Recently I went out to dinner by myself. Perhaps it was cheating a bit, to pick a restaurant where I filed through a line to pick up my food, filled my own paper cup with Diet Coke, and had no waiter or waitress to notice my aloneness. But it was at least a start in learning how to be alone. So I sat, and ate, and occasionally glanced at the people around me and wondered if they saw me, by myself, with my pile of nachos and my Diet Coke.
I don’t know what I expected. It was an ordinary evening, a fairly ordinary activity (just not for me).
The earth didn’t move, or even quiver. No one stopped, pointed, and laughed at me. Small children didn’t ask their parents what was wrong with the girl by herself.
None of those.
Sure, I felt a bit awkward. I wanted to check my phone a few times to have something to do. I wondered if people thought it odd that the chairs around me were empty. But really, if I were to ask all the people who were in the restaurant that night if they noticed anything strange, I’d almost guarantee they’d say no.
Increasingly I am realizing the importance of learning to be alone, but not lonely. I see the importance of learning to occupy my space with calm and confidence, to know that the people who may or may not be with me do not define me.
Though I am quick to lament it, my singleness almost gives me a slight advantage in learning to be comfortable alone (and perhaps fuels my recognition that it is something I need to work on). It forces me to do things alone, but the choice to be okay with that is my own. It’s not just a single person thing though, it’s a human thing; to be comfortable in our own skin, wherever we are, whoever we’re around, to not be so quick to notice or care about the people who may see and wonder, but more likely, will never notice at all.
It’s easy for me to blame my aversion to aloneness on my nearly-off-the-charts extroversion, but preferring to be with people doesn’t mean I will always have that option–and I shouldn’t always need to be with them. I don’t think eating nachos in a restaurant by myself will become my new favorite activity, but it doesn’t have to be. I can be comfortable with alone without loving it.
Not lonely, just alone.
Til next time…
p.s. How are you at being alone?