• July 29, 2014

Learning how to live alone without being scared all the time

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Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 4:30 am

Living alone is something that terrified me upon first thought, but eventually became quite comfortable.

I can watch what I want on TV, play whatever music I like as loud as I want, mess up cooking and leave the kitchen a smelly, smoky mess and no one ever has to know. And I can leave my stuff lying around without fear of offending someone else.

But I am what my husband calls a “Nervous Nelly.” There is constantly this lingering fear I’ve always had of living alone that scares me way more than the comfort appeases me.

What if I choke? or fall? or disappear? How long would it take for someone to realize I was missing?

I once had to change those long florescent kitchen light bulbs, but to do it I had to stand on a shaky stool on my tiptoes. I imagined falling, smacking my head on the counter and lying there for hours unconscious with shattered light bulbs all around me. The dogs just curling up next to me as if I suddenly decided to nap on the kitchen floor.

I called my sister and left her on speaker phone to change the bulb, so in case I fell, someone would know.

I’d been living in happily independent since then, until a ring at my doorbell came late in the night.

Ironically, I was reading a book about a woman being abducted at 10:30 at night when I heard my doorbell ring. The person kept ringing the bell and I could hear someone talking outside.

Because I’m the kind of person that imagines falling to my death while changing a light bulb, I immediately found myself thinking the worst. This was a bad man at my door looking to do really bad things to me. My imagination then heard sounds from all sides of the house. For the first time in my life, I called 911.

People are always surprised when I tell them I felt infinitely safer in my apartment in a sketchy neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., than I do in my home in Killeen.

My old apartment was a third-floor walk up with two locked doors and a rickety, narrow stairwell between me and the outside world. The fire escape looked broken (I never needed to test it) and hovered above an overgrown, rat-infested yard that backed up to one of the most polluted waterways in America. It would have taken an uncanny amount of determination to break into that apartment.

Here, I live in a house where people can just walk right up to my windows or doors. It took a lot of adjustment for me to be OK with this, but hearing that late-night visitor brought all those initial concerns back to the surface.

I didn’t sleep much that night, but the next day, I did some positive, proactive work. I met my neighbors. Three years here and I couldn’t tell you one of their names. Now I know them, I know if they have children and even exchanged phone numbers.

But that’s the way it goes sometimes. You have to have your world rocked, your fears faced and your space invaded before you get out of your comfort zone and do something difficult.

I have to say it was worth it. Not only do I feel safer, maybe I made a friend.

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