There's so much in this world that tells us that being alone signifies a negative thing. I used to always buy into that mindset myself. There was a time where if I didn't have anyone to hang out with on a Saturday night, I wallowed in self pity on the couch with a bag of chips and a sappy movie, and often made myself feel terrible by the time the night was through. If I didn't have people around me, it directly correlated with whether or not I thought I was a successful, likable, important, person.
I've discovered, at the great age of thirty, through the excellent example of my husband, a couple of crazy years filled with grief, a worldview shift, and deliberate solitude, that I was completely wrong.
Being almost a hermit (as much as one can be while married and employed) has shown me that sometimes being alone is the perfect tool necessary to repair and build. I've started reading Thoreau's Walden and while I am not far into it yet, I feel that he, too, was on to this idea of being alone. In fact, most would probably agree that he took it to a superior level by building his cabin on Walden Pond and spending so much time alone to gather himself and reform himself.
Here are my favorite reasons for having alone time:
I had to be alone through the bulk of my grief because I couldn't figure it out with people around. I couldn't hear myself think. Their sympathies, well-wishes and "hang in there" comments were appreciated, but deafening. With my mother's untimely death, I lost a best friend, a confidante and a guiding star all in one. I was suddenly feeling the weight of the world on my own shoulders, and realizing that I no longer had my north star to look to for guidance.
It was all me now, and I was terrified.
This was such a heavy loss that being around people at all drained the life out of me. If I was around people for an entire day, I'd check out for days afterward. Having my best face forward was exhausting. I was mad at everything. While I knew her death was coming, glioblastomas are the most aggressive form of brain cancer, I still couldn't grasp it properly. Every time I was around people, they'd say, "She's in a better place now without pain." I knew they were right, but I wanted to scream at them for having the gall to say that it was better that she died instead of saying, "It's a shame she got cancer."
To add to that, my religious views had also been blown to pieces. Losing her shook the very foundation of all my core beliefs. I had to come to terms with the loss of my belief system at the same time as the loss of her. Everything I believed religiously was turned upside down. My view of the world, my life, my path, what mattered most, and what was truly important above all was shattered to pieces. I was on shaky ground, and I couldn't get stable. The more anyone tried to give me advice, the more it fell out from under me. This was all on me, and I had to be alone to rebuild.
It also helped me cry without feeling guilty for it. I didn't want to be the downer in a group, and I didn't want to put my problems on anyone else that I loved. So I spent a lot of time by myself letting the emotions be what they were. I was a shitty person to be around, and being alone saved me from damaging my important relationships. I knew I was neglecting them, but I couldn't be there for anyone. The only person I could be there for was myself, and being alone gave me the full capacity to take care of my problems.
I had a lot of time to spend focusing on the things I loved. I spent many a day gardening, riding my bike, walking, writing, cooking, reading. I wrote a lot and journaled a lot. Because of this, this blog exists, my art store exists, my skills in Photoshop exist, and it just keeps coming. I've read 15 books, drawn a small library of artwork, designed a small library in Photoshop, written a few chapters of different book projects, become better at the piano, tailored a few items of clothing, and learned to grow food. I've developed passions and am in love with my hobbies. A few years ago, my husband asked me what I was passionate about. I had nothing to say. I wrote about it on my other blog. Now I can answer the question honestly and quickly. I am passionate about blogging, writing, and gardening. I can get lost for hours in blogging, writing a book, or watching my garden grow. The more I work at it, the better I get. I could never say this before. This is a huge accomplishment, and one I'd never have reached if I hadn't spent so much time by myself.
Right after my mom died, I was terrified to be my own north star and had severe doubts in my ability to do so. A couple weeks after her funeral, I lost my job of 5 years. This was my first real career, and I was proud of myself for doing such a great job there. When it fell apart, completely due to my lack of care for it because of grief burnout, I was devastated. I wasn't sure who I was, or what I was capable of anymore. I spent several afternoons shedding tears of embarrassment, and self-doubt. Being alone allowed me to stop comparing myself to others because I was the only one around, and to really focus on what I could give to the world and myself. My resume was actually padded nicely with my accomplishments, and I started to see myself for who I am. It took clearing out all the noise to be able to do so.
You can't meditate properly without checking out from the world. It's been said that just a few minutes a day of meditation can really keep you healthy in mind and spirit. This is so vital, I believe, for our existence. Burnout happens when we don't get time to recharge our batteries and clear the overloaded queues of garbage in our minds. Sometimes all we need is ten minutes of uninterrupted peace. For me this can be anything from laying on the couch in the dark with my eyes closed, but not sleeping. Or even sitting outside my office at lunch watching the trees sway in the breeze. It's pretty simple, and takes virtually no work to achieve.
Spending practically a year alone was something I never anticipated doing, but, in doing so, I have created my own strong roots. I have become more of the person I want to be, and the person I hope to be. I still have a long way to go because a total life upheaval takes a lot of time to repair and rebuild, but I feel very confident in the direction I'm going in now. I don't think I'd be anywhere near where I am, if I hadn't taken so much time to myself. I don't necessarily think that we all need to take a year off, like I did, but I do feel that if we focus more mindful time on ourselves, and give ourselves even just ten minutes a day of peace, we will see massive results. After all, you put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you help anyone else.