Thursday, December 31, 2009

On being alone

UPDATE: Being alone is all well and good, but sometimes it would be nice to have another person in the car when I'm going skiing and have to put chains on the tires to get there...

At the age of about 8, I was lucky enough to have a horse-crazy mother who was finally able to fulfill her lifelong dream by getting me a pony - Paleface - and then later, a horse - Najmah (she also got herself a horse for a while). By the time I was a young teen, I was doing things like riding Najmah through the Dairy Queen drive-thru and sharing a hamburger with her. I ate the burger, she ate the bun. This was Texas in the '70s, so the only really unusual thing about that was that I was riding English style instead of Western. Although I often rode with friends, we lived in a rural area where I was also able to just saddle up and ride off by myself pretty much whenever I wanted. It was very liberating.

It would be just me and Najmah. Usually Whiskey, our border collie, would come — ostensibly for protection, but in reality she mostly just chased squirrels (she did attack and drive off a much larger Keeshond who was trying to bite Najmah's heels once). I had a feeling of exhilaration and well-being and thought I never felt alone or lonely because I was enjoying the company of other beings. I had these same feelings years later with my horse, Sandpiper.

The weird thing is, I get the exact same feelings when I'm skiing, and I'm almost always alone when I ski. I even prefer to ride the lift alone if the resort isn't too busy. Making conversation with a complete stranger on a long lift ride can be interesting, but is sometimes just too stressful. My mother actually recently asked me if I get lonely skiing. No, never. It doesn't bother me to have lunch at the resort restaurants alone, either.* I have more recently started riding my bike regularly, and yes, I get those same feelings. I often ride with friends, but far more often alone.

I actually kind of find it sad that the "company" was all in my head. This, of course, doesn't mean that I didn't love the horses. When we left Texas for California, we had to leave them there, and I missed them terribly and cried for weeks (that was back in 1979, and I'll still get choked up thinking about it). Or perhaps I should say that I WAS enjoying their company, but that wasn't why I wasn't lonely.

I like company, but I guess I'm also just comfortable being by myself.

* My mother told me once that she had never eaten in a restaurant alone. I was flabbergasted. I've even been to movies by myself.