I don’t think I’m a nice person when I’m majorly stressed. It’s not that I’m the opposite, mean and nasty, but I have too much going on in my head and some things get switched off. Things like foot in mouth avoidance, checks and balances on self-destructive behaviors and empathy for others. I need the fighter part of me now, not the dancer, and the fighter has to do things which run contrary to my normal nature. This side of me can lose touch with the people around me though. I think I know this subconsciously and I knowingly distance myself from those I know, it’s too easy for collateral damage while I have the fighter engaged. Bitterness, anger and stress have a way of impacting the way you see the world and the things you say. Not to mention worry, fear and courage simply take up too much mental space. So mostly for the last month or so I have been alone with only intermittent contact with others.
This made me wonder about being alone. I’m an introvert by nature so being alone comes with the territory, but there are times being alone is good and times when it is not. It is an interesting exercise to work out why sometimes when you are alone and don’t feel lonely and other times you can be alone feel the vast chasm of loneliness. There are times for being alone, a time when being alone is good, and there are times when being alone is the absolute pits.
There are times when being alone feels lonely, when you really need a friend, and I hate those times. Yet those times, they spur me on to go out and socialize, be around other people and connect with them. It becomes a time for picking up friendships if you have let them slide, connecting again. It can be a great driver for starting new adventures in your life, hobbies you never thought you would try. I look back and at some of the greatest upticks in my life and it’s the times when I have been lonely and decided to do something about it. Dancing, astronomy and writing are all things I started because I was lonely. I had an interest in some of them before jumping into them, but others I started because I met people who did these things. As much as I hate been lonely if I listen to it and act on it some pretty good things wander into my life because I acted on that feeling and did something about it.
There are times when being alone feels safe and secure. Sometimes the world comes crashing in, relentless and unforgiving. Nothing seems to be going right and every foot outside your door is a disaster waiting to happen. Being alone becomes a time of hunkering down, a time of mental fortification. It isn’t an avoidance of the issues life throws, although sometimes it can be, but mostly it’s because you don’t want to connect with friends. You know if they invite you to a picnic you’ll be bringing the rain. These times don’t often last too long, sometimes only a week or two and then they pass. I think everyone has periods in their life where daydreaming of better times suits them to a tee.
There are times when being alone is a time of adventure and discovery. Sometimes it’s for self-reflection and finding your path through life. I have a friend going through this at the moment. She’s lost track of her direction in life and she is trying to find it again. Like feeling lonely this feeling of trying to find something lost is driving her to search for something new in her life. I hope she finds what she is looking for. For others sometimes it’s a time of projects, a time to start new things, not necessarily to connecting with others but to build your own personal achievements in life. They can be as simple as learning a new language, building a deck or all the way up to writing a book or an overseas adventure. I think it’s healthy to have times alone like this, to bring your life back to the things that matter to you and only you.
There are times when being alone feels like the calm before the storm. This is where I am now, a time of slowly approaching dread but also a time of finding your own inner strength. I’ve seen the storm coming for a while and I know I can’t avoid it. It can be a negative time; you know that no matter how well you whether the storms you will still take damage, maybe a lot. You would like to have friends you could dump your problems onto but you know you can’t. They won’t be able to help you and you know you have to make choices only someone who has walked in your shoes can make. It’s a strange sort of alone, time can disappear in the blink of an eye or minutes linger for ages. There isn’t a lot of room left over for anyone else, there is just you and the storm and the things you need to do to pass through it.
Then I think the times to watch for are the times where being alone is a choice, it’s a choice to hide from the world and your problems while you wait for someone to save you. Except in my experience there is no one to save you. Some lucky few, or those who are blessed with observant friends and family, may be saved but mostly there is only one person who can save you. You. I meet a few of these people from time to time, these lost and lonely few, but at some point I gave up trying to help those who didn’t want to help themselves.
I think when you are alone you have to look at why you choose to be alone. If being alone is for taking stock, personal growth or because you aren’t much company around others then do it. Don’t feel guilty about it. Yet sometimes being alone should be a trigger. It should galvanize you into changing something about yourself so you aren’t alone, so you don’t feel lonely or lost. Sometimes being alone can kick start great things if you act on the feelings that come from being alone. So if you are alone and it worries you do some self-digging, maybe there is some fertile ground there to plant some better things. Maybe it’s not a time for being alone.
Photo: Getty Images
*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
Also by Luke Davis
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