I remember as a child having dinner in some revolving restaurant with my family and watching a woman having dinner solo at another table. I did not feel like this was empowering…it was profoundly awkward and sad to watch her have an entire meal in public by herself. Perhaps she was enlightened and was really enjoying her own company. Perhaps I picked up on her sad energy. I will never know. But it affected me and that memory has burned a hole in my brain for almost 30 years. To me, enjoying your own silence at a table for one is a major test of whether you are actually cool with yourself. Why do I need to be in someone else’s company to validate me?
I had a moment last week when I realized for the first time ever, I want to be by myself more than I want to be with other people. I want to sit at the beach or go for a run by myself. I even have elected to go for lunch by myself. The silence of my home is not deafening anymore. As an extreme extrovert, this is most strange. I have been desperately filling my life with noise this past year. It was manic; I took no time off work because I knew I would go crazy hanging out in my own mind, I fell asleep with earphones all night listening to songs on repeat, and I talked and texted incessantly with anyone and everyone. It’s one thing to have a few hours to myself or even a few days or weeks, knowing my partner and my family will return to me. There is an end date to that kind of aloneness. But when I know that being alone could go on indefinitely, I do not meet my evenings and weekends with relief or anticipation whatsoever; it’s been more like dread.
That noise I created was an escape, though. And escapes are not sustainable. There was a day around Christmas that I told myself I was going to choose to hang out with myself that evening and I was going to LIKE it. I had not watched TV since I started to live alone almost 4 months earlier. That night, I watched some random Jamie Oliver show about raising his own Christmas turkey and then cooking it for dinner. It didn’t matter what it was, the fact was I was just sitting by myself in my basement, not doing anything “productive” like burning calories or cleaning my house, and I was not freaking out. I think that night I realized, “This is great. I am enjoying not doing anything and I am totally alone. I could totally do this again.”
So fast forward to February, and my favorite part of every day is hanging out in my room, not saying a word. I go to bed and stare out the window at a giant arbutus tree, admiring how it flails and dances in the wind and heavy rain. I wake up and the feeling isn’t dread. It’s kind of this peaceful, “Oh hey, myself, good morning,” thought that first crosses my mind as I stare at this beautiful tree across my yard. I think about how I will miss this view in a few months when I need to move out of this house. And then I think about the fact that I get to move and find my own place for the first time in 12 years. I’m not afraid of becoming a crazy cat lady and being alone forever…and you have my word! I know some day I will meet the right partner for me. But for now, the only warm body I need is my own, and my kids are pretty warm and fuzzy too.
|arbutus tree view in the morning|
I might regress; I can’t promise it’s only onwards and upwards from here. I still squirm at the thought of taking myself for dinner, but I sense a noticeable change in my self-acceptance and comfort with silence. We are all stronger than we think. I believe we can all choose a life where we love our own company. I am learning it takes hard work to get there, not just passively hoping for the best.