What Doesn’t Suck About Being Alone. ~ Stephanee Killen

Via Stephanee Killen
on Jan 24, 2014
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Photo: pasotraspaso/flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/pasotraspaso/

It’s 2 am, and I’ve just finished Episode 55 of The X-Files (my current Netflix obsession).

I haven’t had to argue with anyone over what to watch in 27 months.

That means boxing on HBO Go some nights or, lately, DVR’d episodes of Alaska: The Last Frontier, where I’m learning how to hunt moose in case I should ever find myself living on a homestead in the wilderness—I could, you know! Or maybe I’ll pick up and go to Miami, where I’d live in a one-room apartment in Little Havana (¡La Pequeña Habana!), but go dancing every night. Or Oregon. Northern California.

Sometimes, I can’t decide. Instead, I take long naps in the early evening. Put on hideous flannel pajama bottoms and mismatched socks, snuggle down beneath blankets and breathe in the quiet like steam.

When I wake, I check Facebook. There’s another wedding announcement. Look at the happy couple! Yes, there’s a flash of envy. Or see that newborn? I don’t have one of those! I’m 36. What’s wrong with me?

Nothing, except that I’m a free woman at an age when freedom and youthfulness should be buried beneath a constant pile of familial duties, responsibilities and promises that grow to feel more like prison bars than pillars.

My commitments are few. I grocery-shop for one. The clothes in the wash are all my own. Most times, I don’t bother folding them. I hang bras to dry on the backs of my dining room chairs—incidentally, the dining room that’s used as an art studio, not a place where people gather to discuss how school went over plates of Hamburger Helper.

In the morning, while my friends all kiss their husbands goodbye, drop the kids off at daycare and head to work, I’m busy perfecting my salsa-dance breakfast routine, whisking eggs to the rhythm of Ruben Blades.

Later, running errands, I’ll laugh with the cashiers at my co-op. We’ll talk about getting together to jam. Maybe I could join their band. Or go see Jazz on a weeknight.

If I don’t get home until four in the morning, no one is giving me reproachful looks—not even my dog. He’s just glad I came home.

I can see a movie whenever I want. Better yet, I can sit wherever I want. (There’s no, “Do you want the middle, or aisle, or top or down in the neck-ache section?” when all I want is the seat farthest away from those giggling college kids and the woman wearing a tanker trunk of perfume.)

My coffee table is perpetually littered with all the books I’m reading. I paint late into the night, music blaring. There’s a plastic container of yellow Play-Doh on the end table next to me, and I don’t have to justify why—at 36—I still think Play-Doh is so completely awesome.

Am I lonely? Sometimes. It hits when I least expect it—a punch to the heart. The silence is suddenly suffocating. Where is the witness to my life? I think. When will I be beloved of someone?

That’s when I believe I’d trade all this wild unpredictability for the comfort of a secure partnership, for someone to come home to. But the truth is that I may never want it quite like that: normal. Picket fence and suburban house full of skeletons in the closet, running out of things to say if it’s not about the kids or the house—because there is something inside of me that always grows restless when I hear the sound of a train. Because I am still the girl who once chased a rainbow in her car, trying to find the end of it.

Because I still drive back and forth on the highway beneath a full moon just so I can tell it my secrets, so that I won’t forget that there are objects meant to reflect the light—and they are divine in the darkness.

I’ve crawled out of every bed I’ve ever shared with past boyfriends to go write after midnight, or wander into the yard and press my bare feet to earth. What I loved was being awake. Feeling. Connecting. But on so many occasions, the ties that bound me also reduced me. Or I contracted on my own, willingly, because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do in order to make room for someone else.

The dance was no longer unaffected; it was polite, yielding, accommodating, diminishing. It was fear. It was need. No one wanted honesty. It was an approximation of love—the best I could do, since I was just an approximation of me.

But this free woman I am? She knows how to love in ways the bound woman never could. I know me—every shadow, every facet of light, every oddity, nuance and quirk, every glorious angle and curve of my being. When I smile at you, I’m seeing your freedom, too. Even when you think you’re not free.

I don’t have to tell you everything that sucks about being alone. You already know. But there is an undercurrent of calm beneath all that longing. I glimpse it sometimes when I’m messy-haired and laughing. Or shouting at pundits on CNN with a mouth full of de-blueberried blueberry muffin, pointing with purple-stained fingers (and no one is watching with a frown meant to tell me how strange I am—a fact of which I am already highly cognizant).

That undercurrent of calm exists when I’m dancing in my living room all hip circles and twirls, feeling beautiful, with no judging eyes to tell me otherwise.

Do I think I’d be more at peace were I with someone? Maybe. Or—no—it might be a different kind of peace, if they accepted this woman I am, who’s a little bit wild, and restless and full of longing, and passion, and sadness and train tracks for bones. The woman who wants to ride horses and watch music documentaries and play drums around a fire and drink tea and be perfectly still and quiet in between everything that moves me.

More than being alone or with someone, I want to stay awake. It’s the sleepwalking that hurts the most.

It is the loneliness you feel in the arms of someone who does not know you, and does not really want to, that makes you an outsider to your own heart.

But this other kind of solitude, the one in which I get to travel—hours, days, months, years—into my own being, is the road to genuine connections. If I can keep these eyes open, if I can just keep walking, I know I will meet myself, over and over. I will reach the point where, finally, I’m no longer a stranger. And that doesn’t suck.


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Assistant Editor: Renée Claude/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: pasotraspaso/flickr




About Stephanee Killen

Stephanee Killen is a poet, entrepreneur, and the author of Buddha Breaking Up: A Guide to Healing from Heartache and Liberating Your Awesomeness. In her spare time, she plays percussion, dances on her coffee table, and shares poems about the meaning of life with her very smart dog. Visit Stephanee online here, on Facebook or on Twitter.


34 Responses to “What Doesn’t Suck About Being Alone. ~ Stephanee Killen”

  1. Mariana says:

    Beautifully written!

  2. choosetobloom says:

    I was very inspired by this piece, it inspired me to fully dive into my alone time last night, crank the tunes, create, play "dress up" and unleash my inner self. Thanks so much.

  3. Deborah Holskey says:

    Enjoy your articles….thank you

  4. I'm so happy to hear that! 🙂

  5. kate says:

    I totally get it!!

  6. Noyana says:

    That was beautiful.You express so many things that I feel — the loneliness of being with someone who doesn't really know me — and you say it far more eloquently than I ever could. Thank you.

  7. Isaac says:

    Wow, I just bought her book and it is awesome so far!

  8. Thank you for sharing your feelings. That kind of loneliness can be especially heartbreaking. I wish the best for you.

  9. Kora says:

    I love the sentence that ends "…and be perfectly still and quiet in between everything that moves me." That, among other things, really resonated with me – the joy of being able to set my own rhythm is something I've been really enjoying this week.

    And thinking about this article (and dreaming a little bit about being in a relationship with THAT much freedom), I think people who are in a relationship should read this too, and be inspired. (I guess a title can only be angled towards so many people, but I wish it could attract happy partnered people too.)

    It made me feel extra warm and fuzzy inside, curled up on my couch in a blanket with some tea 🙂

  10. Lily Lee says:

    Wow, beautiful, heartfelt and humorous. I have read her book, it is fantastic!! I love this writer!

  11. Laura Serna says:

    Insightful and beautifully expressed, looking forward to your next article.

  12. Trin says:

    Loved this piece, reminded me of the line out of 'Silver Linings Playbook' Jennifer Lawrence screaming at Brad Cooper "There will always be a part of me that's sloppy and dirty, but I like that, along with all the other parts of me"… How often do we find ourselves hiding those parts that are as real as the rest of us.

  13. I haven't seen that movie, but that's a great line! I agree completely.

  14. Koo says:

    This is me too! Thank you for writing this soul sister!

  15. Liz Reed says:

    My dearest, dearest Stephanee how beautifully stated. Poignant. You hang on to that play dough. It beats a life time of having to figure out what someone else wants for supper. Can you fathom how many hours of your life could be used up in this endeavor alone? This from an old crone who has thought mightily about women and the paths they choose for themselves. Life boils down to your choices and decisions. Thank you for putting "Buddha Breaking Up" out there. It's needed. Your words will help woman understand the importance of knowing their self-worth and allowing themselves the essential space for creativity. You have created a space for yourself that is at once cozy and comfortable – exciting and stimulating.Everybody needs to grab the play dough. Liz Reed

  16. Thank you so much, Liz! I find myself fashioning a lot of Play-doh bowls. But the wonderful thing is that I don't ever have to put anything in them. It's also a great exercise in acknowledging impermanence. Something takes shape. Then collapses. Some days I'm good with that. Other days…well, play-doh works as a good stress ball, too.

  17. Steve says:

    Well for me being alone really sucks.

  18. Amber says:

    This is incredibly beautiful, thank you for sharing! I cried, I laughed and I felt every word as if it were my own.

  19. karen says:

    That’s me! Videos flannel PJs.mismatched Sox. Books everywhere. Music blaring. I’m having a love affair with myself….until. And I am not approximating anymore. I’m not giving away my power. I’m here for myself.

  20. erica says:

    Sincere gratitude, this article touched me deeply.

  21. Rose says:

    "It is the loneliness you feel in the arms of someone who does not know you, and does not really want to, that makes you an outsider to your own heart." Wow. This piece is so spot on. Beautifully written. Thank you for letting us inside your soul.

  22. Angela says:

    ‘More than being alone or with someone, I want to stay awake. It’s the sleepwalking that hurts the most.’

    YES! Brilliant! Thank you for articulating what I somehow could not, about this place I find myself in at 41. So much to resonate with.

  23. Cassie says:

    As soon as I read this I went on Amazon and ordered your book – Buddha Breaking Up.
    I absoutely love this. Thank you so much 🙂

  24. Liz_Laurice says:

    "What I loved was being awake. Feeling. Connecting. But on so many occasions, the ties that bound me also reduced me. "

    Wow, this is so beautifully written in so many ways. It's very refreshing to read such a shared perspective that can ironically seem so alone. There truly IS such a fundamental deep intimacy when you allow the universe to move through you while you observe and celebrate life and oneself. So often this is lost when two people stay involved in a romantic relationship that no longer serves them out of fear of being alone. This is a beautiful thing that is to be embraced, as you said " be perfectly still and quiet in between everything that moves me". Just enjoy the ride even when theres no one by your side, and when you find the one who is meant to share it with do just that 🙂

  25. Stephanee says:

    Thank you so much! That's wonderful. I hope you enjoy it, and feel free to reach out!

  26. Stephanee says:

    Thank you for the comment! I agree! So many people share this feeling. It's a process, I think, learning how to manage being alone in a positive way. To be willing to embrace it, to be empowered by it. Whatever happens, Yes! Being alone. Not being alone.

  27. Steve says:

    For many of us men, being alone will always suck. Especially when you just can't meet a good woman to spend the rest of our life with.

  28. Sandi says:

    When you meet the right person, you love each other just the way you are. 'S/he'd be perfect if…' means it's time to move on.

  29. Jen says:

    This just spoke straight to my soul. Thank you for putting how I also feel into words. Beautiful.

  30. Robert says:

    Beautiful piece of brilliant emotions. This is blowing me away. I am recently seperated, but realizing how alone I have been for many years with someone who didn’t know me and didn’t really want to…this is very inspiring, gut punching and beautiful. Perhaps the best price of writing I have read in awhile.

    I may go pick up that book of yours!


  31. Ali says:

    The only problem with this scenario is that you also live a life fit for TV sitcoms. I too live alone but from the time I leave home to the time I am back 12hrs has passed. I don’t get to travel and live life so freely. I am a slave to my work like the rest of the planet who wishes to have a certain amount of financial freedom and think about their retirement do.

  32. Carol says:

    Having read your article, I feel fabulous. In that, you described solitude, so beautifully. I myself am a wild and free 31 year old. Discovering all the reflections inside of me and it is a wonderful journey. I’ve had to learn to let go, to open up to myself, truly. To realise that I have been gifted time – in my prime, to look after me ( and my cat Angus!) to discover me, to understand me. How fortunate is that?! Your articulate article, opens up the realisation that there are many ladies out there, dancing to music, making art and joyfully enjoying solitude. Thanks for making me feel comfortable within.

  33. alex says:

    That you see relationships as prison bars that bind inevitably when you make promises and have familial responsibilities is exactly why that's exactly and only what a committed relationship ever be. Open your heart to a different kind of relationship and you will have one. Not everyone with a child eats Hamburger Helper for dinner. My husband accepts and loves my crazy and we together relish the growth of our little goddess daughter. I do not feel bound but rather uplifted. To each their own.

  34. NC312 says:

    "It is the loneliness you feel in the arms of someone who does not know you, and does not really want to, that makes you an outsider to your own heart."

    Well said.

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