After over a month of spending the week away from my family, I finally had a complete, albeit fleeting, emotional breakdown. I briefly pondered if I could pin the incipient counseling bills on Skype, because my husband had surprised me with a family conference call right as I was getting ready to leave the office. Until now, I would call home right before bed time, but over the phone, it’s just a huge jumble of voices, so it doesn’t hurt as much. With the video on, I could clearly my kids when they asked plaintively if I was coming back home that night. And the ache of how much I miss them switched from dull to sharp and straight on to piercing.
But in the cold light of introspection, I could admit to myself that it wasn’t seeing my family which pushed me over the edge. My kids actually strengthen my resolve, since supporting them is the reason I am putting myself through this experience. On the contrary, my own self-love is at the heart of the problem, because today I finally realized that there is no one nearby to entertain me. And that feeling is the closest thing I have to a personal Hell on earth.
For as long as I can remember, I have hated to be alone. Admittedly, this has led me to do some pretty weird things; most of them simply crazy, a few of them scary. My fear was directly responsible for my first marriage, and indirectly responsible for my second; and after many years of therapy, I’ve fought this tendency to a standoff. I have learned to cope by spending time with my family, my neighbors, my co-workers, and, in a pinch, my “friends” on the internet. In return, I made a promise to my voracious need for companionship to try and keep in contact with someone for as much of the day as possible, with the exceptions of sleep, and, if absolutely necessary, work.
Today, that all fell apart. As I left the office after the call with my family, I realized I had no plans, and nothing waiting for me to do. I have no one to call for an impromptu get together, especially since my only psychological problem more acute than my autophobia is my social phobia. Isn’t it ironic? And I mean cosmic irony, people. So all you Alanis haters can just grab a spoon and cut a slice.
And right after I achieved full comprehension of the fact that I was all alone, I felt that little ache in my throat that means I’m going to cry. Not the cinematic single tear that is only noticeable in the closeup as the lead actress is dying of tuberculosis, while giving birth, after saving the kids from the orphanage, that was being built by her husband, to honor their unborn child. No, it was gonna be ugly. I was able to hold off until I got out into the anonymity of the street. And I wept for most of my thirty minute walk back to my apartment, and for once I was glad that no one I passed knew who I was.
But for now, I have to stop thinking of how empty and alone I feel. Otherwise, I’ll get too depressed, and I don’t have a TV anymore, so I can’t stay up late numbing my angst watching Real Housewives on Bravo, wondering why class and ratings seem to have an inverse relationship, and whether or not James Lipton ever wants to go outside the Actors Studio to have a word with Bravo’s production staff about the meaning of the term “standards”.
And so, instead of counting sheep to reduce my anxiety, I will now count my blessings. I have a home. I have a family. I am missed when I am gone.
I have a job. I have a lot of food. I have my health, despite having so much food.
I have friends, although many of these I have never met, and who could conceivably be the products of my imagination. I have an imagination active enough to have thought out the implications of that last statement, in detail.
I have a room. I have a bed. I have a blanket.
And I have a pillow.
On which, before it gets much later, I will cry myself to sleep.