We’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we’ve never even met? (David Foster Wallace)
Sobriety has taught me to feel things that were once shadows on the walls of my many caves: happiness, joy, contentment, peace, accomplishment, love. But it has also led me to other sensations I once dulled with liquor and men and constant movement; it teaches me the true nature of sorrow and loss and fear and, lately, loneliness. In the past, I felt lonely and I would do something: find someone with whom to drink or have sex, shop until I had no money left, eat ’til I was well past sated.
These things are no longer options (nor do I want them to be), and I am left with the same feelings I had when I was fourteen, the ones that came when I would lie in my bedroom late at night, tired of reading yet stricken with insomnia, aching for things I couldn’t name, sad for reasons I couldn’t comprehend, believing that just one connection with another human being would make everything okay. But Texas was a lonelier place than most for me, and even if such a person existed — and I am not certain he did — I doubt I could have noticed.
Fast-forward twenty years, and I have more tools than I did then. I have friends and children and both past and potential lovers. I have financial stability (mostly). I live abundantly, with nice furniture and electronics and Calphalon pans, vibrators hidden in my bookshelf and dresser drawers and bathroom. But ghosts of my entire adult life roam the streets of Chicago and its environs, specters that haunt my movement and remind me of missed opportunities, ruined chances, drunken missteps, other things I damaged just by being me.
To be honest, there are plenty of chances for this to change, both in my future (and in the present), but that doesn’t much help on a Saturday night when my son rubs my arm while we’re watching a movie and I think about how much I’d rather be snuggling up on my couch with a man. And there are men, too, or, rather, chances for men in my life, but they are all slightly off: too old, too young, too not-what-I-want, too far away. And none of those things are necessarily obstacles, but they are there with me on a Saturday night.
This isn’t a story about wanting sex or love or a man. It’s a tale of wanting to matter to someone other than my children and my cat, and not knowing if that will ever be the case. Or maybe I just miss my grandmother today, and it’s a delayed reaction. Whatever it is, it’s going to be okay… but part of being okay is being honest when I’m not 100% there.