It’s a bloody journey, so maybe it’ll never be finished, due to it being a constant.”
* Wise Words – Winnie
When I was younger I always knew I was a deep thinker, an emotional child who took in more than those around me. Perhaps due to my childhood experiences and circumstance, perhaps due to genetics but that’s another story for another time. One thing I do know is that being told you are deep, or emotionally high maintenance, is not something to be taken lightly. Nor should to be taken as a negative. But it has taken me years to grasp this.
Being highly emotional is (not surprisingly) quite challenging. After spending time around others without a break to myself I often feel exhausted and overwhelmed and the only thing that can reduce this is to have quality time alone. Now, that in itself is quite a conundrum because—I have to admit—I’ve never really liked being alone.
Or so I thought.
I’ve spent a lot of time alone, and a lot of my life lonely. Both with and without people around me. Now I’m older, more self-aware, I realise that it was not that I didn’t like being alone. It is more that I don’t like, cannot cope well with, being LEFT alone.
Again, issues of abandonment and rejection are themes for another story.
The fact of the matter is that social situations sometimes get too ‘peopley’ for me. So I need a lot of alone time to counteract this. It then comes down to choice, control and planning. I know I need time alone on my own terms. Sometimes more than even I realise at the time. Often the desire can appear out of the blue, with inappropriate timing and being misunderstood by those around me.
Don’t get me wrong; I do love being sociable! I have always appeared confident, the life of the party. Up until my late 20’s I was happy to go about my life constantly surrounded by people; socialising, messing around, drinking a lot, making people laugh.
The one who was always up for it.
Now, in my 30’s, that is not what I like. In fact, I look back now and realise I wasn’t even enjoying those times then. I didn’t want to be the clown, didn’t want to be invited out as the laughing stock. Embarrassingly I thought people liked me for who I was when in fact they didn’t really know me or bother to see me.
Now, spending time with people comes with the contradictory price of needing to be alone for sometime afterwards. For an unknown period of time, and through my own autonomy and self care protocols.
It feels a lot like a light has been suddenly flicked on in my head. I am realising the importance of both social inclusion and what sometimes feels like it’s nemesis: Alone time. My newest discovery: The importance of purpose and routine, and how that deeply affects my mood and manner.
A morning routine is vital for my daily happiness. It includes time alone to think, exercise and eat a slow breakfast (each of these things also benefit my IBS significantly). Mindfulness and reflection also serve as way of keeping my thoughts present and positive.
Creating purpose is something that also helps me through each day. Keeping busy and having things to look forward to help keep me motivated. Even chores or more mundane tasks keep me happy enough.
Of course, none of these realisations are things I’ve easily explained to many people. But those who know me well will understand or at least be able to relate. Those who can actively listen to my feelings and emotional experiences, and know how my anxiety manifests itself. Those people are worth their weight in gold.
Time alone is both difficult and beautiful. Sometimes a simple walk alone in the countryside is enough. Feeling the wind in my hair, birds and other creatures rustling in the undergrowth, going about their day. That my friends is a priceless and gratifying experience that never ceases to relax, calm and bring me back to the present.
In these quiet times I am grateful for all those I love, and for those who have stood by me over the years. For those I have lost who have taught me more about myself than I could have imagined, and to those who are still teaching me. In these times, I understand the link between being alone and being connected. There is beauty in both.
I am happy enough to be able to embrace the fact that I am a work in progress. I am in charge of the journey that I am taking myself on. The choices I make may not make sense sometimes but I’m learning from experience. My thoughts, my feelings, my emotions are just that. Mine. So whilst I learn to live with and embrace them, good or bad, they form important pieces of my puzzle of life.
That’s how it is. This is me.