I am a loner by nature, introverted and reclusive to the core. I always have been, from the time I was a young girl, and while everyone swings back and forth along the extrovert/introvert spectrum during the course of their lives, my swings have run from “mildly introverted” to “pathologically reclusive”.

I was thinking about this while standing at the bus stop yesterday afternoon, waiting to go home. Something about the gentle breeze or the slant of the sunlight through the trees made me look up from my phone and just pause for a few minutes, rest my eyes and enjoy the sensations of being outdoors on a pleasant afternoon (especially since it is probably the last pleasant afternoon we’re getting in Florida until late October comes back around! Ugh).

It was a melancholy moment of self-awareness, despite the calm and pretty surroundings.

I thought of friends I have been talking to recently, three in total, who are dealing with the deaths of loved ones,  as well as a colleague whose husband was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Life is short, right? So of course that was a small part of my reflections as I stood there.

But something else nudged at me, made my heart ache for those people who grieve. The thought floated up that I am so glad no one will ever miss me that way, that my death when it inevitably happens will leave no one so destroyed as that.

It was a realization full of sadness but also relief: no kids, no spouse, no parents or grandparents, no siblings, no…nothing. I have friends who will surely grieve – I mean, you can’t live entirely alone without working at it, and I don’t think I’m there yet (yet!). I don’t mean to discount their love for me, or how upset they would be if the worst were to happen, but…

I’m not responsible to anyone, and I have been diligent about keeping things that way since, I think, my own parents died. My marriage was as close as I came to binding my life to someone else, but while we were good friends and the majority of our marriage was companionable, we were two very isolated and isolating individuals who more than anything just liked to share space and little else. When even that started to grate on each other, we went our separate ways.

The exception is my dog, Keely. I’ve wanted a dog for decades, but only in the past year finally felt like I deserved to do that for myself – for so long, my guilt and shame kept me from even that simple commitment. Keely would miss me, if I were to die, in her own, simple doggy way but I’ve made sure she will be taken care of by good people were that to happen. I’m not too overwrought by that thought. I’ll definitely miss her more in the very probable event that she dies first.

That is, I suppose, how I feel things should be.

I am at peace with the idea that I will not be loved in the ways others long to be loved – as a partner, a lover, a parent – because I cannot tolerate the idea that such a love might bring the worst kind of loss and grief into anyone’s life. I have barely survived grief of that enormity myself, and it’s something I do not wish on anyone, ever.

It’s a gentle, but deep, perspective on my life: rather than just being isolationist “because I am”, I’ve been building walls to keep others out for their own safety.

If you don’t love me then I’ll never break your heart.

Also published on Medium.

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