Saturday, 5 March 2011

How To Be Alone, Part Two: How To Be Lonely

I arrived ten minutes before the show began.  The theatre was only half full, with many seats still left in the section furthest from the stage.  I found an empty row, and sat, alone, staring up the aisle of the front section.  With this seat, I had a perfect view of the stage.  Every person who walked up that aisle, though, could see that I was there, by myself, at a concert.

While preparing for the evening, I was concerned about how I would feel in this situation.  It had been seven years since I had last went to a concert by myself.  The situation was much the same.  My favourite band of the time, Barenaked Ladies, was playing in the first city I lived in full-time: Vancouver.  At the time, I had many acquiantances and a few friends, but nobody else was interested in BNL like I was.  Of all the people I invited to come along with me, I was the only one willing to pay $65, as a student, to sit half a mile away from the artists who had kept me sane for the last four years.  Nobody I knew understood how I, the cheapest student they knew, could splurge on such a luxury.  But for me, BNL was worth it.

That was the one and only concert I went to in GM Place.  I arrived early, found my seat and ended up making small talk with the young woman sitting beside me.  Her affection for the band was clearly not the same as mine.  "This is my first concert," I explained. 

"BNL was my first concert, too," she shared, "when I was ten.  They`re more of my parents` favourite band."
It was like an arrow being shot through my ego. This was an exciting night for me.  I should be feeling special, not pathetic.  My older self would have brushed her comment aside and continued to enjoy the night, but my self doubt continued to grow.  There I was, just some country bumpkin, sitting in the largest arena of one of my country's largest cities, and I would never be like them.  I would always be different.  That is the story of my life...

This week, it was a half-choice to be there alone.  I had mentioned the concert to a friend of mine who has similar taste in music.  Our first dinner together, she brought out her entire cd collection, featuring four of the artist's cds.  The most recent dinner we shared together, I had brought up the concert and her interest were peaked.  It was still a month until the concert, but she thought her and her boyfriend could come along. 

"Oh, how my life has changed.  I'm no longer going to events alone, instead I'm going as a third wheel," is what I could have thought.  But I didn't.  I'm happy to be alone, now.  I'm happy to be a third wheel as well.  I enjoy my friends, and their boyfriends, too.  And it no longer makes me feel utterly alone in this world to be a third wheel.

The last time I had come to this theatre, I was with one of my best friends, and we had seen some amazing artists. We had arrived early and grabbed a seat closer to the stage. We could see the sweat on the musicians' foreheads. While enjoying the show, I had spent half the night texting my romantic other half. That was a different night...

I watched as the couples entered the theatre together.  Not only romantic couples, but friendship couples, too.  There were groups of friends.  And groups of couples.  Children, and the older crowd, as well.  The theatre was beginning to fill. 
I had only just bought my tickets that day.  My life right now is left half up to chance, half planned out, or "structured," as another writer put it.  It's working out well for me, and I try not to complain when plans don't turn out.  As I sat, writing frantically before the concert so that I had some work to show for the day, I suddenly remembered that my friend and her boyfriend had wanted to go to the concert with me.  I sent her a quick text, wondering if she remembered the night as well.

An hour later, when I received her text reply, I knew that it was really fate.  I needed to go to this concert alone.  I needed to be able to fully absorb the experience, not worry about other people enjoying it to the same extent as myself.  And, following Julia Cameron's Artist Way, it was my "Artist's Date" for the week.  My friend had to work that night, and so they wouldn't be coming.  I was off to see the show alone.

A blanket of peace covered me as the lights dimmed and the opening act stepped onto stage.  They were pretty amazing, and she was from Edmonton as well.  It must be a real treat to play for a hometown audience after touring over one's country.  We actually understood her remarks about where she grew up and the exact picture she painted of the river valley was fresh in the minds of the people who had seen it earlier that day.

The peace continued to cover me for the next two and half hours.  It spanned intermission, which I spent writing notes to myself in the book I always carry with me, and settled into my bones as the main attraction walked onto stage.  I allowed my mind to wander as I listened, and found myself focusing on the happiness of the moment.

My contentment lasted for the next twenty-two hours.  How amazing was life!  How very precious was every moment we had to appreciate the little things happening in our life?  I was in a good mood, and my good mood was contagious.  It was also exhausting...

I walked into my dark apartment, after a good shift at work, a few drinks during happy hour with my coworker, and some sobering up at the cafe.  "I still have work to do, tonight!" I told them as I downed four shots of espresso, some water and steamed milk.  But I knew I wouldn`t be able to accomplish everything I wanted to get down before falling into a coma for the night.

The espresso helped.  The people in the cafe helped.  I was sober as I looked up the street for the next bus to carry me home.  Although the day was warmer than the one before, I couldn`t walk for the next twenty minutes.  The weariness from my week began to settle in.  And in that weariness, that little shard I keep trying to hide from began to work its way out.  That little shard that made coming home to a dark, empty apartment cluttered with only my things the worst imaginable moment in my life.

This week, I gave advice to a friend on how to be alone.  Not just alone, but okay with being alone.  Content at being alone.  Ironically, this was mere hours before attending the concert by myself - something I was afraid to do on my own.  I did it, though, and even enjoyed my solitude.  I basked in the joy of enjoying something by myself, without any social crutch.  So, how could I, within twenty-four hours have hit this slump of loneliness again?

I fill my life with activities.  I give myself physical tasks to accomplish and structure to fit all of the errands around.  I push myself to accomplish the things I have always wanted to do but was too afraid to do before.  I rattle on and on to colleagues, people I serve at work, and the many friends I have collected.  I encourage only positive talk and flip around the negative comments people around me say.  But, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, is it really enough?  Am I truly happy?  Would I still find joy in solitude if fifty years from now, I came home to a dark apartment, worked for one hour more, then collapsed alone in bed?

Our emotions run the entire spectrum: from utter joy to utter misery.  Isn`t it amazing that within twenty-four hours I could come full circle through that spectrum, and both sides be inspired by the same situation?  And that, dear friends, is how you come to realize that you`re not just`re lonely...

"I`ve learned that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances." - Martha Washington

What`s wrong with being lonely?

1 comment:

Alan Loose said...

This post deserves a comment. Jody I have felt lonely in a room full of people and I have felt happy when all alone. Loneliness has nothing to do with where you are or who you are with. There is nothing that insulates us from feeling lonely at times, even being in a long long term committed relationship, trust me I know that first hand.
You did right to go to the concert!
Have confidence in yourself, that is the main thing :-)