From the beginning, I shared a bedroom with my older brother until he was drafted when he turned eighteen. I continued living with my parents until college; in dorms, off-campus rentals; my fraternity house. Always with one or two roommates.
When I graduated, I returned home; the draft was still active and within seven months, I was in the Army; barracks while here in the States; bunks abroad. Never alone; never a boring moment; living always with a group of guys of all shapes, sizes and personalities.
Served my two years; returned, married; three great children; issues; end of the line; separated and divorced and then, within days, met and married my Mary; a totally different world.
Never alone. Certainly, never lonely.
Then, a series of assaults by the devil and Mary suffered again and again; with increasing and unbearable intensity in the final years; until forty years after our forever marriage; she died.
For some months, I stayed with one of my children, then another and then moved into a place of my own.
For the first time in my life, alone.
It's been eight years.
Starting from ground zero; deep in the pit of despair. Mary's suffering and death; my total lack of the basic experience of being alone; of caring for myself; of making my own plans; of looking at a calendar with nothing but blank spaces; empty days.
Viscerally, I resisted—always have—sincere recommendations of various medications or technological interventions. I'm not a proponent of suffering. But I do reject tinkering with my inner machinery; my feelings; my thoughts; my dreams; leaving it to a prescription to operate the on-off switch; to slice and dice; allow me to feel this or that or not.
My wish? Eternally; to know and to be who I am; really am. Not my father's son; my brother's younger brother; my wife's husband.
The roadblock? From the beginning; a gift for intuiting everyone's needs; never my own. Wherever; school, business, weddings, bar-mitzvahs. Reader of minds.
Then, Mary's death; the end; definitive. Finito.
Alone with my question; Who am I? increasingly, answering by doing. Literally; filling my days productively with never addressed creative ideas; urges; imaginings; banging on the door; demanding to be written; drawn; discussed; explored; expanded upon.
Being me, It's who I am.
More than a very few people and I feel my Who would you like me to be? personality emerging; ready and able to intuit and respond to all needs; and not addressing mine. Repeatedly dealing with that truly irritating and totally empty introduction "…and what do you do?"
At the same time; very close to those I know and who know me. My serious players. Totally fulfilling.
And now, frankly—this is me; not some weirdo talking—I know Mary is becoming impatient.
Enough of all this talk, dear. Just get back to doing what you need to do. OK?