There’s a book by the poet Galway Kinnell entitled “When One Has Lived A Long Time Alone”. I’ve always loved the title. I, too, have lived a long time alone. First by myself, and now with my husband.
The only child of an only child with parents who separated early, I learned to love solitude. When I grew older, I moved across the country several times without knowing anyone who lived in the state where I was moving. I lived in my own apartment for ten years with only my cat Jupiter for a roommate. And then I married. When my husband and I moved across the country a few years later, it was again to a place 3,000 miles away in which we knew no one.
Soon thereafter, I became pregnant and very ill. Being so new to the area, there was no one to help us. We were alone together. After our son was born, there was no one to tell us what to expect with a newborn. We devotedly wrapped ourselves around him and did the best we could. By the end of his first week of life when family finally came to meet him, we were almost starving for lack of food and had barely slept. By the time he was three months old, I was literally crying from the exhaustion. Due to my pregnancy, prescribed bedrest, and focus on caring for a baby, we knew few people in the area for quite a while. There was no maternal figure in our families to ask for advice. There was also no family members experienced enough with parenting to know that it would be wise to swoop in to help.
That was years ago.
These days, we are still very tired but have learned tricks along the way. There still isn’t a more experienced person to guide us, but we’ve learned to trust our instincts. We gave birth to a second child. We found ways of being that work with our children, for our family. I carved out a career that provides a measure of balance. We have made good friends. We have two cats instead of one. We bought a house and are transforming it into our vision, bit by bit. None of it may make sense to anyone except us. It’s what one does when one has lived a long time alone.
The one thing that I know for certain in living a long time alone? I’ve built it, and it’s mine.