As human beings, we crave connection…in search of our ‘tribe’. Our first experience with this is the interaction with the family we’re born into. They are our tribe, perhaps not the tribe we would have chosen, but our tribe none the less.
As we get older, we move onto another facet of our tribal search with the selection of our friends; the people we choose to spend our time with. We then seek a romantic partner who may or may not end up being our partner in life.
We spend a great deal of our life searching for and spending time with others, but we all need alone time, too. A time to recharge and regroup. A time we are able to just ‘be’ without having to consider anyone else for a while.
But there’s a balance to be struck between togetherness and alone-ness. Our preference is to not be alone for too long, and we definitely don’t want to be alone in a social setting.
Do you recall the days of your youth when the thought of sitting alone at lunch or not being picked for a team or group in class was the adult equivalent of getting an audit letter from the IRS? Total dread and borderline panic.
We tend to think once we’re through those awkward years of middle school and high school that we no longer have to deal with those things because we are now adults. We “know” stuff and have built a circle of people around us so that we always feel comfortable and connected…until we aren’t.
I had a recent experience where I was confronted with be-ing alone.
A dear friend asked me to attend a fundraiser with her at a local winery. It was something I had wanted to do for a few years and so it was a no brainer to go even though the tickets were a bit pricey. The proceeds went to a good cause, included a meal and a piece of handmade pottery. Perfect.
I was so excited to spend the evening with my friend sipping wine, dining alfresco, and catching up!
Except that’s not how it went at all.
As I am sure you’ve guessed, she got sick and wasn’t able to go. I reached out to numerous friends to see if they were free to join me with no luck.
It was now about an hour before the event was set to begin and I made the decision that I would go thinking surely I’d see someone there that I knew to hang with.
Except I didn’t.
It never occurred to me, that like I had intended, everyone there came with a friend, a spouse or a group. I scanned the crowd, and man, was there was a crowd; several hundred in fact. But not a solo event goer other than myself to be found.
I decided to pull up my big girl panties and make the most of it. Homemade soups were being served from local restaurants along with crusty bread and salad. I precariously carried my food outside and grabbed a seat overlooking the vineyard.
It had been a rainy couple days leading up to the fundraiser but the sun was shining and it was rather lovely out. The temp was perfect. There was a slight breeze and the sun was shining just enough to take the chill off, but because of the rain, I had a bit of a hard time finding a spot that wasn’t wet. After some effort, I ended up locating what I thought was a dry cushion. More on that in a bit.
I had my back to all the activity facing out towards the vastness of the sky and the beauty of nature. I could hear all the conversations amongst friends and the music from inside.
It is an odd feeling to be around so many people but feel and be very much alone.
Because I was on my own, I was able to really ‘see’ the sunset and appreciate the awe-someness of nature. How after two days of rain, there is newfound appreciation for how beautifully blue the sky looks. How many colors paint the sky at sunset. How the clouds appear to float and dance across the sky in the gentle breeze.
I would have missed all of that had I been chatting away with my friend. I never would have seen one of the most gorgeous sunsets of my life nor would have I been able to appreciate it as much as I did in that moment.
I was able to really focus on the warmth and flavors of the soup and notice the crunchy crust of the bread and the lightness of the interior. The flavors exploded in my mouth and the textures danced across my tongue. It was a simple yet sublime meal and it was a meal for one.
After enjoying the tasty treats, I realized I wasn’t quite ready to leave which surprised me. I always have a book with me and thought I’d enjoy the remaining bit of light from the setting sun. I read a few pages while the din of the revelers behind me faded in the distance as I became immersed in my book.
I was jolted back to reality by a phone call from my son in college. He has a knack of knowing when I need a little love. It felt like the right time to bring the outing to a close so I told him I’d call him back in a few minutes from my car.
I felt pretty amazing about making the most out of this time alone and actually enjoying it. It felt like a huge win and was grateful that I made it through without any drama.
As I stood up I realized that what I thought was a dry cushion wasn’t dry at all. Quite the contrary as a matter of fact.
My a** was totally soaked…and I had to walk a pretty long distance through the crowd of people to get to my car. I thought to myself, “This can’t be happening. I made it through being here alone, making the most of it and actually enjoying myself…for it to end like this seemed so unjust.”
And then I remembered, I had a sweater in my bag! It didn’t match what I was wearing but I didn’t care. It would at least cover up the embarrassing wetness on my rear end so I could make it to my car without incident!
As I drove home chatting with my son about the events of the evening, I couldn’t help but smile and feel grateful for every moment. I was grateful for the time alone to savor what I would have otherwise missed and simultaneously grateful for the love and connection of family.
I had no idea when I left my house that evening that I’d return home not only with a full belly and a handcrafted piece of pottery but an even better gift…a sense of contentedness be-ing alone with me.
I'd love to hear about any experiences you've had be-ing alone and what insights you can share with this tribe.