On being alone

Saturday, December 28, 2013 Permalink

So… it’s my birthday today. I refuse to tell you how old I am for fear of incriminating myself. Or something. Well that plus I’m in denial.

I’ve had my mother here with me for a few days since Christmas. She’d planned to stay until tomorrow (the day after my birthday – in case you’re playing along at home!) but when we arrived she realised she’d forgotten my birthday presents.

“You can’t NOT get your presents on your birthday!” she exclaimed.

I’m not big on ceremony so suggested I could get and open them whenever the bloody hell I liked. As it happened however, I suggested I drive her back to her place ON my birthday so she could give me her gifts – which also meant she’d be home for church tomorrow, which I knew she’d prefer. (I have mentioned before my mother’s religiousness makes up for my brother’s and my own heathen-ness!)

“But, you can’t spend your birthday by yourself!” she worried.

In the end we had a lovely meal out the night before my birthday and I drove her home and collected my gifts on my actual birthday.ย And in the evening… I plan to spend the night alone catching up on taped TV and cooking myself something vaguely-interesting for dinner.

But I’ve been pondering on her concern. Am I weird, being happy to spend my birthday alone? I know that – because she loves and cares for me – she wants to make special occasions as special as possible (indeed, I’ll feel the same about her 70th birthday next month), but… I tried to explain to her that she shouldn’t feel at all responsible for me. I am – after all – an adult (having just turned 21!) ๐Ÿ˜‰

I was reminded of a colleague in another time and place who sulked excessively because her boyfriend didn’t make a big fuss of her birthday. I realised she was disappointed that the event was an anticlimax for her but at the same time felt sorry for the poor boyfriend in question – beingย so responsible for her happiness!

Yesterday I read Leo Babauta’s latest Zen Habits blog post about the fear of being alone. It was an interesting piece. Particularly to me – someone who’s actually always been alone since hitting adulthood. Indeed, I’ve lived alone (except for 16mths in the group-house-from-hell – aka an Oz Embassy o/s) for nearly 23 years.

In the post Leo talks about not being emotionally dependent on others, being self-sufficient and being able to ‘be alone’.

Screen shot 2013-12-28 at 5.55.52 PM

From zenhabits.net

I know a lot of people who can’t do it. The idea of spending the day at home alone without calling friends, seeing someone or doing something is just too scary for them.

I’m obviously a bit skewed in the other direction. I’m not used to asking for help, expecting help or relying on help.

Leo’s post is more about temporary alone-ness… learning to be alone for short periods of time. Not forever.ย For that reason I initially felt my usual grumpy bitter and twisted resentment. Hmph! People don’t know what it’s like to always be alone. They can’t stand it for a minute. Or… they do it for a weekend and think it’s great. Try doing it day-in and day-out! I thought, with a twitching eye and clenched fists.

It occurred to me that: if I don’t pay my bills, take my garbage out, comfort myself or talk myself off the ledge, no one else is gonna do it. But then again, I don’t expect them to.

And realising that was actually incredibly empowering.

I don’t ‘need’ to be alone on my birthday if I really can’t stand to be. After all I ‘could’ ring other friends. I’m not completely friendless for god’s sake. But… (surprisingly) I recognise my life (and my happiness) is no one else’s responsibility other than my own.


And that shocks the hell out of me. I’ve always thought I was someone who didn’t take responsibility for her own feelings and reactions. And yet… it seems that may not be the case.

Do you mind being alone?
Do you think there’s a difference between aloneness and loneliness. (I sometimes feel the former but rarely the latter!)

  • Lee-Anne
    December 28, 2013

    Very true, Debbish, I hear you…the difference between loneliness and aloneness is great – the former is misery and discontent, the latter – independence and peace ๐Ÿ™‚ You sound as though you’ve got it together – bravo (and Happy Bday!)

    • Debbish
      December 29, 2013

      Thanks Lee-Anne… the post actually started in an entirely different place – just about the Zen Habits post and concept of alone-ness. But as I thought more about my conversation with my mother and my horror that she felt she had to make my birthday ‘okay’ I realised that I really didn’t expect others (or things) to make me happy. THAT was a surprise.

  • Lottie Lomas
    December 28, 2013

    I’m with you on this. I have to admit being slightly befuddled by friends who can’t stand being alone in the house. I crave it! And many happy returns ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Debbish
      December 29, 2013

      Thanks Lottie. (And yes, I get antsy if I don’t get enough ‘alone’ time… though obviously I mostly do!) ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Jo Tracey
    December 29, 2013

    I crave alone time- but, as you say, that’s partly because I don’t live alone. My husband can’t deal with it & will work until all hours rather than come home to an empty house. Having said that, I’m vain enough to want to make a deal out of my birthday. Because I’m no longer in an office, the last couple have been spent (well, the days anyway) alone doing something I love doing. It’s still special. I truly hope you had a fabulous day- & you don’t look a day over…

    • Debbish
      December 29, 2013

      Ha! Someone just asked on FB what we’ve been up to this weekend. I said I turned a year older. In one bloody day! It’s weird isn’t it… that I don’t think about ‘age changing’ thing all year – until it’s the day it does… when really I’ve only aged a day THAT day.

      PS. That might not make sense. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Jo Tracey
        December 29, 2013

        it makes sense to me, so that makes it alright!

  • Char
    December 29, 2013

    I don’t mind being alone at all. In fact I crave it sometimes. I’ve had to get used to spending time by myself while the family is out doing their own stuff and over time I’ve learned to treasure that peace and quiet where I can do what I want to do without having to explain myself or answer questions. At the moment I’m getting no alone time at all – there’s been someone in the house constantly so I’m having to escape to my room with a book or go for a run to get my little bit of paradise.

    • Debbish
      December 29, 2013

      Ah yes Char, I’ve gathered from your blogs that you like your alone time – particularly during the day when you need to get work done etc. (Pesky sick / injured husbands don’t help!)

  • Jackie
    December 29, 2013

    I love my alone times most of the time, but sometimes I do feel lonely :). And Happy Belated Birthday ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Debbish
      December 29, 2013

      Thanks Jackie and I’ve always thought I’ve sometimes felt ‘alone’ but never lonely. I’m wondering now if it’s not always the case (ie. that I enjoy being alone but am sometimes lonely!). #Hmmmmm

I'd love to hear your thoughts