16 Oct 2018

Going, Going, Gone Solo

Going, Going, Gone Solo on vickiarcher.com


 

I found myself at the cinema, alone, on a Friday night.

Glancing around the room I observed the groups of people; friends, couples and families. In the sea of individuals, hardly anyone was by themselves and suddenly I felt very lonely.


I pondered about a lot of other tasks I do in my own company; shopping, going to the museum, art galleries and often to cafes. Ultimately, I left the cinema feeling concerned about the amount of time I spend solo. Did this mean I am isolated?

In the last couple of years, I’ve learnt that being alone doesn’t always suggest loneliness. However, the idea of the solitary figure is often a foreign one.


Moving from a small town to the big city had a tremendous impact on my social life. I no longer had my home friends; I saw them regularly and they lived within walking distance. My newfound circle was smaller and it was how I found myself in the centre of London, seeing a movie on my own.


Nonetheless, I was loving it.

 

Being by ourselves is a chance for new creativity, ideas and is so beneficial for our minds. It does not denote reclusiveness or a hermit lifestyle, much rather a more conscious effort to feel comfortable with ourselves and not reliant on others for our self-confidence.

 

Aloneness allows the time to discover ourselves again. When was the last time we truly felt solace? It’s a brilliant feeling.


Spending more time by myself has meant my time with others is much more appreciated. I pay more attention to my friends, I listen more and truly relish the enjoyment of their company.


Learning to love my solitude was not something I had initially planned and it is not easy for everyone. Coming to a big city I presumed I would make numerous friends and be immensely busy. When I came to the realisation this was not the case, I panicked, as I’m sure a lot of us would when we are thrown into new surroundings with no shoulder to lean on. This newly discovered large space had so much area to explore, so much ground to cover, all of which I was envisioning doing on my own.



I want to embrace my solo time; it’s a rare and energising privilege. 





 

Going Solo: Where What You Want

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20 Comments

Janet James

Sometimes you have to go it alone because you are interested in an event and none of your friends are!! Being true to yourself means you do what intrigues you and grow from those experiences…although I do go along and see and do things just to be with my friends very often. We are meant to live in community!

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1010ParkPlace

I’ve always been comfortable being alone. Perhaps that’s because I was an only child, and I was good at entertaining myself. Soon it will be eight years, Christmas Day, that my husband unexpectedly died. It took me years to deal with my devastating grief and missing him, but once again, I slid into that comfort zone of being happy with my own company. Sunday when I told a girlfriend I went to see “A Star is Born,” she said, “By yourself?” The tone in her question was beyond surprised… She was shocked… all over again, because she knows I do everything alone. Interesting that it still comes as a surprise to her, which is more telling about her personal comfort zone and the way “we” as a society see women on their own. xoxo, Brenda

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Merlin Parde

I am constantly being bombarded about…loneliness…”you have to get more involved, you spend too much time by yourself, etc. etc. etc.” I had to move from the city (Washington, DC) to rural (central VA) and…have to drive an hour to “most” outings… You know, I believe “lonely” is a “personal” choice. franki

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david terry

Dear Vicki,

You and your readers should know this quotation from Hugh Prather. I and a couple of friends were, fairly recently, somewhat troubled by a visit to a divorced (for about two years? And both of the “children” are long-gone adults) friend who made it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that she is NOT lonely, thank you, and she has, in fact, “scheduled” practically every minutes of her every day. At 60, she’s still working, but the weekends obviously loom terrifyingly large&long for her. We didn’t quite know what to say to her, as she literally showed us how BUSY she stayed…….pulling out her weekend calendar and saying “It’s GREAT this way…..if I go to the gym at 4:45, after I finish weeding and take the dogs out, I can swim at the pool, and that still gives me time to get to the movie by 5:30. By the time I get home, it’ll be 8, and I’ll be done with dinner by 8:30, so I can catch up on some emails before I go to bed…..etcetera.” It all seemed horrifyingly rigid to me, primarily/obviously because it’s no fun seeing a longtime friend who’s obviously so scared of being “alone” with herself. I’m not a 60 year old woman, and never been married or had children…..so I don’t presume to judge my friend. I also live in a different town. Fortunately, one of the mutual friends (a woman) who was there with me said “This is ridiculous….I’m just going to ask her to come over occasionally and spend the weekend with me and John at our house. But this ‘scheduling’ business has got to stop”. I think it would be presumptuous of anyone (me, for instance?) to tell anyone else “There’s a difference between being alone and lonely”; no one WANTS to feel lonely. That said, I do think that some of us have a “gift” for productively being alone (I do, obviously); I’ve been this way, in a household with two rowdy brothers, since I was six or so. However, I think all of us can LEARN (sorry, but there’s no other way to emphasize on these sites), at any age, certain/needed skills. It does, however, require the sort of conscious thought and decision-making you encourage in this post of yours. Here’s one of my favrotie quotations about the matter:

“It is sometimes said that each of us is ultimately alone. This idea is compelling not because of birth and death, but because so often our moments alone seem more true, more real. I need solitude like I need food and rest, and like eating and resting, solitude is most healing when it fits the rhythm of my needs. A rigidly scheduled aloneness does not nourish me. Solitude is perhaps a misnomer. To me, being alone means togetherness – the re-coming-togetherness of myself and nature, of myself and being, the reuniting of myself with all other selves. Solitude especially means putting the parts of my mind back together, unifying the pieces of my mind back together, unifying the pieces of myself scattered by anger and fear, until I can once again see that the little things are little and the big things are big.”
– Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself

Sincerely,
David Terry
Quail Roost Farm
Rougemont, NC
USA

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Michelle à Détroit

For me, as it is for most card carrying introverts, alone time is essential to my happiness and sense of well being. The brain of an introvert is naturally wired differently than the far more common extrovert. Our “pleasure center” that produces dopamine is much more easily stimulated. Two or three close friends are more than enough for me! The idea of having tons of friends and aquaintances with whom I spend lots of time is anathema to me. No matter what’s going on, I always think I’d rather be holed up at home with a book and a cup of tea. I am also married to an introvert, though he is less so than I. This is good because once he pushes me a bit to socialize, I invariably have fun. To me though, solitude will always be bliss.

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italia58

You know, I as I age, I am beginning to believe and it has become a pet theory of mine that being alone is a natural evolution of a woman’s soul. We give so much of ourselves, our time, our thoughts, our nurturing to other people before we give to ourselves that it becomes a natural longing to just…be…alone. I am not married but in a committed relationship that takes up a lot of my time, socially, spiritually, everything-ly! LOL! I’m like a cat now. Sometimes I want to be surrounded by people and sometimes I don’t. And I am finding more and more that I crave just being alone in my own space, surrounded by my literature, my choice of music and my thoughts. I am pleased to know I am not alone in this and you have just corroborated my theory! Here’s to aloneness. It brings to mind Virginia Wolf’s a Room of her Own.

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sue

Absolutely concur with everything you just said italia58! We do give so much of ourselves that the precious little time I get to spend alone is relished and then some. I have three very close girlfriends (to me that is) who don’t get along with each other. They are so different and that’s why I love them, but sometimes it’s just too hard and I find it’s just easier to go off to a movie of my choice by myself and enjoy it. The older I get the more I enjoy my own company and living in a big city makes it easy for me. Surrounded by people albeit mostly strangers, is invigorating and with a couple of dogs thrown into the mix I find the choice is mine – stop and chat or keep those dogs moving!

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david terry

Dear “Italia58”, I should first emphasize that I agree with your comments about a “woman’s soul” (and I probably should state that I’m a 58 year old, single, gay man who’s never had children….and those facts do, in fact, MATTER). It remains (obvious to me, at least, and in my experience) that women and men (gay or straight) experience that alone/lonely dynamic quite differently…..always have and, I expect, always will. Not to make light of the matter, but?…….even I know that the issue of “Should I have children?” can be put off until I’m 70 or so. I’m not the first to have noted that things (to speak broadly) are different for women. For one?……I’ve never known a single man EVER to have complained or worried about going to a restaurant alone (or any number of supposed obstacles)…or about living alone after a divorce. I have known a few (But, to be honest, VERY few) men who were devastated by a longtime wife’s death…….but that’s just a few. Your instincts are quite rightly-honed in bringing up Virginia Wolf and her writings of time, solitude, and an exclusively female experience of them(I agree entirely with this; I’ve never agreed with the notion that “Men and Women are just Alike, if we could just get rid of the Patriarchy!”….and I taught in a major university’s Feminist/Gender-Studies program for years, so I’ve read more than a bit about this issue). Oddly enough, my first reaction is to consider “Oh, I know and admire plenty of women who’ve survived and dealt productively with grief and/or loneliness…..but most of the men just fall to pieces or simply don’t notice”. In my experience?….I’ve never known a divorced, male friend who began to say “Uhh……how can I just show up at a bar and get a cocktail or glass of wine by myself?”. I’ve known and liked plenty who had to suddenly learn that socks don’t wash themselves, but I haven’t known a one who wondered how he could go to a movie or restaurant on his own. And it’s 2018. Here’s a valuable quotation from Virginia Woolf…..and thank you for your obviously evocative comment…….:
“For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone.”

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Laura

Such a relevant topic for discussion, Vicki. We all experience times of being alone & should embrace it.
We can’t just sit & wait for the right time, when friends are available, to get out and do something. With everyone on various schedules, it’s sometimes hard to have a companion at a moments notice.
Sounds like you are doing just fine in London & are enjoying exploring the City!

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Wendi Yates

The difference between “lonely” and “being alone” is how that appears in your life. The first, loneliness is imposed upon one and one fights that tooth and nail. Loneliness feels awful, you are by yourself, in some ways ostracized from others. However, solitude is something that one chooses and therefore feels right. It took me a long time post-separation and divorce to understand the two. The separation was imposed upon me and the loneliness was almost unbearable…especially at night when the normal conversation, the flow of the evening was gone. However, once I made peace with solitude, I found that I really liked the ability to choose with whom I spent my time, whether with someone or doing something that I had always wanted to do but put aside for various reasons. It is always whether we have the right to choose or whether we are forced into something that makes the difference as to how we perceive it.

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Missi

Such thoughtful comments. I am sometimes okay with being alone and sometimes not. I think it depends on my mood. I feel like I have a good balance. What I am really missing is for my husband and me to find a best friend couple. We had that until they divorced and I miss that a lot.

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Kerry

I’m on my own by choice and I love it. I come home to a quiet place, undisturbed and peaceful. I am restored by it. I think, create, read, let my mind wander and do what I’m driven to do. I don’t need to accommodate or submit. I just do ‘me’. This balances the many hours I work filled with others, in m88eetings, conversations, negotiations, imaginings, social exchanges and so on. I think, for me it’s perfect. I feel like I can live my truth. I gave away the television, stopped eating animals, brought forward my bedtime, play my piano, and made a sewing space. I couldn’t be happier.

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Susan

Being alone by choice and being alone due to circumstances (not by choice) can be very different for each individual. Some thrive alone regardless of circumstance, but I think this is the lucky exception. I have known women that lost a partner after many years of bliss and being alone was very hard. Over time, things got easier. Adjusting to change is a constant in life. How an individual manages these changes is very individual. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. I prefer not to judge.

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Suzanne

I find it fascinating that this topic has elicited so many lengthy, thoughtful responses. There is no style report here or mention of where to buy what. The artifice of fashion, when stripped away, frees one to shift focus from the outward appearance to the inner self. Examining feelings and sensations of being alone, or lonely, is self discovery. What a relief from the disguises we wear! And yet what pleasure it brings when knowing ourselves, we present our best-dressed selves.

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Millie

I would have come with you mate. I can almost hear the crunch of that first bite into our choc-tops from here 😂 These past 4 years that I’ve been by myself has challenged me in lots of ways, but boy it’s been a experience I wouldn’t swap for anything. I love the strong, independent, decisive, resilient chick who smiles back at me in the bathroom mirror each morning. Loved reading your musings & I love David Terry’s take on this important subject, he’s a legend xx

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Anne Campbell-Crawford

Hello Vicki – Just a quick one. Alone time can be a good chance for catching up on our mental reading list. Being able to read books and articles calms the mind and answers the questions we have swimming around our heads. This brings me to the question of your “Book Club”? Have I missed something ? I haven’t noticed a reference to it on your pages recently, in fact I have not heard anything since it was introduced a few months ago. Please advise and I look forward to hearing.
Bizzz, bizzzz from Paris,
Swan

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Vicki

I’m sorry Swan,
Did you sign up for the updates?
We are reading, A Place For Us by Fatima Farheem Mirza and we are going to discuss the book on the 23rd October.. here…

I have just finished it and so enjoyed it… We also have a VA Book Club Facebook page if you would like to see more.

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anitapelayorivera

Good morning Vicki!

This is a topic and experience I think we all face at some point and struggle with it. I do think however, that many of us come out of the other side of this experience having learned that it is ESSENTIAL that we learn to be alone with ourselves. I will never forget a wonderful TED TALK that I heard once about how the human brain is wired for these open spaces we call “boredom.” Boredom and even solitude are meant to help us think. Ponder. Reflect. And in this era of constant entertainment be it our phones, computers, on-line social circles or shopping, we are constantly filling those empty spaces. But when we dare to be alone with our thoughts, we learn a great lesson. I know you’re there…I know you love being alone because your wonderful creativity is calling you.

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Rochelle

Vicki
Your articles are always wonderful. After reading your first book years ago I have followed your blog and it is wonderful. Always a subject I adore. Lived in Paris for many years and now in the US. I keep busy and try to always value the day. It’s an adjustment being alone but wherever I am I meet new people. I test recipes for French cookbooks which keeps me busy. All the best…

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