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Chau, soledad

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

“This?  Living alone?  I’m figuring it out.  I’ve found that it’s not always lonely, it’s not always scary (though often it can be both).  Sometimes, it’s the most peaceful thing in the world.  In learning to live by myself, I’m learning to live with myself.  And you know what I’ve found?  I make for some decent company.  Me, myself, and I – we’re figuring each other out.”

From the blog of a good friend

For the past seven months, I have lived alone (with the exception of other staff who usually stay for a total of 1-7 nights a month). As I wrote about back in March, I have found a big dollop of sweetness in this solitude, which is hard to explain both in Spanish and as a single woman: The word soledad, though the translation of solitude, more specifically means lonely, and has a negative, at best melancholoy connotation.  In addition, I am soltera, single, which also pretty much translates as lonely.  I think my friends here respect, more than really understand, my taste for soledad and soltera.

Here at 605 Vicente Perez Rosales (yes, I have an address, but I don’t know what for — not for mail delivery, that’s for sure) I do plenty of normal things.  But I also do things that sound strange if I start to write about them here.  It’s often a playful solitude: I dance, watching my reflection in the glass door to the side room;  I lie down on the bench by the fire and stare at the ceiling; I cook an elaborate almuerzo for just myself; I talk outloud when I wake up in the morning — either “Mmm, yes, you get to sleep in just as late as you want!” or “Okay sweetie pie, time to get up!”; I stare at myself in the mirror, wishing my skin was clearer and my hair was longer, but otherwise pretty much content; I sing outloud in the dark of bed at night.

And though I get stuck on the internet sometimes (overall better this semester…that’s Palena Take II in action), from time to time, I look up like I heard a strange noise, and there it is, brand new: Margaret, you actually live here.  I am 23 years old, and I live in a teeny town in Southern Chile.  Then I get the urge to blog or to write in my journal or to call someone, but I find that as soon as I’m talking about it, I’m no longer just in it.  So these days when the realization comes, I do nothing; I pause and stare straight into it in attempt to just steep in the here, in now, in this.  This rickity house, this eave-ceiling bedroom, this pounding rain on the skylight above my pillow — I’ve lived here longer than anywhere in the past five years, and somehow, it feels like mine.

However, this particular brand of solitude is about to end: an American volunteer is coming to Palena on Friday and will live here into December.  Though I am critical of the process that landed her here, my impression of her as an individual has been only positive.  And most importantly, this is something I can’t control.  This change is going to be big and real, whether I like it or not.  And though my soledad has mostly been the positive kind, there of course has been loneliness; in some ways, it will be nice to have someone around.

So as this phase is ending — my last lazy Sunday alone!  my last Tuesday night alone! — it’s hard not to think about all the endings to come.  Two more months of classes.  Less than three months until Christmas, when I will be in Ipswich, Massachusetts.  But I am trying to practice with this change, as with all that are to come, that I can hold on to what I’ve learned, that I can be flexible, that I can continue to take care of myself.  I also wonder when I will next live alone.

So as I say chau to singing outloud in bed, I vow to maintain what I can —  moments of privacy and aloneness, loud and quiet — and embrace what I can’t — to enjoy the newness of welcoming this new gringa to Palena.  More and more learning.


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