“Claim your space. Draw a circle of light around it. Push back against the dark. Don’t just survive. Celebrate.”
She had never heard the expression “positive solitude” until a few days before, but it described perfectly the place she was on her journey.
When she left her marriage, she knew loneliness would be her achilles heel, so had, of necessity, taught herself to embrace solitude. The thought of a day on her own still had the capacity to leave a dull thud in her stomach and an uneasiness which she couldn’t quite put her finger on. But, for the most part, she could get through a day alone, in fact, more than get through….
She found that keeping busy, or at the very least, having a plan, was the key. Yes, of course, those plans very often displayed all the symptoms of running away, to escape the day-to-day, to break the routine where the silence of no early morning message from him would break her heart again and again. And sometimes, those plans were the end result of anger and defiance standing firm together in a “sod it, I don’t need anyone” kind of way. Of course, in an ideal world, she would have given anything to be with someone who loved her, simple as that. But there is a difference between wanting and needing. It took all her strength, but it was that anger, disappointment and hurt that gave her the momentum finally to step out into the world and say “bring it on”.
Holidaying alone, of course, was something else altogether, though she found that fear, when you are brave enough to look it in the eye, has nowhere to go.
Florence was her first solo trip. Alone, she spoke less, noticed more … and those moments when it would have been so wonderful, later, to say “Do you remember when …?”, sat in her memory bank alone. More than anything, she came home with a sense of achievement that made her spirits sour, and still the memory of speeding through the Tuscan hills on a Vespa, that life-affirming rush, that freedom of spirit, left her grinning from ear to ear.
And so to Lisbon. A last minute, need to get on with my life, kind of booking … without any preconceived notions of what to expect. A deliberate attempt not to be too touristy, to step out of her comfort zone a little further than before.
And so, she sat typing this story, in a sun dappled courtyard just east of Alfama, the hilly artisan quarter of the town. A local resident, Jose, popped his head out of his window and offered to put on his favourite fado music to keep her company. Hauntingly beautiful voices, mending all those lost dreams in a soothing wave of melodies floating through the lemon trees, the delicate blues of heady agapanthus and lavender, across the white washed terrace outside her tiny apartment. For all Lisbon had to offer, she would remember most the magic of that moment. It was perfect.
She realised how far she had come. So terrified before of even being alone, here she was, in a foreign land without a single soul to turn to. For her, this was being brave beyond her wildest imagination, and she knew she would be fine. That’s quite a journey!