lifestyle, so many people will relate to this post... amazing! Xxx

Viagra Online said...

Excellent post, specially the topic posted with a wordy process.It's something emotional for to many persons, and I think we can't ignore the perpetual interaction about it. I'm digressing now, but your blog can be a good tool to inform about emotional things. 23jj