How To Be Alone

by Shannon

Considering how little a social life I actually have, I am remarkably terrible at being alone.

I should amend that. I’m great at being alone at home, in the confines of a safe and familiar location. I’m not so good at being alone around other people. You’d think I’d have developed this skill when I had an apartment of my own, and I did, to a degree, but I was still a homebody. I went to the store, cooked for myself, read books. But I didn’t take myself out for coffee or a movie, or go out to dinner or to the Jazz Cafe that I loved and barely ever got to attend.

I only resolved to go to one show alone. That was Company of Thieves, shortly after their first album came out. They were playing a small bar in West Chester, and my friend had turned me down. I got as far as the will call line, and he came running down the street, having changed his mind at the last second, and begged a spare ticket off some bystanders. But other than that? When I moved, I had thought I would have to steel myself, take myself to Barnes and Noble for solitary coffee and reading, eat alone, go to movies alone. But Chad lived nearby too, and despite our differing schedules and living in different towns we somehow managed to cook dinner nearly every night. I think now that I clung to the few familiar people I had rather than deal with actually being alone.

Somehow, going out by myself seems shameful, even though I know it’s not. But it’s intimidating, and I’m not very good at inspiring spontaneous conversation. I tried it for a little while once, when my friend had to leave early from small folk music benefit concert at a local farm. And it was nice to lie in the grass and stare at the deepening sky, listening to music and people watching, but everyone else had arrived in groups and had picnic blankets and social obligation. I don’t know if it’s that, or if I have a kind of presence that is unwelcoming, but it would be nice to strike up spontaneous conversation that does not involve creepy nerds staring at my boobs.

I think this is something I need to work on, but I don’t really know when or how. I’m so busy this semester, and I kind of went to pieces over it. I didn’t have a meltdown or anything, but my bedroom until this morning was such a wreck, all tangled blankets and half folded and half soiled laundry strewn on the floor and my bed, and a bathroom in desperate need of attention. My bedroom and bathroom are a good barometer for my general state of being, and declines according to my stress level. It’s difficult to sleep in a messy room, though, which probably increases my stress level and the whole thing casts off into a self-perpetuating downward spiral.

Anyway, I would really like to work on the whole “entertain yourself alone and without the aid of pretend texting” thing, but I spend all of my time either at work or at school, and the interim days I spend catching up on the homework I don’t get to do on any of the other days. Work all day followed by night class means my study time is severely limited this semester. I have Fridays off to catch up, but these will soon be occupied by observation at a local school. Which means Friday evenings and the rest of the weekend. I can’t remember the last time I went to a library just to sit there and read for pleasure, but god how I want to. Melissa recently recommended using the library to get back into comics and graphic novels, which is a brilliant idea, and one that I wish I could do.

When it gets warmer, it will be better. Then I can go sit outside at the book shop and go on walks. Is it weird that I am most looking forward to using the neighborhood swingset? When Chad came to visit he demanded this detour on our walk. I hadn’t used swings in more than a decade, and I still can’t explain the thrill of it. It was simultaneously energizing and zen, like if buddhist meditation were an adventure rather than an exercise in stillness. But we only get warm days when I am stuck inside, and when I have off I am busy with everything else, or it snows. I need to get in shape, though, because I signed up for the Color Me Rad 5k this summer, and I need to start training.

Is it spring yet? I miss wearing sundresses to work and going on hikes. God I want it to be spring.

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