Living alone is both freeing and confining at the same time. Freeing because every decision is mine independently to make. If I want to go somewhere, I don’t have anyone to confer with about whether they mind or not. I simply go. I bypass the road home and continue into town. Browsing through a store, taking in a movie, or deciding to eat out…Yes, I have the power to do what I want and I don’t have to check with anyone else to get their opinion on the matter or check their schedule.
Confining for simply the same reason. No one to answer to about my activities means that there isn’t a person to ask if they want to walk through a store, watch a movie, or eat out with me. As I walk through Target or Dillard’s and see a cute shirt, I don’t say, “Hey, check out this shirt. What do you think of the color?” Unless it’s a movie I really want to see, I may not go by myself because going and sitting in a theater full of people in groups or couples makes ‘singleness’ feel very conspicuous when sitting alone in a large room full of empty seats beside me. I have actually sat next to people I don’t know so not to appear ‘alone.’ Yes, I know married people go the movies alone, but when they get home they will have someone to discuss the movie with. One of the things that I hate the most about leaving the theater after a movie is walking out alone to the car without having someone to discuss with what I liked and the parts of the movie that moved me or disappointed me.
I long ago got over the apprehension of eating out by myself. If I didn’t want to spend my time getting the food to go or eating at fast food places, then that’s one of the things that is conquered first. I usually pick a booth to sit in and face the door or the counter, so that I have something to watch. Which reminds me why I like diners so much. Sitting on a bar stool at a counter doesn’t scream “ALONE’ like sitting at a table or booth. Now, sitting at the ‘Bar’ at a restaurant facing someone pouring drinks isn’t an option that I would do, but sitting at a food counter. . . I wish more places had those.
On weekdays, I can eat out without feeling too conspicuous. I eat at a fast pace anyway and without conversation, I can be in and out in half an hour. However, Sundays eating lunch out by myself is almost torturous. I do eat out every Sunday. As a family, we always ate out after church. I can’t seem to break the habit, nor do I want to eat at home by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat by myself every Sunday. Sometimes, people in my small group go to lunch as a group and sometimes I get invited to go eat with friends. However, there are Sundays that I do eat by myself. I have certain restaurants that I go to when I’m alone. When I enter a restaurant, I usually scan the room to see if I know anyone there. That would be a sweet bonus because I can join them. I target in on single people in the room. I have considered asking them if I could sit with them, but so far, I haven’t gotten that brave yet. It may come at some point in my life.
This last Sunday, I went to Chicken Express. Inside were several groups of people from church, a few couples, some families, and two other single people. Both were men. One was just finishing and the other was an old gentlemen in his late seventies or early eighties. He probably was a widow because he was wearing a ring. I always look for a ring on a person’s hand when they sit alone. I wonder about their circumstance when I see them eating by themselves. I smiled as this man. I was trying not to stare too much at him. He was tall and his demeanor was gentle. His hands trembled when he ate. I sat behind him a few booths back. I did think about joining him, but wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t make him feel uncomfortable and my bravery hadn’t kicked in either.
In the next booth over, was a couple in their mid-forties. As I was eating, the gentleman finished and went to get a to go box. He put his leftovers inside and then proceeded to try to close the box. I watched him fiddle with the closure for about a minute. I noticed the lady across the aisle was watching him also. We had caught each other’s eyes several time during the meal and had acknowledged each other with a smile and a nod.
The gentlemen wasn’t having any luck closing the container and had sat down again to try to get it to close. I simply got up and went and helped him put the tongue in the grove of the box. He couldn’t get it in because his hands were too shaky. I said something silly like I had trouble closing those tiny things too. He thanked me, picked up his box, and said goodbye. As I was sitting back down, I caught the lady’s eyes again and we smiled. It was a connection. Simple as it was, I had made a personal connection with two people that I didn’t know and most likely would never see again. I left Chicken Express feeling better than when I entered.
I spend a lot of time on social media. Facebook has become an outlet for me to share my daily life. I confess that I sometimes go back and remove a picture or a post that I submitted because it certainly isn’t news worthy. Social media is a way to make a connection in my life. I believe all people have that need for connectedness.
There are ways that connect us such as phones and friend visits. Those are the things that I love to do. I fill my calendar with as much personal contact as I can. People were made for relationships and connections. First with God and then with others. If personal connections aren’t available for whatever reason, than go ahead and touch someone through social media. It’s not perfect, but it’s available from the couch!