On Being Alone

Allison Nazarian Life Lessons, Real Life, The Life of Allison

Some people need a drink to unwind.

Or a smoke. Or both. Or some combination of both with some combination of chocolate.

Or maybe a phone call with a friend or a get-together with friends or some “retail therapy.”

I get all that, I do.

But not me.

Nope.

I need one thing to unwind. And by “need,” I mean that I must have this or I will implode emotionally and maybe even literally too (though I have not yet, to date, actually imploded physically).

I need to be alone.

Alone. With just myself.

Yes, my “happy hour” is time with myself.

Sounds simple and, really, not all that unusual. Likely about half of the human population is more or less like me in that way.

Yet, for years I tried to hide this “addiction.”

I tried to pretend that I didn’t love to be alone. That I didn’t crave it. That I wouldn’t choose it – hands-down almost every single time – over a crowd or a concert or a party or a gathering of any kind.

I hid the fact that all of the things I would do when I was not alone would end up draining me, especially if I didn’t seek out the alone time.

I thought something was wrong with me. I wondered why I would go to a concert and come home thinking, “Wouldn’t that have just been more pleasant – and easier — listening to at home?”

I would laugh it off when people made comments. When I did try to examine it and myself, I’d wonder if maybe I hated people…maybe I was anti-social? Maybe I had some sort of phobia or disorder?

(When I was in grad school, I worked on a year-long project in which I interviewed people who had various phobias, including some who hadn’t left their homes in years. One lady had been house-bound for the better part of three decades. Over the years since, I have occasionally wondered if I was in any way like any of these folks. Sort of like medical students who are convinced they have every new condition they read about.)

* * *

I spent this past weekend in Vegas. Officially for Blogworld, unofficially to see and spend time with some of my people.

My need to be alone was more pronounced than ever there. The only place one can be alone is in a hotel room. (I’m sure there are others…it is Vegas, after all, but that was my one choice.) Between the crowds and the smoke and the lack of windows and daylight and air, it was a lot for me.

But because I am no longer pretending when it comes to myself (whereas in the past I might have hid from my need for this alone time), I was able to see – in the midst of the swarms of humanity — my aloneness for what it is…and for what it is not.

***

What I didn’t know or realize back then (the time before now) is that I was not alone. (Pun intended, sort of.)

Plenty of people get their energy from being alone. Just as plenty of people get their energy from other people. There are different ways of being alone. Some people view being alone as a bad thing, a punishment, a sad thing (think of the word loneliness) while others think of it as a gift, a blessing (think of the word solitude).

Only once I started to learn more about myself, about the word introvert, did I start to acknowledge in a more real way who I am and what I am.

Here is what I know:

  • I am not shy. Actually quite the opposite: I can talk to just about anyone about just about anything and in most cases have no trouble doing so.
  • Even when I have a quick random conversation with someone I do not know I am more likely to make a very real connection than not.
  • For me alone time is not about meditation or staring at the ocean, both things I have unsuccessfully tried to do regularly. For me, alone time is about lying on my bed reading a book or tweeting from my phone. Or sitting in my car in the driveway listening to Howard Stern and playing my Words With Friends turns. (Don’t judge.) It is about having an hour to myself to walk around the field while my daughter has basketball practice on the courts.  It is about being alone in my house with just my dog and not having to speak verbally to another single soul if I so choose, yet having the most profound and connected all-day text conversation with my best friend.
  • I was always “like this” and it is just who I am. I don’t try to understand why or how, I am simply hard-wired this way. That won’t change.
  • Similarly, my kids are who they are as well. One panics at the prospect of being alone, always wanting plans and scheduled time with other people. The other could self-entertain for hours and still want more. Neither will ever change in this department, and trying to force such a change is not fair and potentially damaging.
  • I do not have OCD, though I have been known to check the flatiron or my garage door one too many times. I do not have phobias related to crowds, people or socializing. Just the opposite. I know I can manage any situation, and I am strong and confident enough to pick and choose and honor what makes me feel the best and operate at my highest and best level.
  • Some people are terrified to be alone. They would rather stick with the wrong people, the wrong spouse, the wrong job, the wrong whatever because they are so afraid of being alone. Meanwhile, only when you are truly able to be alone can you actually be with other people in the way you are meant to be with them.
  • The reason I love and thrive on twitter is that I am able to connect with people on my time and on my terms. I can connect yet still be alone. It is genius. (And while it is all second nature to us, NONE of this was available even a decade ago. Think about that.)
  • The people I love spending time with the most are also those with whom I never ever feel I need to be “on” and with whom I feel all of the great things I feel when I am alone. In other words, I surround myself with an Inner Circle that energizes – not drains – me.

For all of us, there will always be people around who are threatened by needs or desires different from their own. For instance, some people who do not understand the need to be alone take it personally – Is it me? Why don’t you want to be with me? What did I do? Why do you always do this to me?

Not everyone has to “get” you. (Which is a good thing, because they won’t.) And you don’t need to try to help them figure it or you out. What you do have to do – yes, I said HAVE to – is know yourself and stand up for what you need and crave. This is your soul talking – it doesn’t like to be ignored and even when you wave it away, it always comes back.

I do not hate people. In fact, I love people. I love their stories.  I love asking questions (the reporter in me). I love watching them discover their real selves. I love knowing real things about their real lives. What I fucking hate is brushing up against strangers in crowds, breathing in their cigarette smoke, hearing them argue with friends and family members about where to eat for dinner, watching them get more drunk (or broke – this is Vegas) or learning about their sexual conquests from the night before.

Whatever your preferences, your needs, your natural way of being the best you you can be, remember that NO ONE else will find that space for you. NO ONE else will carve out that time for you. NO ONE.

Only you can know it, and only you can do it. So do it alone, do it with a crowd, do it with hair dyed orange, do it at night, do it in a costume if that works for you — just do it, ya know?