(After a nice long hiatus, here goes!)
If you were to steal my stained tote bag, find my planner, and rifle through it with sticky fingers, you would notice that I have scribbled engagements for thirteen of the next fourteen evenings. I have been craving company and fun for years, so this is a very welcome and lovely departure from spending most nights alone with Netflix and frozen cookie dough. The truth is that I’m finding my people and having the time of my life.
The also-truth is that I am avoiding time alone like the plague.
After a day at work (often spent on the computer or in the back room breaking down wool into four ounce batts), you would think I would want a few moments to myself to decompress and breathe some felt-free air. But you would be wrong. What I want, what the worrying parts of me want, is to spring headfirst into the company of another human being.
The urge to connect with another person and have them validate your experience in the world is a fundamental part of being human. That’s why we care when a friend forgets to text us back, or why laughing with your best friend until you pee can make a whole week better. There’s nothing wrong with having a part of us that always wants that feeling of camaraderie and kinship, and it doesn’t have to be a deep, dark secret that we have a hard time being alone.
Or that’s what I keep telling myself.
When I spend an evening alone, my mind starts to ruminate on the things I don’t want to think about. Like why I can feel alone even when surrounded by people. Or why breaking down wool into four ounce batts makes me want to cry. Or how I want to be creative and make the most of my time, but still end up watching How I Met Your Mother for hours and hours on end. What we do with our time alone should reflect our values and our passions, right? So why do I spend it on Facebook instead of making pretty collages out of old National Geographic’s?
The answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know why it’s so damn hard to do the things that make us feel good and why it’s so easy to sit down with a box of chocolate and zone out to television shows with skinny people doing funny things. I wish I could say that it has become easy with Project Independence, this daily struggle to make my life count, but it hasn’t.
I am glad, though, that I am concerned. I am glad that there is a little overachieving, creative, interested voice that persists, even when I try to smother it down with mashed potatoes and milk shakes. Choosing to spend time with friends should be a choice, not a compulsion, and I am glad that there is a part of me that can see the difference.
I like to think that this particular plague has a cure, a cure that can be discovered with practice and patience and some serious tenacity. I think spending time alone and figuring out what the heck you want to do with your one precious life (to quote the fabulous Mary Oliver) is essential to living well, and I think that the more time I spend squirming uncomfortably with my own questions, the happier I’ll be. In the meantime, I think I’ll probably keep a stash of frozen mango for when the going gets hard and will try my very best to sit down and write.
What will you do?