I could call this ‘OK in my Loneliness’ but that’s so boring. But now you get the point of the story.
I never used to be an alone person. Or I never thought I was an alone type of person.
I thought I hated being alone — physically, emotionally, or any other applicable -lly. Then I started traveling for work. A lot. I mean like every other week at points. And I was eating dinner alone, I was flying alone, I was driving across the entire state of Idaho alone.
And it was different.
It wasn’t bad different. At first, it wasn’t good different either. It was just different. I wasn’t used to silence. I wasn’t used to not being surrounded by chaos and people. I wasn’t used to being truly alone with only myself.
I realized, sort of quickly, that I had been alone for quite some time. I was alone with people around me. A lot of people around me. A lot of people so close to me around me that to even think that I was alone would be crazy.
But I was. I was alone.
I was alone in my marriage. I was alone in some of my friendships. I was alone at work. I was alone on the soccer field or basketball court or at the softball game. I had become so accustomed to being alone — sometimes by choice but often by default- that I never even realized I was there until I was truly in the thick of it.
And it was the very best thing that could’ve happened to me.
I was forced to be comfortable with being alone. I became, sort of (I’m still working on it), comfortable with the silence. I began to see the value in a 45 minute drive that didn’t include the radio or my children. Although those are SUPER rare now being that I’m, still, the primary caregiver to them. (My kids, not the radio stations.) I came to understand the importance of dinners or lunches or coffees or walks or Sundays in church alone.
I got to the point where I was hearing myself instead of all of the noise. And that’s where the learning began.
And don’t misunderstand me, I’m not some hugely self-evolved individual who has learned all there is to learn. I’m really just (and I hate that word almost as much as I hate the word hate) an individual who lost herself over many years and feared loneliness and isolation without ever realizing that I had been so entrenched in both of those things that I was drowning.
I was hearing what I wanted and needed rather than focusing on what everyone else needed or wanted. I was no longer ignoring myself — the screaming inside my head (not voices) that was begging me to take an F-Ing breath and break and stop carrying the weight of it all on me. (Aren’t I a perfect martyr? Insert eye roll here). I went back to therapy - and talk about work. Holy shit! Therapy, if you don’t know, is hard fucking work. Like so hard I looked at my therapist at one point and said, “I pay you too much money for you to make me work this hard.” Her response was, “That is EXACTLY why you pay me so much money.” Fuck if she wasn’t right! Therapy was a lifesaver for me- it still is. It’s also a lifesaver for my friends because they don’t have to listen to my endless overthinking rambles and movie-like dramas that I’ve, often, created in my own head.
I started dating myself. Not like dressing in clothes or making references from the ’80s but actually taking myself out on dates — alone. Yes, I had been eating dinner alone on business trips and I was occasionally going to the gym alone or going for walks on my own. But now they were romantic. Hah! No. Now, they were intentional. They weren’t escapes. Well, they were but not intentional escapes. Now they were or are intentional times I take only for myself. I take myself out for dinner and a movie. I make myself a nice dinner alone at home. I go for long romantic walks on the beach…well around the lake…non-romantically…but I do listen to endless podcasts and not worry about what everyone else is doing.
And it has been exceptionally amazing for me.
Don’t fret, the crazy is all still there. I’m still an overthinking, over-analyzing, needing to do it all and be all for anyone of importance or semi-importance to me, individual. But now, I know that I have to and how to turn that off temporarily. It’s not easy. But I do it.
Last night is a perfect example of my ability to shut it down and just be — with myself.
My tentative plans were canceled. And I was disappointed to be sure. But, whereas in the past I would’ve wallowed and overthought why my plans canceled on me (even though I was given an honest reason that I KNOW was an honest and valid reason) and put all of the blame on me and that the individual was changing their opinion of me or desire to spend time with me, this time I “Elsa’d it” and Let it Go. Disappointment and all — for the most part. (I’m still human and as stated above, not done learning and growing!)
I embraced it all though. I carried through with my plans — minus the other person. I cleaned my bathroom and my kitchen and did some laundry (not on the original plan but so needed and SUCH a feeling of relief when it was done!). I made myself homemade pizzas and drank wine and sat on my patio. I blasted my music and danced and sort of sang (recovering from multiple throat ailments does not make for pretty or even possible singing).
And it was glorious. And yes, I would have enjoyed having another person with me but I didn’t NEED them with me. I WANTED them with me.
I don’t NEED the other person now. My existence and my happiness does not depend on anyone but me (and my kids because if they are not thriving or OK or happy my happiness is not there).
You know you (or maybe just me) read those inspirational quotes or the self help books about being with yourself before you’re with someone else and, at least for me, I look at them and used be all, “yeah yeah I got it.” But they’re right. Before it was about NEEDING others — and I still do need people but not in the same way. Now I want them in my life but I pick and choose who I want and the terms on how I want them there. And if I don’t want them there, their loss, not mine.
And if that leaves me alone, I would rather be alone with myself than surrounded by the wrong people who ultimately make me feel alone anyway.