I've only felt truly alone a handful of times in my 35 years.
Once when I was a junior in high school. I was 16 years old. Overweight. Pimply faced. Uncomfortable being me. My mom and dad had just split. My mom was drinking again after 6 years of sobriety. But it wasn't just any drinking. It was binge drinking. Sober for months. Drunk and absent for days. The pattern was relentless.
As the oldest of four, I was the mom while my mom wasn't the mom--during those drunk days. I made sure my siblings got up, got dressed, brushed their teeth, had food to eat. I made sure our pets were fed. I made sure no outsiders knew I was making sure of these things because mom wasn't around to make sure of them.
One day I came home from school before my siblings--I can't remember why I was there before them.
"Mooooommmm! I'm home!"
There was no answer.
I peeked into each room on the first floor of the house, finishing with my mom's bedroom. That's when I saw her. Naked. Drunk. Laying on her bed. Someone had clearly been there with her. Someone had clearly left her in that state.
"Mom!" I yelled at her in disgust. "Wake up!"
She wouldn't wake up. She mumbled some incoherent nonsense, never opening her eyes.
I pulled the blankets over her naked, slim body, tucking her in like a mother tucks her toddler into bed, just in time for my sisters and brother to arrive home. I shut the bedroom door and told them Mom wasn't feeling well.
It was what I did. I fixed shit and covered it up so everyone thought everything was fine. It was just me.
A few months later my mom didn't come home when she said she was going to come home. I fixed shit and put the kids to bed and pretended like everything was OK, like a good 16-year-old mom should, and went to bed knowing she was out there somewhere doing who-knows-what with who-knows-whom.
I woke up after 1 a.m. to find my mom's bed still empty, the sheets cold and stiff.
Suddenly I was furious. How could she do this to me? How irresponsible was she? She obviously didn't love me... didn't love us. I tried to convince myself to go back to bed. I tried to not worry. But I was worried, and I soon found myself roaming the streets of the small town in which we lived, barefoot and in my pajamas, crying and calling my mother's name.
She never responded. It was just me on those dirt streets that night. Just me.
Now it's just me again. I'm 35, sitting on my couch in the house I'm renting. After 13 years together and 10 years of marriage, my husband and I are getting a divorce. He has our son tonight in the home we built from the ground up together.
It's just me here now. Just me and my thoughts.
The ups and downs of just me are almost unbearable. Earlier today I was twirling like a schoolgirl in my kitchen as I listened to music and unloaded the dishwasher. I felt hope and promise for the future. I felt OK--like just me was just good enough.
Tonight just me is not good enough. Tonight I'm sad and scared and alone and unsure.
Tonight I told my friend Caroline, "Life is hard."
"That's what gives it texture," she said as we painted and drank wine.
Maybe that's my problem. I've always wanted everything to be smooth. Normal. Wrinkle-free.
Just me is not any of those things. I have texture. Perhaps I need to embrace the texture. Sometimes I'm raw and naked and exposed and real. And that's OK.
Just me will be OK. Just me will be better than OK. Just me will thrive. Just me will make it to the other side of this divorce and show everyone who thought I wasn't strong enough that I'm stronger and braver than they thought.
Just me will undoubtedly have nights roaming the streets alone, crying for my mom. But I'll wake up in the morning and I won't be just me anymore. I'll have my son and my dog and my friends and my job and... it's never truly just me.