I like being alone. This might surprise people who know me. I’m not one to pass up any social event or opportunity. I am constantly making new friends, seeking new circles and connections. But, into that hectic calendar is carved some precious solitude. Sometimes, it’s an entire day. Other times, it’s a smaller slice of time. I crave it. I can get cranky when it doesn’t happen.
Why do some prefer seclusion while others loathe it? Perhaps it is silence that is intolerable. When I’m home by myself, for example, I seldom turn on the television or even listen to music. The sound of my own thoughts entertains and teaches me. I’m saddened to think that some people cannot tolerate silence, yet I know it’s true.
When you strip away external stimulation and distraction, you listen to your own, internal voice. You come face to face with your dreams, your fears, your disappointments. You get to know yourself. It’s not always pretty. It is always real.
Most of us are hard on ourselves. We might be easy going and accepting of our coworkers and friends. But we have difficulty affirming our own imperfections. Being alone with yourself means recognizing things that we would rather ignore. Acknowledging those attributes without judgement takes practice. It’s a little bit like meditation, where you allow thoughts to exist but attach no emotion to them. Eventually, we can learn embrace that which makes us individual – even our darkness. (Or we can choose to change it. But that’s a subject for another blog.)
Being alone in nature is especially satisfying to me: At the beach, with the waves rushing to shore and retreating again while the wind blows around you. Hiking in the woods with only birdsong and trickling streams for company. There’s something about being alone with something much bigger than ourselves that provides perspective. In the workplace or family, you might be a pretty big deal. In nature, however, we’re just one small link in a very long chain. What makes us special is our individual uniqueness. Solitude puts us in touch with that.
What makes you extraordinary? Whether it be your ideas, beliefs, personality quirks, history or drive, we are all original. We are all exclusive. If you never allow yourself to listen, though, you’ll miss out. You won’t really know yourself. And, if you don’t understand yourself, you’ll not recognize commonalities in others. To really know someone else, you must really know yourself.