Ch.179 I Still Cannot Separate “Alone” from “Lonely”

Ch.179 I Still Cannot Separate “Alone” from “Lonely”

Dec. 2022

            Pat passed away on July 1, 2022. That means her six-month anniversary will be New Year’s Day: Jan.1, 2023. When I mentioned this to my friend Earl, I told him the time seemed to have passed quickly, much to my surprise, despite slow periods when I feel sad and lonely. Earl quoted a friend of his who had spent several years in prison: “It lasted forever but it was no time at all.”

            There have been many slow times, especially the periods when I am alone at home: little to do, not enough energy to do anything anyhow, watching too many sports programs, grazing on sweets, crying in spurts. But then there are faster times: visiting friends, practicing colored pencil drawing, making a tasty salad, taking Levi to his doggie day care appointment, putting together jigsaw puzzles with Jenny, playing board games with Joshua, texting and talking with Cindy, attending support groups.

Just looking at these two lists tells me that I am still adjusting to living alone. I have yet to break the bond between “alone” and “lonely.” Maybe I never will.

When we lived together, especially after Pat developed Lewy Body Dementia and I became her care partner, I often felt exhilarated when I had time alone. “Now I can do whatever I want,” I’d think. For a little while I could set aside my worries about Pat’s health and my sadness over her cognitive decline. I would read the newspaper at the local bookstore or eat lunch at a nearby sub shop. The words that came with alone were “relaxed,” “free,” and “relieved.”

But now the words I associate with alone are “anxious,” “empty,” and “depleted.” Not always, thankfully. Sometimes I enjoy being alone. But when I face the prospect of “enduring” a relatively long period by myself, sometimes I become panicky. Today, for example, a winter blizzard is beginning to envelop western Wisconsin. The roads will soon be closed or too dangerous to drive. My usual Thursday social engagements, namely lunch with a friend and coffee with my son, have been cancelled. So, just before the blizzard was predicted to strike, I rushed my dog Levi into the car and drove us to the nearest McDonalds Restaurant (15 miles each way) to share a couple cheeseburgers. I was doing something, and doing things keeps the loneliness away. Then on the return trip I bought a cherry pie from my favorite pie place (The Norske Nook). When I got home, I made a list of all the things I could do in the next few days. But the only items on the list that attracted me were the interactive ones: calling my brother and writing this blog (When I write I feel connected with my readers). The others, such as pencil drawing, are more at the “Yeah, I could do that, I suppose I’d like it” level of enthusiasm.

Anyway, writing has helped me feel better. And the blizzard is now two hours done – only 46 hours to go!