It strikes me this morning that, as much as I think I am making this brave move, going it solo, acting like some long ranger, I am really not doing this alone. Not by a long shot.
I was getting ready to send some mail. I have to send my Mom a check as she has paid a couple of my bills that came in after I left. I am using my parents address as my forwarding address. I tell a bit of a tall take in that I will be staying with my parents for a while as they are elderly and need some care. Well, yes, sort of. If I go all out and do the address change thing, my whole life changes to their address. Unbeknownst to the State of Washington, I am retaining my residency and keeping my home address as it has been for the last three years. Yes, I will be with my parents for a couple months. Yes, I will be helping them out in whatever way they need. That is true, I am just stretching that tale as long as it will go so as to retain my Washington affiliation. Residency matters.
Back to the point. I am preparing to send my Mom a check for a couple bills she has paid. Mom, still helping me out. I am spastically checking Facebook and am delighted every time I see an email with news or information or that tells me I have a new follower on my web site. I am compulsively looking for connections. I upload emails during the day and take time in the evening to read and respond to them. Again, I want to stay connected.
Before I left, I had several going away events. One was at work, one I planned and there was a really nice little gathering a church. I used the gatherings as an opportunity for folks to wish me well, give me suggestions for places to visit and things to see, and for me to honor their role in my life. It was touching and meaningful to me. I have a collection of the notes folks wrote me and I waited until I had left to read them. Many from the church folks are not travel related, but just well wishes and supportive thoughts. That was unexpected, yet oh so welcome. I have read through those remarks twice now and keep the envelope handy.
Alone in this? I think not. Sure, I am the person who is here at camp by myself. Nobody is making my meals or holding me close in the cold. Nobody is answering as I mumble out loud to whatever thing is pissing me off at the moment. But, to say I am alone is really not true. At least, I do not think so.
I feel like I am carrying a community with me. I feel like I am carrying wishes, hopes and dreams of others as I start this grand tour. I feel like I am loved and supported by not just one or two, but an army of people who are in my corner, rooting for me. I know some folks are just on the periphery, skulking about, adding numbers to their Facebook friends list. For some, their connection to me is superficial and lacking in depth. Whatever works for them. Luckily, I know something different. I know I have real support, real community, actual people who care because their cards and letters and notes tell me so. Those who take the time to write me a post or an email. Those who open their homes to me, they tell me different. They are why and how I know I am not alone.
If you, and you know who you are, think you can live a happy and healthy life “alone”, I challenge you here and now. I challenge your conception of alone, and I bet you are not as alone as you think you are. In fact, I bet that when you let your guard down and feelings start to creep in and your walls start to crumble just a little, you realize it can suck. You realize that the fortress that you have built only protects you from yourself, and in doing so, keeps out that which you really want to invite in. That alone is not only not really alone, it is not really what you want.
I suppose there is being alone and being by oneself. I can be by myself in a crowd, and I can feel alone in the presence of others. Then again, I can feel loved and connected while by myself and I can feel enveloped in warmth and companionship merely watching others. I guess it partially depends on what we choose to let in, what we choose to see, how we choose to integrate others into our lives.
In the end, we all need somebody or somebodies. We may be by ourselves, but we are really never alone. I have a rock in the Jeep and painted on it are the words NEVER ALONE. This is an AA reference from my Pop. It is one of many talismans I have with me on this journey. This gets a little existential, but with God, one is never really alone. Still, as humans, we generally want a more direct or tangible connection to each other. A look, smile, hug, some in-person way to abate that feeling of being alone, or the loneliness that can consume us if we let is run rampant through our hearts. Sure, God is always with us, but sometimes a warm smile or meaningful embrace are nice, too.
I know I am not alone. I know I am traveling by myself. I hold dear and I cherish the community on whose support I stand. I feel the loving embrace of those who take the time to share their thoughts and words and encouragements. I relish in the remarks and comments that tell me someone is listening, looking, paying attention. It all matters. It all reminds me. I am not alone. Nope, not alone.