Once living alone….


Picking up from yesterday…..

When I moved to the Sunshine Coast in 2005, I was battling fierce depression except I didn’t know it at the time. I thought my generally sad mood was just the way I was and could be explained by the fact the world was a no-good place. “Who could be happy with all the sadness and badness in the world?” I thought. “The only way out of this is to move to the country.”

And so I did. While keeping my job with a four-day-a-week commuting plan, I moved myself to Roberts Creek and rented a house with a woodstove on a quarter acre.

In hindsight, it seems a little nuts to me that I made such a major life decision in the middle of a major depression. But as noted above, I didn’t really know that’s what it was. And besides, it turned out to be a really good thing even though my early time there was awfully dark.

My first six months were spent mostly by myself – though some friends from the city visited and I traveled to work in the city. I met people on the commuter ferry and made some cursory relationships in the Creek – but mostly I split wood, read books, and worked on an epic cross-stitch project. In December and January a series of things happened all at once – I got a union contract to work from home for a couple of weeks, a mentor of mine died, I had surgery to pull my wisdom teeth which left me in significant pain, and one of my actual only friends on the Coast failed me spectacularly. The upshot was that I spent the better part of a month entirely alone, with a the exception of a wake and a family visit sandwiched in between the sadnesses.

As the pain in my mouth receded, something else was happening simultaneously. Like a light switch being flipped deep inside of me, I woke up one day and was no longer depressed. No longer sad, no longer fearful, no longer socially anxious to the point of hermitage….

And then my life started to move again. I made plans to go on a three week trip to visit friends in northern and southern California (my first desert trip), returned from there and bought my home in Gibsons, moved in by April, started teaching myself how to sew and quilt, and planned hiking and canoeing trips as the days grew warmer. All fabulous….. but still…….

The thing about moving to a small town where you know hardly anyone and then commuting to work is that you don’t get the opportunity to meet anyone, nor does anyone invest in you as an outsider (so many people drift through these small coastal communities, no one really takes you seriously until you stay put for several years). So even though my life picked up considerably, my weekends and evenings were almost always spent alone. Alone reading, alone sewing, alone hiking, alone having breakfast….. (Alone having a major crises that involved the FBI and several of my friends).

Sometimes I craved that alone after a hectic week at work, but there were also times I dreaded having to fill 72 hours all by myself. During the crisis period especially – I crawled with the idea of my quiet duplex on the hill. But I did it anyway. For three years living on the coast I managed to spend the vast majority of my free time alone and in the end came out healthier for it.

When it came time to move back to the city in order to meet some professional aspirations, I left my home with a friend who was renting from me and returned to an apartment in my old east-van ‘hood. Surrounded by the city 24-7 again, I found my old habits had been changed by my time outside. I no longer sought out people in cafes and bars after work. I wasn’t particularly interested in plugging myself back into where I had once agitated and fought. The noises in my head were considerably quieter. Every once and awhile I kicked up against my life from before and instead of welcoming me back in, it felt foreign.

From there I have made my way into this present – a place where I am the most grounded, and the happiest I have ever been. I find life much easier with love. I don’t ever dread weekends with a sharing, caring person to explore and do with.  And my tasks are so much lighter with someone who makes me giggle.

But when I think about those years halfway cut off and having to do pretty much everything for myself, I recognize the value that solitude brought to me.For all that time, I heard myself – healed myself – and vanquished parts of my past worth leaving behind. And I’m stronger for it of course. I laugh more often. My thoughts aren’t as dark.

One thought on “Once living alone….

  1. I experienced a similar bout with solitude, living for several years on a pretty islolated island. Same thing – splitting wood, reading, hiking around alone. I get what you mean about the “locals” too, the ones who’ve had years to make everything just so (I’m thinking subsistence gardens, homes in a state of sturdy repair/cozy decor) and basically have put in the investment of time needed to engineer a lifestyle more infused with friends and hobbies.
    Unlike you I don’t think I’ve emerged stronger, however. Maybe because I didn’t even have the tempering influence of a job “off-island.” I was there all the time, and was pretty depressed!! Sometimes it seems like that era of hermitage left a mark inside me, a proneness to depression I’m always wary of aggravating. Like the way people had to watch their hearts, after a bout of rheumatc fever.
    I do agree that everyone should experience solitude and self-reliance though. It may not be the best socially, but it definitely improves self-awareness.

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