Thursday, December 9, 2010

Alone is Okay

Most every evening, I jump in my car and head for the city, looking for something to busy myself with.  I have my regular haunts, and I usually know where to find my friends.  This has become my routine, but it’s too much.  I’ll stay out all night, and by the time I drag my sorry ass home and pull into the garage, I’m too tired to get out of the car.  So sometimes I’ll just push the seat back and sleep there.  Or if I make it into the house (this is out of exhaustion, mind you - not drunkenness), I’ll usually just crash on the couch.  Lately the couch has been a more common sleeping location than my bed.  My bed is...  Well, it’s just too damn big.  It reminds me of what I used to have, and how I lost it.

Yes, I recognize what I’m doing: I’m escaping.  I’m trying to “fill the void” with something - anything - that will distract me from being by myself.  I don’t think I’m the only one that does this, though.  I think that most people are afraid to be by themselves.  Or at the very least, uncomfortable with it.  When we’re by ourselves, we are forced to live with our own thoughts.  And for many of us, those thoughts can be rife with sadness, regret, self-degradation, and the like.  The saying “we are our own worst enemy” is resoundingly true, and we prove it by letting our minds go places it shouldn’t.  We think of how we’ve screwed up in the past, or things people have said, churning on these thoughts over and over again until they become bigger than they ever were in reality.  We let the thoughts germinate and take root in our minds, making them all the more difficult to pull out.  This torture we put ourselves through is our own doing, but we somehow fail to recognize that.

It doesn’t help that I work from home, my teammates being in other states and other countries.  If I didn’t go out in the evenings or on weekends, I would literally have no contact with other human beings.  Well, except electronically.  And man, what a joke that is.  I spend way too much time on Facebook, but really all that does is fill the gap in a different way.  It just busies my mind, instead of letting my mind rest.  It’s as if our minds don’t want to give us a single break.  Have you ever tried driving down the road by yourself, and not turned on any music?  Just the tha-thump, tha-thump of the concrete slabs, or buzz of the blacktop?  Or how about just sitting in a darkened room at night (when there are less outside noises), with no music, no TV - nothing.  Don’t do anything but sit there.  Can you stand it?  Does your mind race with thoughts of what you should be doing instead?  Or maybe your mind goes back to those sad or stressful thoughts...  This is where the practice of meditation can help.  Learning how to sit quietly, focus on the breath, and not get stuck or obsess on the myriad of thoughts that come and go.  Just be.  If you’ve never tried it, you might be surprised at just how difficult it can be.  I certainly haven’t mastered it, and not practicing enough hasn’t helped.

I used to think I was okay being alone.  For example, going to movie theaters by myself, or on business trips going to restaurants by myself.  But I wasn’t really alone.  I had an “anchor” back home.  I knew there was someone to return to.  Now that I don’t have that, home has turned into an almost dreaded place.  I don’t have much furniture anymore.  The pictures are off the walls.  The house echoes with my footsteps.  It is stark; it is hollow; it is cold.  I’m trying to sell it, but the housing market is in such shambles right now.  (Let me tell you it is not a good time to be a seller.)  So I’m stuck here until it sells.

What I need to realize is that being alone is okay.  I know it should be okay, but I haven’t fully internalized that yet.  Getting married right after college, staying together for fifteen years and having three kids doesn’t exactly give one a chance to practice being alone.  In fact, when those people suddenly get taken away from you, it makes it all the more difficult.  It’s like being in a warm house, then pushed outside in the middle of winter.  The contrast is poignant.  More recently, I ended a nine-month relationship with someone I loved deeply, but at the time believed it was the right thing to do (for reasons I won’t share here).  It probably was, although in hindsight I still have my doubts. Either way, it’s too late now. She is already with someone else.  I mention it here since the pain I experienced when that relationship ended was probably heightened because it - possibly subconsciously - reminded me of my previous loss.  And it sent me down that same downward spiral I had experienced before.

So how can I get past this?  Stop going out at night and force myself to be alone so I can acclimate to it?  I dunno, that seems a bit too radical, and has the potential of making things worse.  I need to find the right balance.  And when I am alone, be okay with it.  Maybe write more, or finish composing those songs I’ve been messing around with on guitar.  I could go for walks, look at the stars, read a book.  Basically, slow the "f" down.  I need to have patience with myself, forgiveness and love for myself, and just enjoy the silence.  Peace. With all sincerity I can say that is what I want more than anything else in this world. I want peace.

Recently a friend shared a video on Facebook (of course) that gave quite a few good ideas on things to do.  It’s a poem called “How to be Alone”, written and performed by Tanya Davis.  I highly recommend watching it.  Don’t worry; it’s not a cheesy “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley” type of thing.  It is cute and quaint, but there is a lot of wisdom in it.  One of my favorite quotes from the poem is “ ‘cause if you’re happy in your head then solitude is blessed and alone is okay.”

Maybe I just need to make my own “happy”.