Friday, August 6, 2010

Learning to be Alone

Here I am on my self designed vacation and, for the first time in about a week, I am alone. Well that's NOT me in the picture but you know what I mean. I am much more of an extravert than an introvert so, as you might imagine, I do not like being alone for long. So being in Canmore at present, I am in the lounge of a restaurant surrounded by people and I’ve opened my computer on battery and I’ll type as long as I can until it runs out.

It usually doesn’t take me long to find people. About three years ago I went to Toronto on a trip for which the sole purpose was to escape my marriage and be alone and it didn’t take long until I found people to hang out with. I was in the hot tub one afternoon and I started chatting with this other equally extraverted woman and upon finding out that I was alone, she invited me to join her and her friend out for a little bar hopping evening. So off I went and I met two very interesting people and had a couple adventures to boot. Not to mention some very good conversation. Which for me, is the thing I miss the most when I am alone.

There is nothing wrong with being alone. I like myself just fine and my company is pretty good but I have a pretty heavy dose of that one key characteristic of extraverts. I draw my energy from interacting with others. Without other people around it isn’t long before I am left feeling jittery and nervous and out-of-sorts. In a group I am more likely to seek out being the centre of attention. I’ll be the one telling stories at the head of the table. I can take over an entire room if I try. I don’t always need to be like this but in the right crowd I am always like this.

I believe my whole hatred of being alone got significantly worse when I had a newborn infant. For me, there was nothing more isolating than having an infant child whose mere existence terrified me, be my sole responsibility. I can remember having visitors during this phase and having to resist the urge to BEG people not to leave. The North American culture (and perhaps the majority of the industrialized Western world) is the only culture that withdraws from a mother upon the birth of an infant. Everywhere else the mother is put on a pedestal and other than needing to provide the basic needs for the infant, the rest of the women in the family cared for her and the household. She is never left alone. I needed to be in one of these cultures.

This was a problem in my marriage for certain, especially since my husband had work hours that always had uncertain endings so inevitably, if he was taking longer than I expected to get home, I was making a phone call checking on how much longer he would be. Sometimes more than one phone call. I wasn’t calling because I was mistrusting. I wasn’t calling because I was worried. Nor was I calling because I needed to keep him on a short leash (Good LORD NO). I was calling because it had been too long since I had interacted with another adult human being and I expected him to be the caretaker of my extraverted needs.

For men, this is a really annoying thing about me, I am certain. It is an expectation that seems to be too much pressure on them. Well, some men anyhow. The X used to snap at me about this. And he was an introvert and the first thing he wanted to do when he got home was hide and be alone. Couple that with the fact that I was solidly in denial about hating being alone and you now have the unhealthy mix of two annoyed individuals.

I find myself alone and without my children around two to four nights a week. It is rare that I let any of these evenings go by without some kind of event placed on my social calendar. There are always places to go and people to see. And even when there are not places to go and people to see there is text messaging and email and Facebook because they are all alternative substitutes that feed my need to connect.

I don’t mind THIS kind of alone however – the kind where I type away lost in my thoughts and occupied with a task – I hate that bored and unoccupied alone where you want to be doing something but have no options.

In terms of relationships, it is going on 3 months since I’ve been in that kind of aloneness. It is hard for me to be in this kind of alone too but I know it is necessary to help me rid myself of some unresolved issues and perhaps make choices that are driven by compatibility rather than by.... ahem... other things.

So on this trip I decided to take this week to do what I want to do, to not have to compromise, and to explore. These are the benefits of being alone. I don’t have to cater to anyone else’s will. I don’t have to share decision making and I never have to ask permission. I don’t have to rush around when I want to putter and be slow or wait with taping foot for someone who isn’t ready. The decision making is being left to one strong mind and one strong heart. And for now that is the way it has to be.


Terri said...

Alone. Alone, alone, alone... Always reminds me of Jerry Maguire. :P I used to hate being alone. Still not a huge fan, but sometimes, I enjoy my solitude. Even crave it on occasion...

Maura said...

You know my take on being alone but I makes me stop and think about the need to hone that skill. I constantly long to be alone but when it actually happens I loose my mind. Keep me posted on your progress with this lesson in self-imposed solitude.

Kim said...

You hit the nail on the head, Maura, naturally. I do crave being alone, but once I am alone it never lasts long before I am going stir crazy. So today I went for a bike ride (a casual exploring 30k) and then I went
To the pool. I'm surviving.

Story Teller said...

I know I'm a freak, but I love alone time. I NEED alone time. I get a little crazy without it. I think it hurts my bf's feelings sometimes, because I need alone time and he doesn't. And just being in different rooms doesn't help...I need to know that there is no one else in the house for me to feel truly alone.

I've never taken enough time between relationships, and I always wish I had. I always meet some great guy who convinces me that I really don't need to be single as long as I thought, but in the end, I always regret that I gave in. (And some of those poor guys have discovered they should have listened to me.)

So, enjoy your time alone, Kim. It can tell you a lot about yourself. It can be a great time to start writing again. Time when you don't have to live up to anyone else's expectations is a gift. Savour it.

Kim said...

That was always the plan Holli, I told myself if the last relationship didn't work out that I was going to spend time writing.And that is what I am doing even if it is not so focused for the moment.

It was spending time writing that showed me that I needed out of my marriage and I learned a lot about myself in the time period that surrouonded all that. And maybe spending time writing while alone will show me how to be patient for the right one.

It is funny because for the moment I am not looking or even interested in trying to look. This is a first for me and it is an interesting place to be.