There’s this incredible gentleman in my life, and it’s his birthday today. I shipped him a box of homemade cookies, which travelled six hundred kilometres to his door and arrived a day late. They were delayed at the border, and—because they were a surprise—I had to worry in secret about what a disappointment it would be if U.S. Customs ate them all.

They arrived, supposedly, intact. 

He’ll be moving back home here in two and a half months, but I’m still not used to his physical absence in my day-to-day life. We talk constantly, but it’s not quite the same (anyone who has been in a long-distance relationship knows this). In fact it’s a strange and altogether disorienting feeling: some combination of feeling lost and feeling loss.

At the same time, it’s given me a really important chance to reconnect with friends in the free time his absence leaves me, and maybe more importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to practice being alone. I grew up in a big, loud family, constantly surrounded by people and rarely with time for myself. Now I have a little place of my own in St. Henri, quiet and calm and warm and a little bit empty feeling without him.

I guess I have the tendency to try to fill that emptiness with cheaper kinds of interaction: surround myself with people just-because, to talk about the weather, to be out. I’m glad that I’ve resisted the temptation to avoid loneliness; it’s helped me practice solitude. It’s forcing me to figure out what kind of flow and pattern my life has when I’m not sharing someone else’s clock — and to find some comfort in that rhythm, feel whole because of it. I recall that bell hooks was actually writing about seeking community when she said it, but surely it still resonates here:

“Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. when we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.”

And I’ve been thinking about that a lot today. I hope that our time apart isn’t wasted, and that this practice somehow makes me a better person. Maybe more grounded, self-aware, ready to share and be present. Other than the cookies, it’s probably one of the better birthday gifts I can give him.