“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”
Humans are very social creatures. Our ability to be social and to cooperate in large numbers has enabled us to create such amazing societies. We feel most at home when we’re with others, but how do we learn to be alone?
When I went through my divorce I found that the hardest change in my life was learning to live alone. I had my kids part-time but found in the evenings after I dropped them off, the quiet of my apartment was just too much to bear. I would go to the mall or the grocery store or a karaoke bar just to fight off the dreaded loneliness that was so apparent after having my kids for a few days. On the days that I’d forget and just went home, I feel so heartbreakingly alone I would end up in tears on my couch.
It took some time to learn how to be alone again. I was used to the hum and the noise of my family and found comfort in the rhythms of dinner, bath, and story time with the kiddos.
Alone in my apartment, I learned to make friends with the quiet. I let myself feel the sadness at the ending of my marriage. I cried at missing story time with my kids. I read books, watched movies, and played guitar. But more than anything, I let myself be okay with feeling like shit sometimes. I stopped trying to distract myself from my feelings, because they would catch me unaware, leaving me feeling like I had just gotten the wind knocked out of me.
When we learn how to be alone, we learn that loneliness is not the enemy. It is just a reminder that we like being around other people. Often the hardest part about being alone is the stories our minds tell us about why were alone. “I’m not good enough.” Or “People don’t want to be around me.” Or “I deserve to be alone.”
When you can be comfortable with the quiet, you find being alone as a refuge from the noisiness of the world. With all the technology we have that keeps us connected, sometimes we need to disconnect to turn off all the noise and chatter just to hear yourself think. You can put down your phone, turn off Netflix, and just listen to the quiet. With no pressure or rush to be anywhere, you can learn to be comfortable with yourself. Rather than reacting to one distraction after another, you can listen to, and get to really know yourself. You might be surprised what you learn about the one person you should know best.
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