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Learning to be lonely

Written by Emily on September 21st 2015

Imagine if you will, the hunchback of Notre Dame. Now imagine, he has a sister, sans actual hunchback. You get the picture. That’s how I looked when woke up last week. My nose was running and blocked at the same time (yes, this can actually happen). My glands were swollen and thanks to the conjunctivitis fairy, my left eye couldn’t open and my right eye looked like I’d smoked more weed than Bob Marley ever did in his life time.

I was ill. And I mean, really ill. Laryngitis and conjunctivitis is not a good cocktail. It was not pretty folks.

But here’s the thing. A delirious fever, razor blades in my throat and aching bones I can handle. These things will pass. But waking up alone, even though so much time has passed, and having no one to mop my brow, fetch me medicine or simply be there to love me regardless, was the worst of the illness.

It’s been a while now since I felt that intensely alone.

The last time was shortly after I moved out of “our home” and into my own place.

I was going camping over Easter with friends. Now my ex was (and still is) great at camping/festivals/parties/road trips and would take full responsibility for purchasing and organising all supplies. This was my first trip without him. And the day before my friends and I set off, I found myself, wandering around Coles, feeling incapable of making the simplest decisions. What should I take as my contribution to the BBQ? Should I buy sausages? Salad? BBQ shapes (his fav snack food)? Would it matter if I bought 2 steaks but only ate one? How much wine was too much wine? (Ok, maybe that didn’t come up. Seriously, is there ever too much wine?) But suddenly, the realisation that I had no one to shop with, no one to discuss this seemly menial task with, became unbearable. This tilde wave of loneliness just crashed over me as I was in the pasta isle (no idea how I ended up there. Who takes dried linguine camping?!) It wasn’t that I couldn’t do a basic BBQ shop. It was the intensity of doing it alone.

And I just couldn’t stop it. Or, more accurately, I didn’t want to stop it. I cried, right there in between the dried pasta and the discounted Dolmeo sauce. I knew that taking that exquisite, perfect pain home would somehow diminish it. I knew I needed to cry in isle 5 of Coles. It was so anonymous and so relevant and so ridiculous but so not ridiculous at the same time. You see, I was making shopping alone mean that I was alone. A simple thing like buying food for a camping trip was suddenly my sole responsibility. And without him, a bit less fun. And in that moment, I saw it as a burden, a loss of some kind. So I put my empty basket down, reassured the bemused Coles shelf stacker that I was ‘fine’ and left the store.

Once I got home, I knew I had to make the choice. I could stay hanging out with that pain, or I could shift it. At that moment in Coles, I wanted to be sad, scared, and totally alone. But I also knew I didn’t want to stay there. Because to stay there would have meant I would be forever crying with a bemused Cole’s employee wondering how he could back away from me without looking like a heartless prick (which I suspect he was FYI). It would mean I would be forever leaving the proverbial store with an empty basket.

Post break up, these moments of loss come upon you without warning. And I believe you should feel every second of them because it’s part of the process. But I also believe that the next day, you have to choose to walk back into the shop, buy some sausages and a family sized block of Fruit & Nut and embrace the change as yet another piece of scaffolding that makes you stronger.

Honestly, I thought that almost a year on, these moments wouldn’t happen anymore. But in the midst of my illness last week, I felt utterly alone, and I translated that to mean that I missed my ex, even craved him.

The next day (when both of my eyes could open and my voice returned, albeit with husky…ok manly undertones) I called upon the people I knew were willing to bring me soup, cook me dinner and hug me despite infection. Thank God for my friends. Because to be alone in loneliness only perpetuates loneliness. Throughout every heart stopping, physically disabling and smack-you-round-the-face-when-you-least-expect-it time, I have reached out, not for sympathy, but for connection. Be around as many resourceful people as you can be post break up, and don’t feed your loneliness.

If you’re struggling post break up, or need a helping hand in moving on, get in touch here.

You’re not alone!




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