Day 21 - Practicing Loneliness

by MB

I'm lonely today.

That feels unfair to write, like I'm purposefully magnifying the parts of this experience that are difficult, instead of focusing on all of the good things about being here. But the past few days have been hard. I'm lonely. I miss my friends. I miss you. I miss Julie. I miss my old coping skills. I miss New York and bowls of quinoa with avocado, Trader Joe's and the checkered twist-off cap on Wolffer Summer in a Bottle. I am irrationally nostalgic for the smell of Sag Harbor at dusk, the familiar feeling of driving down 27 in a convertible with the top down as my hair nips at my ears.

My first two weeks here were so overwhelmingly busy - fraught with typhoons and cancelled flights and jetlag and new coworkers and alcohol, interspersed with a day spent yachting and a day with the stomach flu and Singapore National Day and a day where I ate only dumplings and even a day where I spent unmentionable hours trying to find a decent nail salon - that I didn't have time to feel much of anything. The numbness felt right. It was clean and easy and I didn't have to walk around this city weighed down by 95 degree heat and unthinkable humidity wondering if I had made the wrong choice.

"You can do this," my inner voice would say to me as I would skip up the street to my apartment as odors of raw fish and meat and incense bled into my already sweaty clothes. "It's scary and crazy (though it's actually not that scary or crazy if you're not a weak, lame, unadventurous person) but you can do it." Pause. "You are doing it! You must be better at this than you thought. This isn't that hard. Everyone is crazy!" And then I would think of you and imagine myself sitting on your couch, picturing all of the times I sat across from you and demanded to know, "what do I do?" only to have you respond, "you don't have to do anything. You're already doing it. This is doing it." And then I would smile.

And then I would walk into my apartment, the cool air fanning faint smell of new car around all of my belongings, and feel like I had everything figured out. Because I was using skills and coping effectively and eating three meals a day and two snacks. Because I was just "riding the wave" of emotions and shaking hands with the present and practicing self care and journaling and meditating. I was even being patient with myself and understanding that whatever it was I was doing (wandering? dreaming?) was the thing I needed to be doing and believing that I was exactly where I needed to be.

And all of that felt good and exciting and liberating and even a little surreal, like I was living someone else's life.

But then I realized that it was my life and I didn't recognize it. Because the girl in those memories doesn't feel like me. The person who voluntarily eats three meals (and sometimes two snacks) a day, who cries with ease and then cries at the sense of accomplishment she feels from crying in the first place. The person who orders pasta or a side of white rice, who goes out until 3am because she can, because she has nowhere to be. The person who meditates in the morning and does yoga because it makes her feel alive, who drinks magnums of rose on the beach in a bathing suit surrounded by a group of coworkers and strangers and acquaintances. The girl who falls asleep next to her mother in bed, tired and buzzed and happy and unbothered by the space that her body takes up. 

And then, all at once, I have moments where I realize she is me - that unrecognizable protagonist in those stories - and I remember that I am living a life that is mine but that I don't identify as my own. And then I am overwhelmed by sadness.