I watched her husband spoon feed her pudding as she sat in front of the glass menagerie of birds and nests watching, though really lost in something else. She opened her mouth rhythmically when his hand produced a spoon and wrinkled finger, to wrinkled lips they danced. What were once strategically-executed feet, were now just careful maneuvers of the limbs.  He understood her grumbles  and wiped the corners of her mouth, or cheek and this went on for a few more minutes. I walked into another room.

Most of the older adults were alone in their rooms, some with the televisions on and some, starting blankly at open space. I had brought a group of kids to volunteer, we passed out cards and homemade cookies and I watched their faces as they viewed the fine art of what seemed to some as dying. I saw rest, from lives lived to their fullest, (or so I hoped.)

One woman said it best when I asked her how she was doing. “My bed doesn’t fit, I don’t like to sleep alone.” Maybe she was a new resident, (which was the scenario I had worked out in my head,) instead of the chance that year after year, she responded the same way to a well-meaning question from someone not so lonely… or so it seemed.

Define loneliness. I reminded the kids on the way back to the car that it was all how each pair of eyes took it in. Lonely to one person, freedom to another. It’s strange that in leaving the scary behind we are able to move forward.

Last year- today, actually- Josh finalized our broken engagement. I have no good stories of binge drinking or drug paraphernalia. In fact: Mostly, the worst thing I did was claim I didworse things.  And in truth: I was quite alone. In larger truth: It was better than expected.

I’ve learned not to yell, (in the tiny breakups since,) even the emotional ones barely illicited more than a yawn and a shrug, And tonight? Hurt. It hurt mostly because the past week has made me somewhat of an emotional zombie- and I’m pretty full of feeling overworked, used and underfed. More so, it hurt because I watched one of my very, good, friends, struggle and ultimately choose something that I wouldn’t have chosen myself. We argued politely, (yes, it does happen.) I watched him leave with his head down and my heart firmly planted on, “do the right thing, dude,” and basically, he just left.

Please don’t get me wrong: This journal could become very much of an, (insert baby cry here,) pain in the ass rant to everyone who’s ever decided it’s totally cool to move on, (because let’s face it: Survey says- I’m a retention fiend.) Luckily, I have my humor, (and my Kix cereal,) and I don’t plan on victimizing my existence for google adwords- because I’m thoughtful, and aspire to greatness. (Or just to get up in the morning without a regret-headache.)

I’m heading to Chicago for a few days on Thursday. I think part of the reason that I’m still awake is because amongst the manilla folders with various maps, coupons, confirmation codes and emergency transit schedules, I’m excited about doing it- for once, the lonely way. I’ve never rode a plane before by myself, or ‘got lost’ in another city. I was always brought somewhere, then just- dropped back at home. A vacation on my terms is every positive verb as well as a healthy dose of strange and lonely- especially given the fact that late, I’ve been thinking of heading back into relationship land, instead of, “standing my ground,” kingdom.

When I saw the old man’s hand gently reach his wife’s mouth- I couldn’t help but think: There are two ways to die. Either you go with the loved ones at your side, taking care of you and assuring you, or you watch everyone else around you disappear as you always find the strength and grace to muddle through, excelling at certain things you’d never dare to experience before. It’s freedom or loss- and at the moment, I’m not sure I can decide which is better.