I think this is the first time in my life that I’m really enjoying being alone.
And by alone, I don’t mean being single. Just alone. Time and space and depth far away from the madding crowd.
You would think that as an only child, I would have grown up feeling comfortable with being alone. But I realise now how much of my childhood, my teenage years and my twenties I spent being terrified of being left alone with nothing but my own company.
There was boarding school, then university, then a job that threw me straight into the company of more new friends than I could imagine. So I tumbled, ever popular, ever surrounded by the sound of chatter and laughing and other warm bodies.
Underneath it all though, there is that anxiety, that fear that one day everyone would leave me; that one day we might run out of things to say to each other; that one day we may tire of each other’s company.
And then what? Where would that leave me? Alone, alone, alone. It was enough to feel the anxiety niggling, just so, at the back of my mind; I wouldn’t have dared articulate it entirely in my thoughts.
The last few months though, have brought me into a place that required aloneness. As I sank into this wide empty space that I had so long equated with loneliness and fear and inadequacy, I realised finally how much I have craved for the stillness that can only come of being alone. I realise now that I the loneliest I have ever felt was when I was most frequently surrounded by people. There is only warmth and comfort and peace in being alone now, and absolutely none of the anxiety that I had anticipated.
Being alone has been healing, restorative and strong. It has taught me to breathe again, to reach deep inside the places I have never dared, or bothered, to go to because there was always something more exciting to see, do, talk about, experience on the ‘outside’, with someone else. I have discovered what it means to just listen to my own body – it tells us so much more than we ever really hear.
From being alone, I have started writing again in a voice that feels truer to myself than ever.
From being alone, I have, unexpectedly, reconnected to people from a long, long time ago, who have just bounced back in to say hello, as if the universe is sending me a reminder that I’m never ever really alone. There are friends everywhere.
From being alone, I have healed recent wounds, confronted old ones and learnt how to create infinitely new, wonderful spaces ahead.
From being alone, there is no more of that anxious breathlessness that comes at the end of the day when I have to say goodbye to people and return to quiet.
In fact, I now welcome it. I look forward to being surrounded by nothing.
So this weekend, I stayed in.
I did yoga in my underwear. I listened to film scores and wrote and wrote and wrote. I read beautiful things and drank hot lemony-honeyed drinks. I felt happy. I wrote a letter to a friend who lives many miles away. I sent messages to a friend who lives 10 minutes away. I kissed my dog atop his crinkly head and gave him a cuddle, even if he’s a bit smelly at the moment. I thought about my new jobs and finished some deadlines (yes! even on a Sunday). I felt peaceful. I laughed aloud, alone in my room, at silly things on Facebook. I read this amazing article about the beauty of being alone. I cleared my bedroom, threw out old things and put up rediscovered treasures (Brian Froud’s fairy books and French vintage posters). I looked at old photos and smiled to myself. I felt quiet.
I felt alone.
Better yet, I enjoyed it.
Photo from Flickr Creative Commons (Deutero)