On Saturday night I had a horrible nightmare – every possible fear my mind could conjure twisted into one terrifying hallucination. I’m not overstating, it was all there: being pick-pocketed, being charged more than expected at the checkout, over-plucking my eyebrows, descending a high ladder, being in a dangerous area at night with my car parked a perilous walk away. Like a scene from GTA or The Purge, I was scuttling past people being beaten bloody and women being sexually assaulted.
Then the dream-weaver turned the screw: my son joined me before inexplicably hurting his leg, telling me to go on and come back and collect him with the car. I was forced to leave him in a derelict playground, surrounded by ghostly children who, on a Sisyphean loop, mounted the slide before plunging into the neighbouring canal. I don’t think we need a professional psychoanalyst to decode that one! My darkest fear – my son was in danger and I was not there to protect him. I imagined the brutal gang I had seen, now roaming the streets looking for a fresh victim. I rushed to the car, only to wake up before I could get back to him.
I lay in bed, breathless, heart racing, trying to visualise that he was safe, that I reached him in time. I was completely alone in the house and in that moment would have given anything to have a warm body to cuddle into, anything to have been able to lie in the quiet and listen for my son’s breathing in the next room, anything to make the Lonely go away.
I consider it a benchmark of personal success as to whether you have someone you can call at 2.30am, someone who would tear themselves from sleep for you. But I don’t have that. I have the Lonely.
I was supposed to finish my travel blog about Florence yesterday. I hesitate to publish this in its place, because it’s a real downer for a Monday. And, frankly, all the supportive words that will follow will not touch the sides. Carrie Bradshaw once said: “I’m lonely. I am. The loneliness is palpable.” It’s not about friends or family, or filling your hours with endless activity. It’s a hopelessness that oozes around your heart and spreads in your gut, like emotional bitumen, even when there are people around, sometimes especially when there are people around. A worry that the Lonely will never go away.
I have included a song by Christina Perrie today. If you are so inclined and want to moon about like a 15 year old girl – check out her albums Lovestrong and Head Or Heart – the soundtrack to my heartache (create a mix tape with Sade’s By Your Side if you want to add my empty nest misery too). In more positive moments, I try to imagine the Lonely as a reflection of myself, as though I could “hold myself until I fall asleep“. I try to find strength in independence, rather than despair, but anxiety makes the down spiral so easy. When Sarah falls into the Shaft of Hands in Labyrinth, she chooses down as her direction because she’s already pointing that way, and ends up in the Oubliette, where people are put to be forgotten. Just saying…
I do not know whether the Lonely is something I need to sort out on my own or if it needs that someone, that weight on the mattress beside you, that voice on the end of the phone. Appropriately, when I was watching TOWIE last night (I watch a lot of shit TV), these wise words came from Chloe Sims: “If you feel unfulfilled (someone else won’t change that)..that’s something inside of you that you need to fix.”
People say that crying babies must learn to self-soothe. I suspect those babies simply learn to lie in the dark, feeling abandoned, until they fall asleep again. When my son was young and he stirred or cried, I would always call out, “It’s ok. I’m here”, and that was enough. I never wanted him to feel alone in the night. I would have given anything this weekend for someone to reach out to me in the dark, for someone to pick me up and hold me while I cried.
I believe that today it’s OK to be not OK. Christina Perrie