Though I’m an introvert, I hate being alone all the time. I never want that. Historically, being alone a lot hasn’t been a good thing for me mentally or emotionally. I tend to go to darker places. But when I was thrust into doing life alone, I found out how badly I needed it. And I met myself there for quite possibly the first time in my life.
I thought it might be interesting to explore some of the ways that I’ve learned about myself and experienced new things, simply by living alone and doing certain common activities by myself that I once did with someone else.
Going To Bed Alone
This has been something that has always been hard for me. Even when I was younger, I can remember thinking about how I hated going to bed alone. I’m a cuddler, what can I say? But I think there’s some good things to be taken away from sleeping alone all the time that I only noticed after an extended period of time of sleeping beside someone else.
- I was forced to sit in silence with myself before going to sleep. This terrified me at first, but ultimately it was a great thing once I chose to make it productive and try to deal with the things going on in my head and learn to calm myself and let go of everything from that day.
- I learned to be ok with not having someone else there. Sure it’s tough sometimes, but over all I learned that I’m really ok by myself, and even enjoy most aspects of it.
I think it’s been a great experience for me to not be afraid of going to bed alone, but to embrace it and be ok with being by myself at night. And in the end I think I’ll probably appreciate having someone to else there someday even more than I ever have.
Waking Up Alone
This was possibly the hardest aspect of my life to deal with in my post-marriage life. It’s really nice having someone to wake up to. But ultimately that person needs to be someone who encourages you to be the best version of you. That person needs to be someone who makes you want to get out of bed and seize the day. That person should be able to make you want to have good healthy morning habits, and love seeing you succeed and believes in you. If that’s not how it is, then mornings can be a little tough to handle with that person.
What I learned, though, is that I needed to be all of those things for myself! No one should depend on someone else for these things. Sure, it’s a nice thing for someone to do for you, but it shouldn’t be the primary drive. Waking up alone taught me that I am in charge of myself and how I take control of my day from the moment I wake up.
When I moved to Nashville, I started getting up earlier, going to the gym, sitting down to eat breakfast and spend some time reading before walking to work, and it’s been the best way for me to start my day. I feel accomplished, motivated, and alert before I ever leave my apartment. Waking up alone has helped me to see that I wasn’t taking care of myself because I was waiting on someone else to do it. It was a hard truth I needed to face and deal with about myself. But now I’ll be able to fully appreciate someone else when the time comes because I’m not relying on them for emotional support on a daily basis. Being healthy, and choosing to be with someone who is also healthy is always ideal, but it has to start with me.
I’ve never had a problem with eating alone. I often prefer it. People have always thought I was weird when I’d go to restaurants and choose to be alone. But when it comes down to it, I love food. I love eating food. I love tasting food. I love enjoying food uninterrupted. People are an interruption to my meal. Yeah this is ridiculous. I know this. And of course I love going out to eat with people. Often times I love spending time with people over a meal. Its intimate, authentic, and communal. But sometimes my favorite type of alone time is alone time spent eating.
There’s nothing really to point out about what I’ve learned in this section. I just thought you might fight it interesting.
Dangerous? Probably. Terrifying? Depends on where you’re going.
But I think everyone should travel alone occasionally. You’d be surprised how aware you are of your surroundings when you’re by yourself. Maybe its your survival instinct kicking in, but something about being alone makes you hyper sensitive to your surroundings. Why not use that to your advantage when exploring a new place or immersing yourself in a new culture? I haven’t gotten to do this very much before. I plan to pursue this and do it more now and in the future. I think it’s important to remind yourself that you can do anything you want to, especially if you are alone. I’ve never been more excited to travel in my life. I want to see everything. I want to do new things and meet new people and learn all I can about as many cultures, languages, and places as I can. Doing it alone doesn’t have to be a negative thing. And hey, it’s a lot cheaper!
Sitting In The Silence
Have you ever purposely chosen to sit in silence and not do anything? Just sit there. No phone. No internet. No TV. No books. Nothing. It’s really hard for most of us to accomplish this for more than 5 minutes before we become restless, anxious, and even possibly emotional. Silence brings up the things within us that we’ve worked really hard, whether consciously or unconsciously, to bury deep within us. Those things we don’t want to deal with. Silence brings those things out and makes us face them. Silence can also make us extremely aware of ourselves. All of this can be very uncomfortable, but if it becomes a regular part of your life, it gets less intimidating, and more life-giving. Meditation has been scientifically proven to encourage mental and emotional health, and even cause healing to your brain and relieve stress, anxiety, and improve over all emotional well being. Clearly this is something we should all be doing.
Our lives are too busy. We make sure of it. We love busy lives. We love not having time. It’s so much easier to not deal with the hard things if we’re busy. But not dealing with these things is worse than dealing with them early on because it doesn’t stop you from dealing with them, just delays the process and makes it come out in unhealthy and often times damaging ways in your life.
I didn’t want to do this. I was very aware that I had emotional damage from the last few years of my life that I had never dealt with. I didn’t want to move into another chapter of my life carrying the baggage of the previous chapters. So I made a conscious effort to sit by myself in silence and deal with these things. The first few times were pretty heavy emotionally. I wasn’t ready for what I would feel. But after doing this almost daily for over a month, I found that I grew to love and long for these times of silence. What was once terrifying became a sanctuary or serenity, comfort, and abounding peace and joy for me. I was able to keep aspects of my life in perspective and approach them in a far healthier way than I probably would have otherwise.
I highly recommend the adoption of this practice. start with 15 minutes. If you do it consistently enough, you’ll want more time. You’ll see the positive effects it’ll have on your life. The main result I’ve noticed in my life is that I laugh a lot more. I don’t know why, but it just seems like laughing comes easier, and I don’t hate it.
When I step back and look at this year and what I’ve learned, I realized that 2016 has been the year I became reacquainted with myself. Or maybe it was meeting myself for the first time. I learned that I had dreams, goals, a drive to accomplish great things, and a passion to create that I wasn’t fully aware of before. I learned that I had a character just waiting to grow and develop. I discovered that I am brave, strong, and able to endure incredibly trying times. Knowing these things about yourself creates an overwhelming sense of purpose, identity, and overall meaning that I didn’t know could be felt so vividly.
In a story, there’s something called an inciting incident. I’ve talked about this before. I’ve had a few of these in my life, but this year’s inciting incident caused all the others to make sense for me. I suddenly saw where my story was going, and where I wanted it to be. I knew what I needed to do now to accomplish what I felt like I was supposed to do, and I knew what story my life was meant to tell. Everything was different. Everything is different. And tomorrow doesn’t seem so bad anymore.