Friday, June 10, 2011

How to be alone

Do you like being along? I literally crave it, especially when I haven't had enough time on my own.

Some people don't know this, but I went through a divorce in my late twenties. During this process, I realized I had not spent much, if any, time completely alone. I went from high school and living with my parents and siblings, to university and living with assorted roommates, to getting married to my high school boyfriend directly after university and then sharing an apartment with him, to divorce five years later.

What frightened me the most was the the prospect of being alone, or more properly, being lonely.

It didn't happen.

I loved the freedom of listening to my music, eating whatever I wanted or not at all, wearing what I wanted without comments, walking all over the city, or just sitting quietly on the sofa with a book (and my phone unplugged and stuffed in a drawer.) I bought a bike and cycled all over downtown Toronto, over to the island on summer evenings with a sandwich and Newcastle Brown in the basket (Newcastle Brown because it is meant to be served at room temperature.) I dined in fancy restaurants alone, attended concerts on a whim, art gallery openings, as much as I could cram into my new life. I forced myself do it at first, but after a while, walking into a room alone became comfortable.

Now I'm quite happy to spend time with my wonderful, patient husband of 25+ years, and my now-grown kids, and my friends, but if I don't have chunks of time where I'm alone, I get antsy. Is it a writer thing? I suppose artists and musicians probably feel that way too, but I know writers in particular can be a solitary bunch, happily living with the people in their heads. Friends sometimes call me a hermit. My non-writer friends, I should add. I find it hard to explain why I need this time, but I do.

...lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless, and lonely is healing if you make it...

...if you're happy in your head, then solitude is blessed and alone is okay...

from a poem by Tanya Davis, more here:

nod to Helene Boudreau for the link


Do you need time alone?

Or are you happiest when surrounded by lots of people?


Anne S. said...

I need to be alone some part of the day, or I get really antsy and cranky. I especially crave being alone when traveling with a group of people - peace and quiet soothes me.

Deniz Bevan said...

Nope, I definitely need alone time. Or not even so much need it as... it's a given. Ah, my own music, my own pace, curled up on a couch with apples and books...

Debby said...

I love people, and listening and talking, but the fact is, I am self conscious, and as much as I crave the people time, I can only stand so much of it before I have to be alone. Some of my happiest moments have been alone with my thoughts working hard at some physically demanding task. So I'm both a people person and a craver of my solitude.

dykewife said...

i get seriously peopled out. i need my alone time, though it doesn't mean i have to be physically alone. we live in a smallish suite so my alone time is spent with my husband and son generally in the same room. in some ways it's like in shogun when it's explained to the pilot guy that in japan being physically alone is rare so being able to create a sense of privacy and separateness in one's own head is done to get that same sense of being alone.

i do enjoy it when bran and boy go out, but their physical absence is not necessary to help me feel like i've been alone. besides, boy and bran aren't often considered "people" and i don't necessarily need to retreat from them.

when i work evenings i have my alone time after i finish work at midnight. boy and bran are usually sleeping and i have the quiet of the living room all to myself.

many people aren't comfortable with themselves so being alone isn't a desirable thing. i'm very self entertaining and am rarely bored doing things by myself.

Ursa said...

I used to need to be with others a lot (around ages 18 - 23), but then I discovered how much I loved being on my own. Now, like you, if I don't get enough alone time, I get grumpy and snappish. Yes, it could be a writer/artist thing... :-)

Rachel Walsh said...

I love - no, crave - solitude. Always have done. But it's mighty hard to come by these days with a husband, three kids and two cats in my orbit! On the days the husband does the school run, however, I kiss them all goodbye at the door and step back inside the house where there's nothing but me and the silence, and it's bliss. Pure bliss. :-)

Yutha said...

Oh Pam, you KNOW how I feel about that. It's like a drug....if I don't get alone time I start jonesing for my next fix. I don't think it's a "writer" may be a "woman/Mom" thing.

Martha said...

I like it both ways, but prefer being alone. I get anxious in crowds, although have learned to hide it. If I have to be around people too much, I get cranky and headachy. I'm glad to know I'm not alone.

Lovely photos, Pam.

BB said...

Interesting post. Interesting comments... like Debby and Ursa I am a little of both. I really love people - interacting with, as well as observing them. We are curious, curious creatures! But I need some times to digest too - and with a growing family sometimes the feast of human interaction can be overwhelming. I think once you have shared your life with little ones, you cherish those moments of alone-ness in a completely different way, don't you?

Linda G. said...

I do need a certain amount of alone time -- I've always been that way, as far back as I can remember. Maybe it IS a writer thing.

In any case, I think it's why my marriage to a man who spends a lot of evenings away from home (theater job) works so well. I don't resent his absence, and he knows I'm perfectly happy to spend time with the people in my head while he's juggling musicians and opera productions to keep a roof over our heads. Makes the time we do spend together that much sweeter. :)

nightsmusic said...

I was an only so alone time for me is a precious commodity. I had a terrible time when my dad's sister passed, cousins thinking they were entitled to that which only my dad was and there was a lot of legal stuff I had to take care of for him. When it was all done, I left my loving husband and two daughters and went to Florida (from Michigan) where my friend's parents let me sit on their lanai for a week, never instigated any communication, didn't entertain me, didn't feed me, they just let me be alone with myself to revive and restore my sanity.

My family understood when I got back home and was a happy camper again rather than the five-letter-word-we-won't-type-here that I was when I left.

Radical? I suppose, but I can't get more than five minutes to myself around here. And I truly need it. So sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom with a book and sit on the counter, just to get away. LOL

I do know that now that I'm working again and not getting much alone time at all, my writing is really suffering. And I miss it!

As a side note, your first marriage lasted longer than mine! Ten days. That was it.

Rachel Chesnutt Blasdell said...

Oh yes, I need alone time. As a child I used to hide in the living room behind a chair to read. It was bliss.

I've had times in my life when I had to work in a cubicle warren and it was just essential that I have time alone. I remember one such time when I also had a long commute. My husband was surprised that I didn't turn on music or want to use books on tape. But I just wanted the silence and the peace. Otherwise I would be horrible when I got home. Wouldn't want to talk to him or the kids. Alone time restores me. And I do occasionally go through a hermit phase. I'm going through one now. I just want to stay home and do what I want to do around the house.

Yutha said...

Rachel - that's one of the things my husband and I disagree about. When I'm in the car I like to travel in silence - no music, no radio. I may listen to something for a few minutes but in general I prefer my own thoughts. He just doesn't get it. When he and my daughter go away for a weekend, I love having the house to myself. I don't make any plans....I just stay home. When I go away somewhere, he invites people over - he just can't be alone.

A Novel Woman said...

This is such an interesting discussion!

I also like quiet in the car, to think, to dream. My husband and my kids all like the music going full blast and if it's turned off, my husband will whistle to himself.