Back home, yet all alone

Living in a large and foreign city heightens my “aloneness”.  I am surrounded by couples walking two by two, their heads tilted together as they talk and laugh in their own private world.  I sit nearby unacknowledged, an observer but not a participant.  I don’t mind.  After all, I have well honed alone skills developed over a lifetime of business travel.  Dining alone, sleeping alone, and finding my way through foreign countries alone – I am generally unfazed.  While I am alone, I am not lonely.  Pat is back in the United States for a bit longer.  At my core, I am an introvert.  The truth is, I crave my periodic alone time.

Tuesday night, I arrived back in Budapest.   I needed a few hours to unpack, wash my clothes and dust the apartment.  But the real journey back transpires over days and doesn’t conclude, at least for me, when I walk thru the apartment door.  I realize for several nights, I will lay awake as the city drifts off to sleep while I remain on full alert.  Rather than toss and turn and fluff my pillow yet one more time, I accept that sleep is hours away in spite of my alarm clock reminding me it is a bit past two AM.  When I am alone, I pile books on Pat’s side of the bed.  I flick my light back on and rummage through my pile for something which suits my mood.

The coffee shop opens fashionable late.  For once, it is open by the time I get up.  There is a waitress who always gets my order exactly right, a rare breed.  I chat with her before realizing her perfect restaurant English doesn’t extend to conversational English.  I’ve come to recognize the panicked expression as I pull a person beyond the edge of their English comfort zone.  I back off and let her go about her work.  She beams – a smile of relief.  For a moment, she resembles the brainy little kid in the spelling bee when the judge announces “that’s correct”.  And for a moment, I’m happy for her and her unabashed happiness until I realize I am the cause.  She no longer has to talk with me.  And it hits me once again; our language barrier will always be exactly that – a barrier – to inclusion, acceptance and belonging.

Soon Pat will return.  Our lives will fall back into a rhythm.  I am excited and ready to return to a normal life.  I realize I am fortunate; my solitude is temporary and therefore a luxury.  We all need to hone our alone coping skills.  At times these skills enable us to survive a loneliness which is uninvited, unexpected and unwelcome.  At other times, these skills allow us to explore a pretty scary world with some level of confidence even if not quite fearlessness.

Occasionally, people email me – curious of our life abroad.  Usually, they are recent empty nesters tempted to start their own adventure.  It is folly to embark on a vagabond life without a bit of introspection.  Life abroad is not one long European vacation (though Europe is just outside, at our doorstep, and that’s pretty cool).  Still, many days are just that, life – a mix of the good and the bad and the mundane.  I lean on my alone coping skills more than most would realize, more than I anticipated.  At times, there is nothing more daunting than being alone in a big and very foreign city, with nothing but my own wits to pull me along.

Categories: Insiders Budapest

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4 replies

  1. Totally get the alone thing. I, too, am an introvert at heart. Never felt the need to be around hoards of people. However, the “alone” that comes from knowing the “aloneness” will not get back to normal when hubby gets home, gets a bit ALONE. This too shall pass. So glad that you have a coffee shop and people around to give a sense of LIFE going on. Good energy. Hope to come stop by after this stage is over.IF you happen to still be there. HA!

    Tell all your Raleigh friends that I’m having a sale at the Dixon Kirby Parade home this month. Thursday, Oct. 10 5-8pm to be exact. 20% of proceeds go to Alzheimer North Carolina. (Funny to send an ad to you in Budapest.)

    Take care and enjoy the coffee. Sue

    • Hey Sue, If you will visit, then we will stay!

      I thought of you when I wrote about unexpected and unwelcome loneliness. It is foolish to compare my two weeks to those more permanently alone and not by choice.

      I will certainly spread the word on the sale. No more important cauuse exists than the permanent cure of Alzheimers. Let’s hope we live to see a day when no one walks in your shoes ever again.

      You take care also… Julie

  2. Let me add another introvert to the party. I am enjoying your thoughts, Julie. There is lonely and there is isolation. In the Czech Republic, it would be isolation for me…absolutely no communication possible unless pantomime works. How would you possibly ask for the loo? Fun to imagine!!!! 😉

    • I can show you the pantomime for that next time I see you Polly!… Not pretty… Yesterday, I acted out “I would like a bagel toasted with butter on the side”. I received a bagel not toasted with butter on the bagel, but a salt shaker on the side. I never shook my hand once! So as not to embarrass anyone, I shook a bit of salt on my bagel.

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