I realised just how many individual activities I enjoy. And how it is really an uncomplicated business nowadays when it comes to how I spend my time.
Just before Christmas, as my Facebook friends will know, I completed a seven week solo adventure travelling to seven countries, mostly non-English speaking. The previous year I went to Eastern Europe, again solo, visiting three countries including Poland. ("Why Poland?" I was asked a hundred times, especially by Poles. To which I would usually think: "Who the fuck knows. It just seemed like a good idea at the time").
I have simply become used to the idea of seizing life on my own.
Most people who are happily coupled, of course, cannot understand how anyone could travel alone. My mum says it would be "boring". Mostly I am told it would be "lonely".
There is one important thing to remember though: being alone is not the same as being lonely.
The differentiating factor in the semantics is, I believe, this thing called intention. One state, being alone, implies a state achieved by choice, where you willingly eschew human company. Being lonely, on the other hand, implies the exact opposite - those who want company, who often desire it deeply and who find that, against their will, they have no access to the human interaction they might crave.
It is actually quite amazing what a simple shift in the perception of meaning will achieve.
Catapulted suddenly and screaming into the world of singledom, many impacted by separation or divorce inevitably fear being lonely.
However I have discovered that, once you accept that all you are experiencing is the feeling of being alone, then you start to believe that you actually have control over the situation. Voila. No more lonely nights.
Therefore, these days, I can't say I actually know what it is like to feel lonely, when I am actually alone.
This is achieved by making active, conscious choices about the way in which I occupy the physical space that might be free of company (faithful hound, cat, goldfish or exotic ferret notwithstanding).
Some strategies include:
- Calling or messaging a friend for a chat (I'm lucky, I admit to a) havinv quite a few and b) liking to talk... and talk.....
- Filling the moment with an individual activity that brings me pleasure (such as swimming, or reading, sketching a picture, going for a walk, or writing this blog)
- Doing something useful that only I can do such as cooking a special meal or finishing a chore.
- Planning something to look forward to (not always involving other people).
- Learning something new.
There are countless ways in which single people adjust to the state of being alone and I can tell you, it is a state that those who cannot escape from spouses or children - that stinking press of needy people making demands on your space - can envy.
Because ultimately, in seizing and owning the wonderful stage of being alone, I know that every single moment in this life of mine belongs to me, and I can do with it exactly what I please.
My moments are my responsibility and, by actively and consciously modelling them into the shape I choose, moments become hours then days that reflect my intention. Before you know it, my life looks and feels like it is my own. It's very empowering.
So, next time you think about all those poor, tragic single people you know, don't feel sorry for them. Not for a moment.
Can you lie naked on your bed while brazenly thumbing through a Mills and Boon? (Not that I would but I could!)
Can you eat chocolate for dinner polished off with a bottle of scotch? (Okay, I made that up too. I meant half a bottle of scotch).
Can you play Harry Belafonte at full blast, without fear of judgement? (Or, the other 'great', Nana Mouskourri).
No, I didn't think so.
What is more, all of us should keep in mind that, in reality, being alone is, for the vast majority of us, our natural state. Because unless your mother had a multiple birth, we all came into this world alone. We broke through the membrane of that egg alone and when we started that process of fertilisation that brought us into being, there wasn't some other sperm holding our hand now was there?
And, let's face it, the only context in which we experience the notion of coming first is alone. The concept of winning in fact, generally, requires you to cross the finish line alone. How about that? Those of us who are doing this thing called living alone are actually winners.
Look, I am not suggesting it is always easy, and, it is likely if you are reading this after having discovered the person you loved and most trusted has run off with the Avon lady or the Avon man, or maybe the Avon lady-man (named Kamahl) you are not exactly feeling like a 'winner' and you are thinking that I should STFU.
However, if you are a person who has suddenly found yourself being alone you must understand that there is no universal law that means you must also feel lonely.
The perception that you are somehow poorer because you are now alone is a societal construct. It is an enforced expectation, imposed by others, and you can choose to completely reject it. You can.
Instead consider that you are now the most powerful person in your own universe. Even if you currently believe it is a bleak and parlous universe, it is yours and yours to control as best your resources allow.
You have the ability to make of this moment exactly what you will of it.
You are driving your own bus. You can take anyone you want on board and you can drive it anywhere. The destination is your choice! Imagine that?
Please don't just leave it in the parking lot while you sob miserably over the steering wheel, possibly steaming up the windows while you hyperventilate. That's not going to get you anywhere.
Instead, turn that key. Rev that motor. Put that motherfucker into gear and come on!
Let's go! I can't wait to see where we end up.
It may be hell (or worse, Gympie!) for all I know but hey, at least I'm driving. :)