"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I spent three nights and the most of four days alone this spring break. At the Oregon Coast in a really nice two-bedroom condo. Alone. I drove myself there, checked myself in, and settled myself in. Alone. I looked forward to this getaway for weeks with a mixture of glee and apprehension.

At 57 this is the first time I've gone away by myself to be with just myself. Alone. I've been alone before in my life. Not willingly though. Alone meant failure to be pleasing enough that someone might want my company.

I left home at 17, and lived in a variety of situations involving other people until I moved to Portland at 22. I lived alone for a year, but made sure not to be alone for any significant length of time. Male company was my drug of choice. Then I moved in with a roommate who in turn took me to the cult that became my home for the next decade. I first lived with another couple in the cult, then with the husband who was my reward for obedience.

When I left the cult, I moved into an apartment. Alone. But there was this really great guy who lived next door. A teacher. Single. Outdoorsy. Spiritual. Sexy. We'll celebrate 22 years of marriage in August.

Granted, there were times in the last couple of decades when I seriously considered the benefits of the great permanent alone. There were times when I felt more alone in my marriage than I ever did not married. Walt even left a couple of times for family events, but I always managed to fill the time and space with anything but alone.

We're still married. More happily than not these days. I didn't go to the beach to get away from Walt this week. I was glad to come back home to him.

I went to be with me - and my book. Alone. I went because I needed some uninterrupted time to get to the meat of this latest revision. I went to see what it would feel like. Alone. I didn't get online once. I only called home once. And I didn't go hang out somewhere to find company (although it was on my radar that the nearest Starbucks was only ten minutes away).

As I told a friend today, alone was both easier and harder than I expected. 

I did fine in the world on my own - even if I might have seemed a bit over-friendly to the waitress who sold me clam chowder my last night there. I loved occupying space alone, especially such nice roomy space that included a huge jetted tub. I had fun walking alone, and eavesdropping shamelessly, somehow feeling both invisible and connected in my aloneness.

The hard part was being alone with my book and the task I had set for myself. It might have been a tad unrealistic (doing an entire revision in three days), but I gave it my best shot. I'm terrified that it's not good enough. I can't tell any more. I'm afraid anyone who says it is good enough, is just being nice. Being alone between that rock and that hard place is daunting.

But I didn't let the nasty little voice stop me. I was alone with it and overcame it. That may be the biggest gift I received this week. Oh, the revision isn't done, but the first fifty pages are as polished as clean windows in June. And I'm on a roll. 

I hope the next time I choose to head into the world alone, it will be to meet a deadline with this book, for publication. Whenever it is, whatever the purpose, I look forward to the company I'll be keeping.

Photo from Flickr - Old poster that would be placed in train stations around Canada in the past. 


Carrie Wilson Link said...

Great last line. You describe the phenomenon beautifully, Deb.

Jerri said...

I am in awe of your determination with the book--the writing, the revising--all of it.

You're such an inspiration, Deb. In so many ways.

Angie Ledbetter said...

So many great experiences and things learned from one savvy teacher to an eager student. Yay! Keep pushing through and your ms will shine, then you can find some honest beta readers. :)

deb said...

I've enjoyed this time alone I've had these past few months, the first time really in my life. Last summer I went away by myself for two weeks. It was hard but good too. Maybe one day I'll retreat to write a book. Here's hoping:)

M said...

It's a great time in our life when we can accept "alone" for what it simply should be...time with ourself. No running. No hiding. No escaping. Simply being comfortable enough with ourselves that we find it a nice place to be. I'm glad that you are arriving there. I'm also glad that in a couple of weeks, you won't be alone, because I'll be there.


Your Bro

Kathryn Magendie said...

I like being alone - but with the promise of breaking up the alone with someone or someones...I like having my cake and eating it too...I do.

Amber said...

I am SURE it is "good enough", knowing the way you write. Really.
...and I'm not that nice. ;) lol

I would love to hear more about your time in the cult! Interesting stuff. Is that what is in the book?


Deb Shucka said...

For Amber: On the off chance you check back here, yes my book is about the decade of my cult experience. I'm always happy to talk about it if you want to hear more. E-mail me - which is what I would do you, but your address is not listed.