First of all, I can’t really say I’ve ever truly lived alone; I’ve always been fortunate enough to also enjoy the companionship of animals. But if we’re just talking about the human species, well, then, I’ve lived alone for nearly half of my life now.
I love living alone. And I love living with others—I’m pretty sure I’ve covered most of the bases: growing up with my family of origin, married and living with my husband and son, married and not living with a different husband, living only with my son, living with a significant other, living with a roommate, briefly living with friends and mostly, living alone. I find each situation is unique with its own perks and drawbacks. I think preference for one or the other has a lot to do with personality and history, and with enough awareness, most situations can be modified to work with an individual’s needs.
I would describe myself as a very social loner and living alone works pretty well for me. It’s easy. I recharge by being alone, and being solo, I get as much alone time as I need and then wade back out into the world rejuvenated and ready for social interaction. I’ve half-joked that I could happily and easily live Thoreau-style in a cabin in the woods given a dog, a pile of good books and a laptop to write on. But I don’t really believe that. After a period of intense social activity I often crave isolation, but after three days… I start to go certifiably nuts. Sylvia Plath accurately called it becoming “ingrown.” Well said.
I appreciate the ease of being alone, but I also recognize that we are only fully who we are in the context of the social fabric from which we are inextricably woven. Just like a tiger in the zoo is not fully expressed as a tiger, I wouldn’t be fully me alone forever in a cabin in the woods. Or, rather, I’d only be the “me” who is “me” when I’m alone in a cabin in the woods. We are socially wired beings, to one degree or another. Who we are is greatly impacted by the environment in which we live and when it comes down to it, I enjoy being social as much as I enjoy being alone.
I’m now in a relationship with someone who is inherently more social than I am, someone who recharges by being with others. It took a couple of heavy conversations for me to effectively communicate my intermittent desire to be alone and what that meant and didn’t mean in the context of our relationship. Within those discussions, I simultaneously became aware of three things: 1) his bravery in letting me know how much he wanted to be with me, 2) the fact that alone time is non-negotiable for me in certain scenarios and 3) how little I truly let people into my life. Still. After all these years of “working on” that.
For me, a life lived alone was much easier to control—there was no hassling with others’ agendas and no dealing with the task of learning how to say what I wanted and needed in the face of what others wanted and needed. Alone, I could deny that telling the truth of how I was feeling was an issue for me at all. And oh, it was. Much of my preference for being alone originated with this fear of being authentic and the underlying fear of not being liked for doing so.
Once I realized that, I also understood it was high time to bring to light, examine and unlearn these messages that told me that it wasn’t o.k. to be genuine and maybe even, if and when it occurred, not to be liked. So I practiced. For years. And while disappointing people and triggering others’ anger because they’re not getting what they want from me is still not my favorite thing ever, I get that my job is to be truly myself. The only meaningful gift any of us have to give is the gift of our true selves; when we are truly ourselves, we are love incarnate. Other peoples’ reactions to me, I was shocked to discover, were simply not my business. Eventually I became more or less willing to be with that, and learned I could usually be myself with some kind of grace, with respect and with love. Now I’m generally able to be honest about what’s going on with me no matter how it may be received. I recognize that I can only serve others on the highest level and support them to improve the quality of their lives if I’m willing to support myself in doing the same. Anything else would hypocritical and undermine my work in the world.
I’m grateful I’ve had so much time alone. I’ve learned a lot about who I am and I like that person; I really enjoy my time by myself and indeed find that I actually require some of it for my creative visions to surface and then to bring them in to form. And I still need alone time to recharge and engage in a fully present way in social interactions. When I really need it, alone time is like oxygen and without it I quickly go downhill, both emotionally and physically. Alone time allows me a space to take a step back, to rest and to realign my outer life with my inner self and to take responsibility for showing up in this gift that is my life with awareness.
But there was that tipping point when it became apparent I’d begun to use “alone” as a weapon, or at least as a protective moat, rather than a grounding source. I paused and took a good, long, hard look at that, because from everything I knew, openness, oneness and connection were Truth. It was time to explore what alone really meant for me, and I did that.
Now I’m more okay with connection than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I love spending time with people who are important to me, and though I still love living alone, I will absolutely cohabitate again when the time is right and love that too. I look forward to sharing space with someone I love, again. (I also know I’ll need physical room within the shared space to chill out, meditate and create.) But here’s where the shift happened: I’m now able to re-center in almost any moment whether I’m alone or not, and I’m learning to stick with myself, to honestly be with how I’m feeling and to respond in the moment from a grounded place rather than from a projection of others’ expectations or from a disconnected space. I’m okay with not being everything to everyone and I’ve become comfortable saying, “Hey, I need a time out here”.
But it’s a process. I meditate, I close my eyes, I breathe, I observe when I start to spin out and disconnect and I do my best to take responsibility for doing whatever it takes to bring myself back into a healthy state before I shut down, go into blame and start spewing my imbalance over those around me. Or implode with a migraine or illness. I try to do it all from a place of love, and while sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fall flat on my face. But I continue getting to know myself, now not just from within the context of my beloved “alone,” but in concert with the world I live in.
Christy Harden is a writer, animal fanatic, commercial actor, nature lover, speech-language pathologist and enjoyer of all things fun and creative. She holds degrees in English, Speech Pathology and Environmental Studies. Christy completed the yearlong Oneness Mentoring Group Program with Amir Zhogi and has been coached over a span of 20 or so years by some amazing folks. As Christy continually deepens her own awareness, she’s all about sharing the love and is honored to blog, to have written her book Guided By Your Own Stars and to have taught monthly classes on awareness transformation and the raw food lifestyle via En*theos Academy. She particularly enjoys supporting those interested in the raw food/intuitive eating lifestyle to experience clarity through the portal of living foods. Christy is currently earning her Health Coaching Certification through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), as well as a Raw Nutrition Certification via David Wolfe. Her new book, I ❤ Raw, will be out soon and available on Amazon.com.
This is part of the Who but You? living alone series. Check out the other posts! They are published every Monday.
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