Recently someone in a group I belong to, asked the question: Do you go many places by yourself? How about concerts?
It hit me like a slap in the face.
Because I go hardly anywhere by myself. I haven't stayed away overnight without someone I know since 1994, when I went to Thames on a five day 'Writing in Primary Schools' workshop. A few weeks ago I went to a movie, Hidden Figures. I went to it by myself, while Mac was away up north visiting his sister. I went by myself. To see a movie. By myself. For the First. Time. Ever.
I miss many musical gigs because I won't - can't? - go by myself, and Mac often doesn't want to go, or is too tired; he works so hard. What would people think of me if I went alone? But what if they didn't notice me at all?
I don't dance because I won't - can't? - dance in front of anyone not even Mac. It's even a rare occasion that I dance home alone. I did do a little bit of ballroom dancing a few years ago, and ceroc, when Jeffrey was learning, and loved it, but although I did persuade Mac to go for a few lessons, he didn't enjoy it, so no more. When I was little, my mother told me I was too clumsy to warrant dancing lessons: her lesson was one I learned well. So no dancing. What would people think of me if I danced alone? But what if they didn't notice me at all?
I sometimes have lunch alone in a café in Hamilton when I'm there for the day. I used to buy something at a bakery and eat in my car, but since becoming both gluten-free and diabetic as well as vegetarian, that doesn't work for me. I hate eating alone. I alternate between feeling like everyone is noticing me and thinking what a pathetic old woman I am, unable to find a friend to lunch with, and feeling like I'm completely invisible to the degree that someone might even come at sit at the table because they can't see me.
I don't swim alone because I it isn't safe. That's what I say. But really, I am so self conscious, it is a struggle to walk down the beach with my husband or a son. Once I was unhealthily skinny, and made very aware of the fact. Then I had four children and grew fat, and was also made aware of that. What would people think of me, alone on the beach? What if they didn't notice me at all?
I don't like looking at books in the library in case I am judged for my choices. Or, they might not see me at all. Clothes shopping is hell: alone I cannot see myself. With someone else, well, someone else is looking at me and judging.
And that is how I have lived my life. In fear of being seen by all, and in fear of not being seen at all: alone either way.
This last year has been a year of change. I'm realizing that I'm the only one who really cares. I'm the only one who's interested. Well, maybe Mac. Everyone else is pretty much involved in their own lives. I've been learning a lot about who I am this past year, and realizing I need to live who I am and forget about what other people may think, or not think.
So, 'Do you go many places by yourself?' In four and a half weeks, I'm heading off for 19 days alone. I'll spend a few nights with family and friends, and visit others, but mostly I'll be alone. I have absolutely no idea how I'll cope. I may come home the same or deeply changed. It's scary, but I'm finally ready to try.