Can you imagine what it is like to be truly alone? It is nearly impossible. Our world is so interconnected that physical people or the ripples of their actions leave us with hardly any way to be alone.
Imagine a place or moment where you are not in the direct or indirect company of another. I imagine being in a cabin in the woods, kind of like Henry David Thoreau. No phones, wifi, baristas, no relatives, noisy neighbors – nobody. If I got that alone, would I love it, or freak out?
Being alone can be a great thing. Imagine having no one to check in with, no one to compete for your time. What if you could just pack a bag and leave the country, buy food just for you, no judgement, or, if you want to, be naked for an entire weekend? Endless possibilities.
The problem: people are afraid to be alone. Just the word “alone” makes people think “loneliness,” and loneliness has a heavy grey reputation – but it shouldn’t. Most people hear “lonely” and they think “sad.” If you see a woman by herself, do you treat her like she is somehow less-than, like something is wrong with her? I hope you’ll join me in thinking that is a ridiculous notion.
If you are a creative person, or if you want to be, being alone gives you incredible freedom to create.
If you take yourself out to dinner, you may find that you eat less and make completely different decisions about what you order, when, and how you pace yourself.
For me, when it’s time to take our car in for maintenance, I like to take myself to the diner for a sloppy breakfast of eggs and hash. I’m in a diner, but I’m essentially alone with my thoughts. I find it healthy. I can pray with more clarity.
“Why doesn’t anyone believe in loneliness?
Stand up and everyone will see your holiness”
– Soundgarden “Zero Chance”
So let’s do something rebellious right now, shall we?
First, let’s remember that the word “alone” comes from the old English meaning “one of the all.” Nothing sad or negative about that.
Now, let’s agree that being alone (being one of the all) is pretty cool. How cool? You are the explorer of your own imagination – a maker of plans only you can carry out – a faucet of creativity that you decide when to turn off.
Lastly, let’s not be afraid to be that awesome one-of-the-all. Let’s welcome time alone with our thoughts and let’s abandon the notion that “lonely” is some kind of a failure. Lonely is not a failure. Lonely may feel awkward at first, but it is just hearing yourself, maybe for the first time.
So let’s experiment with being lonely. Some time on our own getting to know ourselves a little would do all of us some good.