On Solitude or Being My Own Best Friend

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/7/14)

I’ve really liked myself for quite awhile now.

Wow, that sounds arrogant, doesn’t it?

Let me rephrase that in a more palatable way. I’ve learned how to enjoy my own company and to not get anxious about being alone. In fact, those times when I am by myself are some of my most enjoyable and satisfying.

It wasn’t always like this. I remember being a teenager and worrying about whether my close friends were hanging out without me. That was such a terrible, lonely feeling, knowing they were at the mall without me. Probably having lots of fun and buying some new, cute thing to wear. Or maybe going to the movies and seeing that one film that I really wanted to see – but they didn’t think to invite me. God, that was an awful feeling.

I was an awkward adolescent (who wasn’t?), and certainly wasn’t a good friend to myself. But sometime around my mid-20s – it took me that long to grow out of my awkward phase – I discovered I enjoyed hanging out alone. I found that sometimes when friends would call to invite me out for drinks or a show, I would actually decline, just so I could continue doing whatever it was I was doing by myself. It could have been organizing my CD collection or rearranging the living room furniture, it didn’t matter. I was having a good time and I didn’t want to stop.

Now that I’m almost 40, I’ve found that time alone is absolutely essential to my well-being. I don’t know if I’ve been an introvert all these years and didn’t realize it, but after time spent out with friends I need a couple days by myself to recharge. I love being with my friends, of course – they’re my friends for a reason. But I have a threshold for social activity that I reach pretty quickly, and only time away from all the interaction can recharge my batteries.

I see things differently when I’m alone. When I’m quiet, my mind has time to wander, uninterrupted, revealing new thoughts and ideas. I hear sounds I might otherwise miss – that sweet little bird in the tree, singing his little heart out, unaware that anyone is paying attention. Or the sound of my cat, Murray, laying ten feet away and happily purring in his sleep. When I’m alone, I have permission to linger, I don’t have to explain what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. I can just be with the experience.

I’ve been actively working on being a good friend to myself for a few years. I smile at my reflection in the mirror. I sing songs when I’m alone, just because it feels good. I celebrate my accomplishments and don’t let myself wallow too much in my defeats. I’m better at saying no when my schedule is getting too full, even if that no is met with disappointment from others. I give myself permission to indulge in the activities I enjoy – browsing garage sales for nothing in particular, creating a miniature gnome garden under the tree in the front yard, making a complicated dinner just for fun.

Discovering the pleasure of solitude has been a gift to me. Having alone time is part of my personal equation for happiness. And as I’m getting older, I’m getting more adamant about making time for me, just me.

Do you enjoy being alone? When was the last time you took yourself out, alone, just for the fun of it? Or turned down an invitation so you could have some time to yourself? Did you feel guilty, or is it important to your well-being?