Tag Archives: being alone

So, who defines you?

I had someone ask me today what I would tell a younger version of myself, if I had it to do over again.
I told her I would tell myself to not let other people define me.
We are all socialized from such a young age to be that person others want to see in us – this girl is “sweet”, that boy is “active”, this girl is “angry and uncooperative”, that boy is “sullen” or “shy”. We get told what we like to do, what we should be when we grow up, who we should like and not like, how we should behave.
Sure, a lot of this is part of being civilized from our basic uncivilized monster ways as children. A lot of it, though, is being made into a vision of what someone else wants.
I used to want to be a vet, but was talked out of that, a career that would have made me happy. I wanted to be a scientist, but got talked out of that. I wanted to have a lifelong career, but got thrust out of that. Now I write stories that inevitably turn out murderous or sad, yet I’m a happy, cheerful person. People tell me I should write funny stuff. I can’t. I feel badly for disappointing them.
Others tell me I should do this or that and even here, in my 50’s, and knowing better, I find myself trying to meet their requests. Or feeling badly when I cannot.
My whole life I’ve been a bit of an outlier, always a bit on the side of oddness. Doesn’t help that I’m unusually short and a bit round, have a twisted sense of humour, and dress for comfort, not speed. Not your average girl, I spent a lot of my time on the side of dance floors and waiting out events. I learned to push myself hard, but I cheated myself out of so many adventures after the years of being outside, for fear of being totally alone.
If I could talk to younger me, I’d say – hey, fitting in doesn’t really matter. It’ll kill you in the end. Be who you are and people will gather around you –
if only to point and laugh.
But you’ll still be the centre.
Lately, my MS has forced me to make changes in my life, changes that seem odd or unpredictable or outright strange to others. One person told me I made choices out of fear; another that I made choices out of optimism. I of course prefer the latter view. I like to think that I choose paths based on overly optimistic views of my capabilities and then have to readjust them as my disease intrudes, dang it.
The fact remains that I make choices, I change the things I don’t like, I cut away dead branches, I fertilize growing ones. There may not seem to be a plan, but I’m planning around earthquakes. I have to be flexible.
And I guess I need to say, though I talk about my plans, unless I ask for your advice, I don’t want it. We are all trying to define ourselves within our realities, and I’ll respect your choices if you respect mine. I just can’t waste any more time being defined by others.
Fair warning: I plan to become eccentric. Stand back.

Solitude and the gentle music of being alone

I’ve been alone a lot in recent years. Alone is a relative term as usually I have a critter with me, a furry or feathery or finny one. The fact remains they do not expect conversation. So I spend much of my life in silence, speaking rarely.

Anyone who has coffee with me would be shocked by this, because when I am with someone I seem to blurt out all the words I’ve stored up over the days. It’s almost explosive. I know I am speaking too much but I can’t seem to help it – perhaps it is all the time alone, the need to convey information.

Still, I cherish the alone time. I’m not lonely. I love being able to pattern my day without supervision, pacing myself through important stuff and non. I like being able to eat when I will, and what I will (or won’t), play silly computer games without being caught out, just be myself.

Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.
James Russell Lowell

Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/solitude_4.html#ixzz1f21pHoQs

It’s not that I am unsociable. I merely need more alone time than I used to. I have a dear friend who has been visiting on weekends, which is lovely. He gives me space and time alone if I need it, but he is still HERE. And thus, no solitude. So It takes me most of Monday to restore my thinking, refocus, start writing. I wish I could get over this, as it isn’t conducive to a long term relationship if I prefer to be alone. But I know I get frantic when I have company for more than three days, and that even my kids can make me weep with exhaustion if I have to converse for more than a few days in a row. They are considerate, and all, but the fatigue that comes with my MS seems to increase logarithmically with conversation.

I suppose I am an introvert, after all. I suspect my kids are the same. We need mental space to process. We can be cheerful, charming, talkative, easy in a crowd, but I at least need large portions of alone time to reattach myself to myself.

And then I need social time, chatter time, to remind myself that I am, after all, just one among many.

I was talking to some students yesterday about how to contact me – we all agreed that the phone is awful and intrusive, that we’ve become more accustomed to texting or emailing in terms of contact. I wonder if that is because, in this incredibly visually and hearing noisy environment, we need the solitude of withdrawing our voices most of the time, allowing ourselves to process information through our fingers instead of our tongues. Or maybe we are too distractible to keep track of verbal exchanges? Or maybe that’s just me.

Right now, all I know is that I have no desire to speak for a long time. I want to let my brain spin in neutral and let my thoughts come out in my novel, instead.