I like to be alone, kind of

The other day, my mother expressed faint alarm at my increasing propensity for being by myself. This sentiment came about after I casually mentioned I was going out for lunch, and she asked me whom I was meeting. I told her it was just going to be me. She wanted to know why I went everywhere by myself.

And so I think of telling her:

I try and try, and it seems like I can’t get time for myself. I go for a walk and I receive a call, or a message. Another sound lets it be known that I have unread emails. I run into someone or I’m thinking about someone else. I read things on my phone almost continuously, and even then I end up shooting replies into the ether.

Today will be different. I will go for a walk, with my hands in the warm pockets of my jacket that promises to be waterproof, with my phone in a bag that I don’t need to reach into. Today, I will look at the piles of slush left behind by the rapidly melting snow. I will listen to the birds that seem to be in a great hurry, they sound surprised the day is so bright. I will notice how the air smells different, the dampness and green invading my nose. I will watch people and try to guess why they are so anxious, and I will eavesdrop on their conversations as we wait together for the bus. I will smile at strangers and not pause to record the minutiae of my day. I will talk to the one who serves me at the restaurant and I will pay attention to what is on my plate when it arrives. I will not worry, or think too much, or try to find meaning, or the words to capture this experience.

Mother, sometimes I am enough for me.

And on days that isn’t the case, I know I can find conversations and hugs, and the sight of shoes not perfectly aligned and dishes in the sink. I can come back to fights about the temperature setting, and a heavy limb that falls on my body and wakes me up in the middle of the night, belonging to the person who shares my bed. On these days, I am saved from my own compulsive tendencies to set everything straight, to make sure the hangers all point in the same direction. I am freed from the sameness and the discipline I tend to force on myself. I find a shared rhythm that keeps moving, keeps flowing, that approaches something resembling balance, and then changes again.


Crowd Favourite and Editor’s Pick this week! Thank you for the votes and the kind words.


This is what Michelle had to say:

The notion of writer-as-introvert is nothing new, but this careful look at the choice to be alone at times is a fresh one filled with vivid details showing just how  much we can miss when in the company of others. It looks at the conscious effort it takes find that space and confronts head on the “faint alarm” it brings about in others. It’s also interesting how being alone isn’t seen as the only option and, in fact, the company of others can be a comfort. Details like making sure “the hangers all point in the same direction” give us a glimpse inside, making the story at once familiar and specific.

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13 thoughts on “I like to be alone, kind of

  1. I totally empathize with this! I *need* alone time to stay sane (perhaps more of it than most people!)
    I love the “Today will be different” section. Such a simple, beautiful, profound plan of action.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice write-up that showcases your yen for the keen observations and detailing. When I lived in Pittsburgh by myself, I used to take walks on Forbes Avenue to this place called Kiva Han that was catty corner from the bank. This piece brought back memories of a very different phase of my life. One suggestion that I have, given your wonderful talent for nuance and details, is maybe capture an internal monologue or introspective thoughts the way you capture the external environment. Would be fascinating to read.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love the way you balanced – and flipped the script on – the assumption that we are alone because we can’t find people to be with. Sometimes we’re with people because we can’t find our alone. And both of those things are ok.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! In the US, I don’t feel so much like an alien, being by myself or wanting to be by myself. In India, I would often be the only woman without company, and there is a specific stigma that follows such a woman.

      Like

  4. I have been having Breakfast, Lunch and 2 Tea Breaks alone for about a month now. People around me wonder why this is so and I see sympathy, judgment and curiosity in the eyes around me. I know that it is very different in US and UK, but in India it takes a lot of personal courage to become the woman who is not with solid company. But I am a loner anyway. And once you get used to it, it saves you a lot of mess, stress and time. Currently my equation is something like this.

    Good Company > Being Alone > Lousy Company

    I was reminded of Rachael (of F.R.I.E.N.D.S) remarking that going to a restaurant alone made her feel like being on display to which Phoebe retorts, “I was on display once and, trust me, it was nothing like eating alone.” That put things in perspective for me. Those who stare can stare on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we’ve spoken about this before. I love doing things by myself, and for some activities, I prefer it to having company.
      In the US, I don’t find it to be as subversive as I felt it to be in India. I don’t observe anyone staring at me, and I find that I’m not the only woman by herself too.
      There have been days when I’ve been out by myself and I would come back home and realise I haven’t used my voice for more than 10 hours straight!
      In India, I’ve had people tell me they wouldn’t mind giving me company because they felt sorry for me, for having to go out by myself. I couldn’t make them understand I actually like it.

      Like

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