In Reveal, Meggan Watterson writes of her spiritual pilgrimage to France, where she discovered that, without a partner/lover travelling by her side, she was challenged to maintain her own self-worth:
I found myself on a treacherous see-saw, vacillating between the extremes of feeling free and entirely independent – like Salma Hayek in the movie Frida, when she cuts her hair and becomes her own after her husband has betrayed her – to feeling totally alone and ineffectual, my life devoid of purpose and meaning.
While my experience was not so intense, I resonate with Watterson’s words.
There were times in Italy when I was just so cool with my aloneness. I loved being on the trains, listening to music and watching the landscape pass me by. These were some of my favourite moments. I loved doing whatever I wanted each day, even if it meant doing nothing. I loved getting up early and walking for hours with no real destination, which might have been harder with a travel partner. Sitting at a cafe and just observing my surroundings was a favourite pastime. This is when I often met people; in that open, receptive state, content in being one with everything around me.
But at times it was incredibly challenging to be alone. That is, it was lonely. As in, I’m in Italy and there’s all this beauty around me and yes, I’m grateful, but man, what is the point of it all, if there is no one around to share it with? I remember walking amongst the intense crowds in Venice and thinking, How can I possibly feel alone right now, with all these people here, all of us enjoying this beautiful place together? And while I felt that to some degree, I was also fooling myself. Venice was hard.
At times, I was so sick of my own company. Of entertaining myself, of thinking my own thoughts. I realized there’s a limit to how much of myself I can take.
I thought about those I love, my friends and family back home. I missed them. And, more profoundly, I felt how I shut them out when I am at home. Well, maybe that’s too harsh. Rather, I felt how I don’t really make the effort to spend more time with them, to show them how much I care. Why don’t I do more to maintain those loving, vital connections? Do I expect/assume that others will do it?
One of my most challenging moments was in a restaurant in Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast. As I sat down and ordered my meal, the room quickly began filling with people. Groups of people. Families, friends, couples. Maybe it was because I was towards the end of my trip, maybe because I’d made two strong (soul) connections a couple nights before…but I felt my aloneness intensely. Like I was in the middle of a 360, my solo status blatantly on display for all to see. Spotlighted.
I could feel my face and body burning with it; that no matter how cool I attempted to look, people could see right through me. Wondering why this girl was alone, here of all places. Maybe feeling sorry for me, embarrassed for me. I was practically hyperventilating with self-consciousness. Regardless of whether anyone even noticed me that night…I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
I realized in Italy that I need people. And that I want to need people. Be dependent on them. Be softer and more vulnerable.
I think I have overrated my independence. I’m glad that I can be happy in my own company…but I can see now how I’ve gotten too comfortable with it. As more and more friends find partners and start families of their own, I see that years can go by in flash. I haven’t known for sure if I want marriage and/or children, but I recognize I could be on the trajectory of not allowing them at all. And that’s a big wake-up call.
Now that I’m home, whether or not I invest more energy in creating/sustaining my relationships is totally up to me. It means questioning: what is truly liking my own company, and what is not being comfortable in – avoiding – the presence of others? Is there a fear of rejection in ‘putting myself out there’? Have my ‘introvert’ and ‘high sensitivity’ labels merely become (un)comfortable excuses to avoid deeper interactions? Does being ‘reserved’ make me feel somehow powerful, untouchable?
Or maybe it means not questioning any of it anymore. Maybe the whole point is that it is not so complicated at all. Love is not complicated. It’s the ego that wants to make everything an issue, a puzzle, a problem to be fixed.
I think the Italians would recommend that I stop thinking about it, and live. Right. Okay.
Grazie Mille, Italy.
Images courtesy of Vaughan Lewis.