For Brandi, Paul, Bill, Jeff, Desarae, The O.G., Jake, and all the others who felt the weight of the soul was too much.

I made good a promise last Friday.  Promises are hard for me because of their absolute nature.  If we’re getting at the heart of it, my tattoos and the Bitches are pretty much the only things I’ve ever been 100% sure about in my life. 

This promise didn’t involve any other human, though; it was one I made to myself.

The van was packed early Friday morning—plenty of water for the three of us, lunch for me, and treats for Alli and Joey.  They always get extra excited when it’s time for a car ride, so when I grabbed their Kurgo harnesses, butt wagging and happy whines ruled our apartment.

It’s an easy routine at this point, the van door slides open, and Joey hops in to claim her captain’s chair on the passenger side.  Once Joey’s secure, Alli, in a much slower and more dignified manner, enters to take her place behind the driver’s seat. 

As usual, the girls both fell asleep fairly quickly once we hit the highway.  Our destination was only a little over an hour west and funny thing, initially, it reminded me of home with more open space and some farm operations.  Until we were in the forest and that sense of wonder about all the trees grabbed me again.  And the closer we got to the coast, the fog hung up in the tree tops, and every little curve in the road made my soul smile because not knowing what’s ahead used to scare the shit out of me.  I have a different definition of open road now. 

Yes, I am alone here.  I’ve probably never been more alone.  But I am not lonely. 

This is new for me. 

Loneliness back home wasn’t about being by myself.  I always liked going to the movies by myself, having lunch solo, and running in the company of canines.  It wasn’t about needing to be around other people; I have great friends.  It wasn’t about self-esteem; I am an exceptional human today.  Hell, being exceptional may even be part of the problem.

It was a lack of connection.

It’s like you’re sitting in a stadium full of people and it looks like they’re all talking and cheering, but you don’t hear a thing.  You’re on the 50 yard line, they don’t notice you, and you look right through them.   

As long as I can remember, I was lonely.  I couldn’t be cuddled because I was too hot.  I couldn’t watch because I made people nervous.  I felt like a nuisance, a burden in the way of whatever the people around me were working to accomplish.  (Remember, I’m the girl who even sent my imaginary friend away to live somewhere more relevant.)  So I isolated, especially into books. 

I also discovered pretty quickly that humor was my way in with people.  Being lonely as a child sucked, but as soon as I learned how to make people laugh, I was hooked.  For the record, it was Elvis Presley impressions on the playground.  Some of you may remember.  As always, what I lacked in substance, I made up for in style. 

Hours of adolescence were spent walking and rollerblading in solitude.  Thinking, not thinking, wishing I felt more connected to people, wishing maybe I would go out on a date before I died, and generally making everything better or worse than it actually was, like adolescents tend to do.  Part of me has always loved people, but you all wear me out.  Or maybe I wore myself out trying to entertain you all.

And then it was off to college!  YES!  College, the place where I thought interesting people lived.  They talked about interesting things.  There was no way I could be lonely in college.  No way. 

I was surrounded by people—fun people.  My roommate was a trip and I met lots of cool people.  I also started drinking what seemed like no more than anyone else.  The first time I got really good and drunk, it was like the lights turned on and I saw color for the first time.  Skipping down 28th Street, laughing with my new friends, I thought that was it.  I was light and silly, not serious and worried about politics or the environment.  I could actually loosen up and have a good time.  Liquid confidence.  And the lack of hangover made me think I’d found a better version of myself.  All it took was a little alcohol. 

But I was still lonely. 

The shitty part was that it never felt like the better me again.  It’s the trick of it.  I sure tried to replicate it.  I was a bit of a social director in the dorm.  I knew who to call to find out where the parties were, where girls could drink free, all that nonsense. 

I suppose it was all superficial.  The connections weren’t as deep as I needed them to be.  That’s on me.  I was so angry for so long.  Life happened and happened and happened.  So I wore my loneliness like a favorite t-shirt and decided it was part of me. 

As we pulled up to Cannon Beach, I wasn’t sure what the Bitches would do.  They’d never been to the ocean before, so I was most curious to see their reactions.  It was sensory overload from the start with all the new smells and sounds.  Alli was most interested in crab remnants and digging, while Joey couldn’t get enough of the gulls.  Bird dog, indeed.

We ran, we walked, and mostly, we just sat and listened to the waves.  It was a beautiful soundtrack for our morning.  And this was how I made good on my promise.  When I was at Cannon Beach last October, I told myself I would be back, but that I would bring the Bitches with me. 

While the point was never to pat myself on the back for making good on my promise, I had to thank the girls for giving me another lesson.  

How completely me:  I had to be alone, miles and miles from any soul I know well, to learn I am no longer lonely.  

“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.” - Anne Lamott

“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.” - Anne Lamott