A lifetime ago, I was traveling with a friend and having a wonderful time. But at one point I did mention to her that I missed my boyfriend. (I can’t even remember who the guy was, which tells you a lot about the passage of time.) To my shock, my friend got really, really angry with me.
Apparently, she was of the opinion that if you are busy missing someone, you can’t also be enjoying yourself, and I was therefore allowing myself to spoil the trip. To this day, I can’t relate to that mindset at all.
You see, when I am having a great experience, that’s when I tend to miss people the most, because I would dearly love to have the people I care most about with me to share in those joyful times. I can’t imagine thinking otherwise. It seems like a natural conclusion to draw.
I’m not going to start avoiding the good times, just so I won’t miss my loved ones. That would be absurd. And besides, I don’t think that yearning for someone’s company is necessarily a negative emotion.
I genuinely believe that I am lucky to have people that I miss. It means I’ve built up strong relationships over the years. It means that there are people who matter a great deal to me. It means that I know what it is to love.
Life will take you to many places. Sometimes the people most significant to you will be unwilling or unable to follow. They have their own journeys, after all. And sometimes their lives will be cut short, leaving you to forge a path on your own.
So cherish the missing. Revel in the fact that you have someone to miss. Be glad that love is a part of your life. What a gift! It doesn’t get any better than that.
Every once in a while I’ll come across a news item that I know will stay with me, probably, for the rest of my life. Mary Cerruti’s story is one of those. On the surface, it seems fairly simple.
In 2015, she went missing. Later that year, her Houston area house was foreclosed upon. In 2016, the house was renovated and put up for sale. In 2017, the new owners moved in. They’re the ones that found Mary’s bones in the wall.
The question is, how did they get there? Some people think it was foul play. But I can’t imagine someone killing an old woman, and then somehow dragging that dead weight up into the attic, only to stuff her in a hole that they wouldn’t have known was there in the first place.
I think the more simple answer is the more likely one. She was in the attic and fell into that hole, and got stuck in the area where her bones were found. A 61 year old woman living alone. A freak accident. A sad ending to a solitary life.
What I don’t get is, wasn’t the attic’s ladder down when the police inspected the house? Couldn’t they smell the decomposition? Rats did wind up devouring her flesh and leaving behind very little evidence, but they don’t work that quickly, do they? It’s just that she didn’t have enough loved ones to work up enough of a head of steam for the authorities to find her. There’s no way of knowing how long she was gone before anyone noticed.
Did she die instantly? I hope so, for her sake. I hate to think that she was stuck in there, injured, slowly dying of thirst and crying for help as she listened to her beloved cats starving to death on the other side of the wall. Please, God, let her have died instantly.
What really gets to me about this story, though, is the things I have learned about her through the collage of photographs that she left behind. I think we had a lot in common. We even look alike. Brown hair, glasses and all.
Like me, she was a homeowner. She was only 8 years older than I am. She lived with 8 cats, which would probably be my fate if I weren’t so allergic to them. Like me, she loved photography, and preferred to be alone. She also took pride in her house and seems to have kept up with the repairs herself. I could see myself living in that cozy little bungalow.
She watched in horror as the houses along her street got torn down and replaced by apartment buildings. She mourned the loss of each grand old tree. She even plucked up the courage to speak out at a city council meeting about it, for all the good it did. She refused to sell. And she hated all the construction noise. I would have reacted in the same exact way.
Here’s where we part company: In the photographs of the houses in her neighborhood that were subsequently demolished, she called one a “whore apartment” and another a “multi-Mexican crash pad.” While the writer in me appreciates creative descriptions, I find these sentiments unappealing, and kind of get why she was alone. She was also known to write the occasional incomprehensible letter, which makes me wonder about her mental health.
Still, I can relate to Mary a little too well for my own good. Because of that, it’s really unpleasant to contemplate such a strange and lonely death. I hope there are no rats in my future.
Even those of us living in cute little houses in very big cities may as well be on far flung islands. Our connections are becoming ever more remote. Note to self: reach out just a tiny bit more.
I had an epiphany last night. Loneliness is basically saying, “I miss you, but I haven’t met you yet.” When viewed from that perspective, it seems like a monumental waste of time. When I think about all the hours, days, months I’ve spent feeling longing and angst because of the absence of total strangers, it kind of makes me cringe.
The reason I was even able to lift my head out of that bad habit long enough to have this epiphany is that I realized that here lately I’ve been too busy to be lonely. I’ve been hard at work getting my first book published. I’m trying to get rid of the clutter in my life. I’m experiencing some intense stuff at work. I don’t have time to be lonely.
And to be perfectly frank, the mere thought of adding someone to my life right now exhausts me. Having to compromise sounds like a lot of work. Accommodating someone else’s schedule doesn’t hold much appeal. Making an effort seems like too much effort.
That caused epiphany number two: Loneliness isn’t a condition, it’s a choice. If it were a condition, like, I don’t know, a staph infection, then no amount of distraction would cause it to go away. But when I get busy, it does go away. And the beautiful thing about being busy is that it tends to put new people into your path, which is another balm for loneliness.
So, there you have it—my cure for loneliness. Now the trick will be to actually keep it in the forefront of my mind.