The Solo Experiment: What One Woman Learned about Living Alone

All of my life, I lived with people: family, friends of family, friends who seemed like family, even several different families. I had therefore learned a lot about tolerance, my own willful need to have control; harmony was scarce, and compromise could be daunting.  I confess, I always believed that living alone was the ultimate paradise, and a symbol of the ideal American woman. 

Over the years, I learned that living with others required some basic rules of engagement: Do your part. Shut your mouth. Ask for help. Don’t complain. Try to have fun. These were things I had mastered eventually. 

During those years, I had fantasized about living alone. Oh I did. I imagined the gorgeous planes of solitude. I pictured the hours of quiet and the freedom of nudity, the naughtiness of leaving a mess, the righteousness of something maintained! 

To be alone would be so very lovely. 

I could dance to whatever I desired. I could have lovers, and no one would know. I could binge on absurdly stupid programs if I so deemed it.

No one would interrupt my calls, or question my motives.

No kids, no partner, no nothing. Just me.

I knew I would be okay too. I was smart and brave after all.  I had been Head of Household for much of my life already. I had been raised with obscene levels of self-reliance since I was a small child. I was also generally healthy.

How could being alone in an urban artist loft be difficult? There were people in their own compartments rising six floors above me. Certainly, we would be friendly. There was a park across the street. Surely, we would establish community

Despite a Covid quarantine, I moved into a place that looked promising. I would do all the things I hoped to do. Time to be alone would never be boring.   It was going to be easy to fill my hours with painting, writing, exercise and meditation, cooking, cleaning. Visitors and long walks would be plentiful. The Farmer’s Market and Music in the Park would fill the gaps remaining. Also, the artist co-op was just two blocks away, and there were classes and events and a full service kitchen there! What more does a single woman living alone need?!

But I was lonely anyway. 

I had bouts of joy, independence, and satisfaction.

But I was more often lonely anyway.

I prayed and meditated and communed with the divine.

I suffered with lonely still.

I had daily conversations with myself, admonishing my weakness, determined not to allow the loneliness in. 

But lonely had moved in with me. It slept with its pale, rubbery back to me while I stared at the exposed vents 16 feet up.

I let myself cry a lot. I laughed at myself too.

I wrote about the things that felt soulful to me. It helped a little. I downed some serious amounts of ice cream each night, then ran it off every morning.

I started to wave to the bench of homeless guys because I was longing for human connection; they seemed to understand me. Even so, I was not one of them.

My two cats seemed to purr, “I-don’t-really-care-about-your-bullshit-lady.” And I took good care of them as payment for keeping me alive.

I began to reconsider my choices. 

It wasn’t that living alone was a bad choice, and it wasn’t that I even regretted it. I truly did not. I liked learning, stretching, growing. I loved the daily dancing in my kitchen. I wanted to say that I had done it.

It didn’t seem to matter; I had started to believe that being alone indefinitely was mildly horrible.  

The people in the park were not interested in talking with me. The people in my building never even held the door. They seemed to have their own lives. I was invisible. The artist co-op was superb, but I couldn’t exactly sleep there. My family and friends would visit, but hosting guests required far more energy than a roommate.

I started to understand that I was not the sort of person who wanted to live alone. Contrarily, I didn’t want to live with just anyone.  It seemed now that it might be easier to live near someone who was only a room away, instead of maybe someone who was paid to give me medical attention.

Six months in, my experiment proved that I had spent my whole life as the luckiest girl in the world, having never lived alone! I was grateful for this knowledge, and I was excited to reinstate my old life as soon as my current lease was up…. in just another 8 months.  

Some people love living alone. Some part of me gets it. I even envy it. But part of loving my authentic self is being totally okay with knowing I am not one of them. I still love being alone. I just don’t love living alone.

Guess I will soak up all the silence and empty space and the bathroom door wide open while I can. Since I am likely never going to allow this again. 

Isa Glade inspires and educates her readers to build a more spiritual life through her blog Isaglade.com.  She is a retired newspaper columnist and high school teacher, an intuitive, empath, a solitary witch, feminist, recovering addict, and a metaphysical painter. She lives as an artist, writer, and an expert contributor of esoteric knowledge in St Paul, Minnesota.

3 Comments

  1. Thank you Isa, I very much enjoy your essays. When I was younger I spent many years living alone and enjoyed it but now it makes me unhappy. I realized this while living alone for three months early this year. It was miserable.

  2. This is quite a soul-bearing exercise you’ve undertaken, very personal. I hope you’re finding enjoyment in at least some aspects of it since I suspect that it’s not entirely without some pain.

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