July 7, 2011

The Art of Being Alone

Para leerlo en español, haga clic aquí. (To read Spanish version, click here.)

Photo by Alejandra Mavroski

What does it truly mean to be alone, and to be happy? How many of us can truly say that we have perfected that art? So many people are constantly looking for fulfillment and happiness through external forces; whether it be trying to complete themselves with a love partner, or trying to validate themselves with a career. But we all know that true happiness comes only from within.

I have witnessed so many people in my life, go from relationship to relationship, always filling the void from the last, with the next, but never taking the time to stop and realize that they themselves are the only one who can truly fill that void; never allowing themselves the freedom and the opportunity to explore what true self-fulfillment and happiness really means. I remember telling this to an x-boyfriend years ago. It was obvious to me that he was not happy with himself, with what he had accomplished in his own life, and he was instead trying to find that happiness with me. I knew that could never work. And I was right. You cannot depend on another person for your happiness.

I have been single for the larger part of my adult life and I have lived alone for the past 8 years. Although in many moments I have not been happy about this fact (believe me, I’ve been downright bitter at times!), and it was certainly not what I would have chosen for myself, I know that I have been fortunate to have this experience. Being on my own for so long has forced me, even if reluctantly and sometimes kicking and screaming, to learn to be happy with myself. For years I have not had someone to come home to, nobody to whisper sweet nothings to, nobody to have dinner with and tell about my day. I’ve had nobody to take vacations with, nobody to cry to or hold me when I’m sad or to take care of me when I am sick. And believe me, for a long time this was agonizing and heartbreaking. But the silver lining is that I’ve had to learn to be that support for myself, to be my own best friend, to make myself laugh. And after many tearful, lonely nights I am happy to say that I have come out the other side and I have found happiness within myself. I now have moments where I’m completely alone and laughing out loud, and I have to smile to myself. I am at peace.

So many people are terrified of their own company. The thought of being at home, by themselves, with nobody to talk to, is debilitating for them. So they do everything possible to avoid just that; they create an overactive social life so that they are always with friends, or they become workaholics so they can drown themselves in their jobs, or sadly many even become alcoholics; but all with the same goal: to avoid the pain and darkness that they feel by being alone. Much of this is self-conscious, but sadly it is self-defeating. While one may feel comforted by the presence of other friends around them or sadly by alcohol, they are not dealing with the true loneliness within, and so that comfort will only be fleeting.

So if you find yourself alone and sad about it, it’s ok. Don’t be afraid of it, instead embrace it. Face the darkness that you feel when you are completely alone and be one with it. Walk right into it, fearlessly. For it is by being one with it, that you will eventually conquer it and start to see that you can fill your own heart with light.

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