I believe time alone is essential. Perhaps not for all of us but it is for me.
There are those who can and must be around people all the time. I find that I can be a busy little socialite for maybe a week straight and then I just need downtime by myself.
I think I’ve always believed on some level that time for processing, reflection, silence, or just relaxing solo is something I need regularly. But, as I’ve recently determined, believing something does not necessarily correlate with KNOWING or LIVING it.
I now see that a lot of the time when I’m alone, I feel like I’m checking a box on a list. I say to myself, “Yup, I’ve had some alone time today, this week…etc.” But I can see now that this isn’t exactly beneficial. Spending time by yourself is not something like eating veggies or fruit everyday at lunch. I don’t think it’s that simple. If it were, then simply doing it, even against our will, would reap benefits. And I find that it doesn’t.
Because even as I am filling out my mental checklist, I feel resentful, lonely, or partially empty. Being alone, for the most part, is and has always been a struggle for me. I never knew why until recently.
I’ve been alone for a long time.
I know there are those out there who understand that you can feel lonely in the company of others just as much as when you’re alone. This has come up frequently for me. I feel disconnected. For whatever reason I feel completely separate from everyone and everything around me. Sometimes it comes in the form of a depressive statement like, “None of this matters.”
I’m still in the exploratory stages of figuring out why I’ve felt so alone and how I go about working around it. (I steer clear from using the word “fix” since I am trying to get away from the notion that I’m “broken”.)
This process, I know, will be a double-edged sword. Because practically every person I have felt close to, friends and lovers alike, has betrayed me in some way. And I see now that I don’t know how to overcome the fear of this repeat history. A part of me does believe that if I keep expecting it to happen, it will. What I give out, I get back. But for some reason, that belief isn’t enough for me NOT to hesitate.
My hesitation is a form of protection. So, while I crave closeness with others, above all else, I keep my distance from most. It may not seem like that to others because I am honest to a fault. But interestingly, honesty doesn’t correlate to intimacy.
I’ve noticed that I can tell the same story or the same personal fact to multiple people and only feel a deep connection with a few of them. It’s all about how I feel when I impart a piece of myself – or when I don’t, rather. I see now that I can share facts very easily without involving emotion. With such a wall up, intimacy can’t and won’t exist.
So how (and why) did I create such a wall that remains invisible enough that I haven’t seen it until now?
Emotions. I’m emotional. And usually the word to follow this is “wreck”. But I never let others see this side of me. My emotions frighten me. They hold no positive correlation for me.
I suspect that somewhere along the way I grasped the idea that emotions are “bad”. Perhaps it was from books or movies, sensationalized stories that depict emotion only in a negative light. And I make the unconscious assumption that others have the same judgment, same criticisms as I do – that emotions are crazy and therefore unacceptable. I have even highlighted in my own mind stories from my past that make my emotions the enemy.
Reactions from the past for which I am ashamed continue to haunt me.
When I said this aloud to my therapist, it hit me – it’s not my emotions but the reactions that come out of them that grip me with fear, that paralyze me. I shouldn’t treat my emotions as the culprit. It isn’t their fault if I act out of an egoic insecurity. It’s my responsibility to handle them, control how I let them affect me, how they interact with others.
And I know now that I don’t trust others. Personally. I don’t even give them a chance at a first impression, to prove me wrong. I’ve already made up my mind: they are equally if not more critical of myself than I am. They are not capable of dealing with my emotions because I don’t believe I am either.
Unfortunately, I seemed to have created an ego that hides this defense exceptionally well. I couldn’t even see it! I have hidden well my distrust using a protective armor that emphasizes openness and honesty.
This isn’t to say I’ve been completely dishonest or fake. On the contrary, I’m often too honest. But it’s a cover up. It was my therapist that made me realize that if I don’t bring my emotions with me, if I don’t allow my true emotions into the room, I’m hiding a piece of myself. Which means the other person cannot know or get close to the true me. With trust comes trust. And with trust comes intimacy.
More than that, if I continually marginalize my emotions and only let them out of their dark damp cave when I’m by myself, of course solitude won’t provide me any solace! If I continue this battle between logic and emotions, keeping them segregated, I will always feel fragmented.
I cannot even KNOW myself if I am always HIDING, in pieces.
I think, more than any other goal, more than acceptance, more than love, I need trust for myself. Because I see now that I don’t trust myself. If I did, I wouldn’t feel the need to separate my emotions from others, for fear of how my unexpected stream of emotion will affect them. For fear that a witnessed raw state will leave me alone, physically, emotionally, mentally.
The catch-22 is even as I’m protecting myself in holding hostage my emotions and trust to keep from feeling ostracized, I am also perpetuating my sense of separation and loneliness.
I’m honestly not sure how to proceed. Or how I will. I know I don’t want to make a goal, to strive to achieve this or that. That just creates a success scenario after which happiness may flow temporarily. And in the past when I have made specific personal goals, I ignored them with determination.
From everything I’ve learned in the last few months, I think my best course is to just BE. To acknowledge everything I feel I’ve just witnessed in myself, accept it, and embrace my awareness.
All I can do is trust that this awareness will show me the way.