I have been thinking about this for probably the last week.
I started asking this question of myself, when my close friend admitted that she was feeling lonely.
It is a feeling that is contradictorily foreign, yet very familiar to me.
She is newly married, and her husband works away from home every other week.
Getting married is a big adjustment.
When people tell you that “the first year of marriage is the hardest”, they are right.
But you have no idea what they mean until you actually do it. It’s different for everyone.
And then I had another thought.
That if for some reason your marriage ends (which over 50% of them do these days), the first year of being separated is also the hardest.
I’m not going to sugarcoat that hard fact. And that too, is different for everyone.
When she had this conversation with me, I recounted my own journey of being “alone”.
It’s been 9 months now.
I sent a message to my soul sister the other day, explaining my theory on this.
“I was thinking, that it took 9 months for me to come full circle – the same length of time it takes for a baby to be born. Perhaps this is my re-birth.” I explained to her.
I told her that I had finally started to read “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington.
I said that perhaps “now is my time to thrive. To not be choked by the toxicity of my past. To bloom, and flourish, and become the beautiful flower I have held myself back from becoming.”
Now I mentioned the “toxicity” part, as I have been a big fan of alcohol and cigarettes for the past 9 months as a means of distraction, and also inspiration. I convinced myself that I can only write when I drink. Which is a load of nonsense. Because I write constantly.
I just use the alcohol as something to take my mind off my solitude. Which I know I’m actually totally fine with.
Because my marriage was unravelling for a long time.
And I’ve finally made the decision to wean myself off my “vices”.
The cigarettes are something that I’m finding a little difficult at this point, and the alcohol is something that I’ve made a deal with myself to limit only to social settings (it’s a little sad to drink alone after all…).
The solitude has been really hard at times, particularly as it was something I’d never experienced.
I moved straight from my parents home at 21, and assumed the role of a “wife” until January this year.
I had a conversation the other night with a gentleman in his 50’s, who also admitted something similar.
That he suffers from “loneliness”.
I was so sad upon hearing this. Vulnerability always does that to me. Moves me in inexplicable ways.
A lot of us get lonely at times, yet we are often too afraid, or too embarrassed to admit it.
Yet, I do believe that loneliness, is very different from solitude.
After having spent over 13 years living with someone, when I first became separated from my ex-husband, I must admit, I suffered terribly from loneliness.
However it’s something that I’ve not thought about now for quite some time. Because I am really happy with my own company. Grateful for it, almost. As I have learnt how to be in solitude.
So on Monday, I went to the movies. By myself. For the first time ever.
And you know what? I really enjoyed it. Like, a bit too much.
As I sat down, I scanned the cinema.
Two elderly couples. One elderly woman sitting alone at the back. Two sisters perhaps in their late teens.
I remember back to the first time I took a flight by myself, almost 2 years ago now. Up to see my beautiful Aunty in Byron Bay.
So strange for someone as well travelled as myself to only be taking my first solo flight in my 30’s.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I was so nervous flying by myself, that I couldn’t even accept the meal that they served me on the flight. I had so much anxiety. My stomach was in knots.
When I arrived to spend the week with my Aunty, she had a lot of work to do, and I found it so difficult to be alone. It appeared that I too, had a lot of work to do.
I recall walking to the local cafe where I chatted nervously, and incessantly with the owner.
This here was the first lesson I learnt about myself. That I am stupidly friendly. And that I talk A LOT.
I look back now as to how far I’ve come, in terms of learning to be alone.
I believe we learn a lot about ourselves when we spend time in solitude.
I have learnt that I cry often with strangers when they share their stories with me.
I have learnt that I smile, and laugh a lot.
I have learnt that I never judge anyone.
I have learnt that I write all the time. ALL THE TIME.
I have learnt that I don’t worry about leaving the house without makeup on, or that I seldom do my hair (even if I’m a bit of a princess).
I have learnt that I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. Because I know I have a good heart.
I have learnt that I am REALLY strong.
I have learnt that I can kill spiders if I really have to.
And I have finally learnt how to be alone.
I have also learnt that the “Amy” that you see through my writing, my twitter feed, my Facebook page, and my Instagram, is the one that I want you to see. That I let very few people in to see the real “Amy”. I fiercely protect my “real” self from most people.
My Mum, who knows me better than anyone, always tells me to stop “going into your shell and thinking that no one cares about you”.
That became apparent this afternoon when a girlfriend graced me with her presence, as the last time I had seen her was over a month ago.
I drop off the radar all the time. I’m a bit of a hopeless and unreliable friend to have at times.
In fact, the last time we spoke on the phone was almost 2 weeks ago.
When she left my house this afternoon, I hugged her for a long time. It was lucky I was wearing sunglasses so she couldn’t see the tears that had begun to form in my eyes. I feel so blessed for having such great friends.
But I do think It’s important to learn how to be alone. That one isn’t necessarily always the loneliest number.
I know I need to have my time in solitude to understand that the only person that can love me above and beyond everyone else is me. Which is why I choose my solitude for now.
When I know that I am complete within myself, then I will find what I need. Because what is lost will be found, when you’re looking for yourself.
So is one the loneliest number?
Being on your own is fabulous. Because it helps to unravel you and put the missing pieces of the puzzle back into place. To become whole.
So today I leave you with a quote from Paulo Coelho on solitude:
“For those who are not frightened by the solitude, everything will have a different taste.
In solitude, they will discover the love that might otherwise arrive unnoticed.
In solitude, they will understand and respect the love that left them.
In solitude, they will be able to decide whether it is worth asking that lost love to come back or if they should simply let it go and set off along a new path.
In solitude, they will learn that saying ‘No’ does not always show a lack of generosity and that saying ‘Yes’ is not always a virtue.
And those who are alone at this moment, need never be frightened by the words of the devil: ‘You’re wasting your time.’
Or by the chief demon’s even more potent words: ‘No one cares about you.’
The Divine Energy is listening to us when we speak to other people, but also when we are still and silent and able to accept solitude as a blessing.
And when we achieve that harmony, we receive more than we asked for.”