Things Fall Apart: Living alone can be lonely, and then suddenly it’s not
When Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, ‘Things Fall Apart’ she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves
I’m considering getting Amazon Prime. Which is to say much more than I’m going to put myself through the hassle of a new subscription.
When I began living without another adult, for months I barely watched TV. Don’t get me wrong – it was on, of an evening. If I didn’t go to sleep with my daughter, or wasn’t out, I worked most evenings, sitting on the couch in my living room with my laptop on my knees.
For months, I managed to half ignore the fact that I was now a person who had no in-house company in the evening, that after my daughter was asleep, it was just me, by keeping my head down and keeping myself occupied.
The TV was on, but it was at best background elevator mood music, a constant reel of comforting detective shows; Lewis, Morse, Endeavour, Scott and Bailey. All the above are ornery individualists to some extent, which is the kind of thing you want piping into your living room, almost invisibly propping you up when you begin getting to grips with being the only adult in your house.
A solitary life
Vera was a particular favourite, because when you’ve just separated, there is something very comforting about the sight of a brilliant (if somewhat cantankerous) older woman living her life by herself, immersed in her career, cranky but happy enough underneath it, deeply fulfilled by her work.
But when friends talked about the latest boxset they were watching, or documentary on Netflix, I tuned out. Because there was no way I was ready to sit down and commit to a show and watch it on my own, with no other distractions. To face into an evening of entertainment without another, and without the distraction of work.
It felt like I couldn’t enjoy something on my own, like watching it by myself wasn’t enough – a sentence which actually makes me laugh now as I write it, for anyone who might be in the early days of a separation and wondering if it ever gets to feel easier (it really does).
“It’s a solitary life,” a wonderful friend said to me recently; someone had said it to her, she is also a single mother. It is at times, and you can only take that on in increments at the start.
If you dove straight into it without any buffers at the start it could overwhelm you. Sink the ship.
A friend who has recently lost someone rings to say people keep telling her to slow down, stop busying herself. It’s the exact opposite of what she wants to do. She knows the busyness is getting her through. Right at the beginning of it, stopping might allow too much in, so you distract yourself.
But then you do start to settle into the new way, and less and less do you veer in your home time from complete exhaustion, to cramming it very full so that you DON’T NOTICE. You’re able to notice. And then you’ll find you mind less and less.
And then you will find that there are things about living on your own you might like, or even love. And someday, you’ll be ready to pick out a new series and sit down all by yourself and watch it, and not feel that this is a lonely thing.
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