Stop for a moment. Imagine an hour, maybe two, or even five to be alone. How does that you make you feel? Overjoyed? Overwhelmed? Panicked or with a chronic case of option paralysis?
Over the years I’ve had a complex relationship with my own self. A natural inclination towards people and company manifested over the years with an inability to be alone. Something I had to face when at 22 I rented my own place and had to learn, very quickly, to do exactly that.
I don’t fully understand the reasons why – perhaps being a product of a bustling family; a home that forever had a conveyor belt of people passing through led to a need to always be around others.
Living alone was a steep learning curve. I learnt that I wasn’t a lover of TV, that music was my happy place, that solitude could be a sanctuary, and that I still, far too often, needed to be surrounded by others – filling my social schedule up to overflowing and often finding myself at my Mum’s which was a five minute walk away for no particular reason.
Throughout my twenties I would always opt for the most sociable scenario. Room sharing, car sharing, any sharing – if there was a choice to be with others, I’d take it. To be honest, that preference never really changed much for another ten years.
Becoming a mother gave me a lot of time in silence, with a baby who needed me but could not talk back. There were times we walked to meet Daddy from the train, desperate for adult company just moments earlier than planned. But becoming a Mum brought about a different purpose to being alone… it brought with it function.
Any time alone as a Mum came with an offset; laundry, washing, exercise, tidying, life admin, blogging, shopping, more laundry. It was as if I had forgotten how to enjoy my own company. Or, did I ever learn?
Yet somehow, when the children reached an age they shuffled out and away from under my wing, I was left with a gaping hole; an opportunity to begin to appreciate the calm and silence that being alone brings.
I had my first ever coffee alone in a cafe a year ago, and a friend commented that she could not believe I have never done that before. It was a revelation; people have coffees alone?
And thus was the beginning of a realisation that space and stillness to unwind and think is what’s been missing my whole life. To realise that me, myself, I, is something not to be scared of, and after 39 years, to stop running away from.
And so it began, a new phase of realisation that to be still and away from it all isn’t something to shy away from. In fact, in the chaos of modern life, it’s an essential part of keeping sane and finding calm amidst the bustle.
And so, it is without guilt that I will happily wander a shopping mall aimlessly, take myself out for lunch, accept an invitation alone, read a book in daylight hours, or curl up and watch TV for hours (well, maybe minutes if I’m completely honest – chance would be a fine thing) on end, because if the opportunity arises, it’s golden and not to be passed by.
What has been the craziest of turnarounds, is that of late I have even opted to be alone over in company – something that has never EVER happened until now. I’ve been aware of my own needs to have a little quiet and thoughtful time (or even a total zone out) as opposed to adding to the excess of constraints, of chatter and of being needed. I guess I’ve learnt to value peace and rest more than ever before, and I know when my body is screaming out for it.
Recognising our own preferences and behaviours can makee it easier to understand our needs, and to actively practice stretch goals which take us out of our comfort zone. As a parent it can be all too easy to get caught up in the practicalities of all of the stuff that needs to be done, without stopping to smell the flowers, down tools or admire the view. Practicing a little self care in the form of time with yourself should be right in the top of your tool kit when life get’s a bit too much, and without any of the guilt about what you should be doing, because we can’t all be ‘doing’ all of the time without consequences on our mental and physical health. As the saying goes; you cannot pour from an empty cup.
So what’s stopping you, go on, make a diary entry that you’ve been neglecting for far too long; coffee with me. (As in you, not me ;-)). You won’t regret it.