Learning To Be Alone Again

After ten years of marriage, Nathan Graziano is finding being alone a different challenge from his old single days. 

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On Dec. 28, my wife and I celebrated our tenth anniversary at a nice Italian restaurant where, for dessert, the owners brought us—on the house—a homemade cannoli with Happy 10th Anniversary scrawled in red icing on the white plate.

A little over a week later, I was moving out of the house into a single room in a communal townhouse.

As with any fracture in a long-term relationship, the reasons my wife and I separated are long and endlessly complicated, spiraling through myriad of burdens and blames, disappointments and our own private despairs. Out of respect for my wife and our privacy, I am not going to get into the details behind our separation.

The last time I lived alone I was 25 years old, childless and still immortal.

I have noticed, however, that since moving out of my house, I’ve been forced to relearn a skill I thought, as a writer, I had mastered: the skill of being alone.

The last time I lived alone I was 25 years old, childless and still immortal. I had gotten out of my first really bad relationship and was starting to realize that being with another person involved a lot of hard work. At the time, the girl I dated was bipolar and, to quote Frost, I am also one “acquainted with the night.” Along with the mental illnesses, we both drank heavily, and every night had the potential for total and complete combustion—and often it occurred.

So when she finally moved out, after months of back-and-forth anguish, for me, being alone became analogous to being liberated. And at 25, I kept my own company masterfully. Like Tom Waits writes in “Better without a Wife”: I was “goin’ out when I want[ed] to and comin’ home when I please[d].” I didn’t have to learn to be alone because I had embraced it. I made “alone” my own.

This time, it is different.

This time, I have two beautiful children who I miss with a hurt unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I have set up a shrine with pictures of them in my new room, where I now hermit. This time, I don’t feel the need to go out and prowl the meat markets in the downtown bar scene, drinking until last call and puking on my shoes in a parking lot.

This time, I am willfully alone.

But there also are issues of pragmatism about being alone this time that weren’t there when I was 25 years old. Family life can soften a man in the sense that eating becomes a routine, not something you do when you feel like it. My family would sit down for meals, and miraculously meals would arrive via my wife, who also concocted grocery lists and stacked the cabinets with food. Now, as I learn to be alone again, I have the choice of either eating one Subway sandwich a day or three-balanced meals.

So far, Subway is winning.

There is also the crude fact that every person, male or female, who is learning to be alone after a long relationship suffers, to some degree, from the existential crisis that begs the age-old question: Am I ever going to get laid again?

While statistically speaking, the odds are in my favor, the bleakness involved in accomplishing the deed—in going out and finding a person to sleep with—as a 37 year-old guy, hardly seems worth the effort.

In addition, if you’re learning to be alone again after a long relationship, hopefully you’ve realized that intimacy is actually the opposite of alone, and intimacy has little to do with genitals. Intimacy is much more difficult to find than sex.

I think I’ll be alone for awhile.

♦◊♦

My new room is clean and well-lit; Hemingway would approve. I’ve decorated it with some of my paintings and posters, and the act of putting up familiar pictures somehow assuaged some of the loneliness.

Looking ahead, I’ll need at least one night where I buy beer and listen to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and write a five-page vitriolic poem for my wife, which I’ll then delete in the morning. I’m going to need many nights alone for spiritual cleansing and healing.

Learning to be alone again has not been easy or fun, but I’ve been fortunate to have a few friends who have offered their ear to me. And sometimes, alone, it helps to pick up the phone, hear a familiar voice, and talk about cannolis.

 

Read more about Solitude on The Good Life.

Image credit: Alexis Fam Photography/Flickr

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About Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. He is the author of three collections of poetry---Not So Profound (Green Bean Press, 2003), Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press, 2007) and After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press, 2009)—a collection of short stories, Frostbite (GBP, 2002), and several chapbooks of fiction and poetry. A chapbook of short prose pieces titled Hangover Breakfasts was recently published by Bottle of Smoke Press this fall. For more information, visit his website at NathanGraziano,com.

Comments

  1. FlyingKal says:

    Personal question, my apologies if it’s too private/intrusive:

    How often, if ever, do you get to see your kids?

  2. Have you ever thought of yourself going through the grieving process? People generally equate “grief” to the death of a loved one whereas it can relate to any loss of a loved one. Society is so cavalier about divorce and relish and at times celebrate divorce, the truth is that it is a loss on ones life.

  3. Nate Graziano says:

    I think it’s pretty accurate assessment, Tom. But I haven’t given up hope that things might be resolved, so I haven’t begun to grieve. I’m just dealing with being alone right now. And my wife is a very reasonable woman, and I can see my kids whenever. For example, I’m watching the Patriots’ game with my son today. It’s the small things that make a big difference.

  4. Nate, hope you don’t mind a comment from a woman who has just discovered the site A Good Man, so also the blogs and ‘zine with it. So, my comment is only how similar the experience can be/is for a woman. While I was not divorced, but rather widowed and childless, I can say that the experience of eating is very familiar. Most importantly, I have learned how correct your statement is – “intimacy is actually the opposite of alone, and intimacy has little to do with genitals. Intimacy is much more difficult to find than sex.”
    It is 9 years, 7 months, and approximately 13 days since his passing. I have learned many lessons that I wish I had known when I was younger. But luckily for me, I have found the intimacy once again in 2 friendships with men who began as more. And that is truly what I had missed, not the sexual aspect. Thank you for expressing this all so well. I wish you all the best in finding the same.

  5. Really appreciate you sharing this with all of us, Nate. I am sure you are not the only one who feels like this way right now, so that, by itself, is a gift that you are giving them: community.

    It’s hard to deal with being alone when it feels like it wasn’t your decision altogether. One thing I hope you wont do (that I unfortunately did when I was in a similar situation) is to go into your shell. It’s very tempting to resort to putting up a wall, or staying inside your cave, away from connecting deeply with other people, or from showing any sort of vulnerability. That sort of hardening is hard to thaw, and frankly it’s not worth it. This alone time is painful, but it will be much worse if you go into your shell in order to stay away from the harshness.

    Best of luck. We’re all here for you.

  6. Paul Newell says:

    Thank you Nathan, for your honesty in this situation. When I got my own apartment, it was a pain I had never experienced and it took a tremendous amount of patience with myself and my thoughts to get through it. I have to say is was a necessary part of the process to help me heal and think about the situation and how I’m going to move forward. I’m so happy you wrote this because I know men go through this, but ego prevents us from expressing ourselves and getting the support we need from our friends and family.

    Thanks again,
    Paul

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