Living alone is not the same as being alone

I realised the other day that I know quite a few people who live alone, but I don’t always think of them as living alone.

For example, my friend T lives in her own home but every so often stays with her partner either at his place or hers, and her university-aged children periodically return home for holidays and to do laundry. So although technically she lives alone, she doesn’t live an ‘alone’ life. And she would say the same thing.

This is quite possibly true for most people who are divorced and have kids, and for those who have re-partnered but for whatever reason have opted not to cohabit. Some people who live alone have amazingly ‘peopled’ lives, with constant and regular contact with friends, interest groups and activities.

This is not my life. I live alone but I am also very alone in the way I live. I rarely have friends over, and frequently spend the weekend having no contact with anyone. It’s not uncommon that I won’t speak to anyone all weekend. When I do, it’s most likely to be with the supermarket checkout operator or the barista at the cafe. I don’t belong to groups and participate in group activities. I like to run, but I do that on my own, early in the morning when it’s quiet and there aren’t many people around.

During the week, I’m surrounded by people all day, I get interrupted more often than I like, I have meetings, I talk to people for a good chunk of every day. Most of this is very draining, even when it’s good. Or especially when it’s good. So I come home very tired, and by the end of the week I am done in. My weekends are essential down time, allowing me to recover and build my strength for the coming week.

This is my choice, my preferred way of living. I need to be alone because it’s the only thing that keeps me going. Living alone is one part of that, and being alone is the other. I need both.