Thursday, August 17, 2006

Alone vs. Lonely

In last week’s Newsweek, Ann Quindlen wrote an article about being alone.

She loves it.

But she acknolwedged that it's not socially acceptable.

As if it's a shameful, horrible secret to the world. As if we’re supposed to spend every waking moment in the company of others. As if our social schedule defines who we are.

And as if it’s unhealthy to want just a little time for yourself.
I’m not ashamed to say it: I love being alone.

In fact, I crave it. It is what keeps me healthy and relatively sane.

When was the last time you were really alone?
Really alone? What’s that?

To me, it’s being at home in my own space with no one there but Gromit keeping me company.

It’s quiet. I can sit and think. Or I can just sit.

If I feel like it, I can putz around the house and work on little projects that are not chores, just things I’ve been meaning to do.

With no interruptions or distractions.

And no talking. Especially no talking.
I understand lonely. I’ve been there.

When I first moved to Illinois the one person I knew wasn’t worth talking with most of the time.

I read a lot of books and rented a lot of movies. I talked on the phone incessantly, long distance, to anyone who would listen.

And if things got particularly bad, I’d go to the pet store to visit the puppies.

Looking back, it was rather pathetic.

But those little dogs were always so happy to see me – to see anyone for that matter – it was a great comfort in my world filled with cold, joyless strangers.
Almost 20 years later, I walk through the third largest city in the United States and see people I know all the time.

Ugly confession: This is actually a small source of irritation for me. Being in Chicago gives me a variation on that feeling of being alone that I crave and rarely get. So when I happen to meet a friend on the street, I’m mostly happy to see them, but a small part of me laments the interruption.
Alone is not to be confused with aloin:

al·o·in n
a bitter-tasting yellow crystalline derivative of aloe used in making laxative drugs.

Although to me, alone is a bit of a laxative. It helps me process all my shit. And if I don’t get alone time, I get seriously backed up and things get ugly.
Alone time re-charges me and makes it possible for me to be sociable.

But Heather, alone is a choice. Lonely isn’t.

I recognize that.

I’m blessed to have the choice today. It’s likely that someday I will not.

So for now, I’ll spend all my sacred alone time reflecting on that.
I am listening to: A conference call with Hyperion
I am reading: Newsweek
And I am: Blissfully alone