I have always been a people person. So much so that when I was a teenager I was constantly, and I mean constantly, in pursuit of companionship. So different from my own, introverted daughter who delights in alone time. Too much so, I sometimes wonder, but who am I to say?
My fixation on being with others during my teenage years concerned my mother. I recall her ever so gently encouraging me to try, just try, taking pleasure in the company of a good book from time to time, rather than always seeking out others.
The concept of alone time seemed positively ludicrous to me back then. Why, when I could be with others, would I choose to be with myself?
– Related reading: Karin Arndt explores the fear of being alone, especially among women –
I wanted, or rather, I needed to be with others. Always. Perhaps due to typical teenage boredom. Perhaps due to the profound dislike I had for myself at the time. Most likely a combination of the two.
In my twenties and early thirties, I was much the same. If I wasn’t out with friends, I was desperately trying to reach them by phone so that we could make plans to see a movie, catch some live music, go for coffee, grab a drink, anything, anywhere, I didn’t care. As long as I wasn’t home alone.
Oh, and I dated. A lot. One long-term relationship after another after another. I loved them all, but not really. Some, yes. But most of them, no. I just told myself I did to justify the attachment.
Of course, I had plenty of alone time in between relationships.
But it wasn’t the type of alone time my mother had in mind for me. It was painful and wrought with longing for the next distraction to come into my life and save me from myself.
And that’s why I am sitting here right now, solitary (except for the dog and a few flies that snuck their way into the house) contemplating the exceptional joy I feel in this moment I am sharing with nobody but myself. It is blissful.
I don’t quite know how I came to be so comfortable with my own company; only that I did.
I suspect the journey may have begun when I started taking anti-depressants a decade or so ago. Within hours of swallowing my first 10 mg pill, the incessant chatter in my head suddenly came to a halt.
Now that I think of it, perhaps I so desperately sought out others so that their voices could suppress the less attractive voices in my own head, but I’m just guessing. All I know is this: the incessant chatter in my head was instantly replaced with space. The noise stopped as abruptly as a hamster wheel stops when it encounters human intervention.
I never used to be comfortable with silence. Now, I crave it.
When I was younger, if a room was quiet you could count on me to fill the void. And if it wasn’t quiet, you could count on me to fill the breaths between other people’s voices with utter nonsense. Anything but quiet. Now, though, I’ll go out of my way to find silence.
The other day, I unrolled my yoga mat onto the living room floor (there’s a lot we can learn from yoga). I opened my laptop and indulged in a 45-minute audio class recorded by one of my favourite instructors. She has a voice like honey. The practice was sweet. I surrendered to her direction and moved with ease. Before I knew it, it was time for Shavasana.
“Find deep rest and relaxation,” she said. Resting in Shavasana has never been a challenge for me. Staying awake while resting in Shavasana has been. That day, though, it wasn’t.
As I lay that there quietly, I was not only aware of my stillness; I was aware of hers. I listened actively to a good five minutes of pure silence and as I did so, I marveled at the confidence it takes be still, alone, and quiet. How much easier it would surely be for her to fill or, at the very least, pepper the silence with words of reassurance – redundant words like “just keep breathing.” As if we’d actually stop.
And then I took a moment to appreciate how the silence I once so adamantly avoided was adding to the quality of my alone time.
Alone time allows us to quiet our thoughts, settle our nerves, and listen to our hearts. It helps us uncover what’s missing from our lives, and equally valuable, what we actually have. It encourages us to be still and present and authentic. No performance required.
Not only is it a gift we should have the grace to give others; it is a gift we should all learn to give ourselves. If you haven’t mastered the art, begin your practice now.
Viv for today xo
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