Stories that Define Me: On being ‘alone’ vs. being lonely.

*This is the sixth in my mini-series on stories of my past that define me. I’ll write these periodically, as the ideas flow. Enjoy.*

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I wrote this post for Emma over at Divorced Before 30 a few months ago…but for some reason, feel compelled to repost it here, as a story that has defined me. Because I don’t think there is a day that goes by where I don’t embrace being alone, to some extent, and look back at where embracing this came from. As I near closer and closer to three years since my divorce began, I can’t help but continue reflecting on how it has shaped me and how I still learn from that time, every single day.

(and to be honest, this distinction between being alone and being lonely doesn’t *just* apply to those that are divorced, I think it’s one of those universal truths that we all need to embrace…embrace being alone. Celebrate it. Truly appreciate it.)

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Being Alone vs. Lonely

One of the biggest things I learned as I went through my separation and divorce was the difference between being alone and being lonely.

I found that as much as I feared being lonely, I was more afraid of being alone, and for how long I might theoretically be alone before finding love again. I remember how often my mind would just want to skip and jump ahead to the part where I was no longer alone and no longer hurting. To the part about being in love and looking back on the ‘bad’ as a distant memory.

It is the ‘fast forwarding’ in my brain to ‘the good parts’ that I think was more detrimental than actually just accepting my situation for what it was. 29. Divorcing. Short selling my home. Starting over…alone.…and, yes, from scratch, in just about every way possible, but the difference being seeing that as a positive. A mindset shift. Seeing my situation as an opportunity to shape my destiny, and who I wanted to be after all is said and done.

And truth is, had I not experienced being alone, I would never have learned how to be comfortable with being alone, not to mention actually embrace it. And embrace it I soon learned to do!

Settling into my very first apartment, living alone, also for the first time in my life…I remember looking around and realizing, wow, everything in this apartment? Is MINE. And ONLY mine. There is a huge sense of pride in that feeling, and to this day, I look back on that time in my life and am so proud of myself, for learning to live by myself, sleep alone (a scary thing to me previously!) and do things by myself. But that soon became empowering, and fun, and a way to step out of my comfort zone and push myself. Because every time I did that, gotuncomfortable, I learned. I stretched. I grew.

And being alone, doing things alone and experiencing that? I never once felt lonely. Because I had learned to embrace being alone and saw it differently than being lonely. To me, lonliness can be more easily rectified than being alone.  And if you are afraid to be alone, I firmly believe you somehow are more closed (than you think!) to those around you, potential mates and friends, even.

You gotta be comfortable with being alone in order to truly open yourself up to what you may want most…love and companionship. Once I truly embraced and loved being alone? I met M. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, I challenge you…separate being ‘alone’ and being ‘lonely.’ Get comfortable with being alone. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

EMBRACE it.
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31 thoughts on “Stories that Define Me: On being ‘alone’ vs. being lonely.

    1. Thanks friend! I am glad you liked it and LOVE to hear that your sister is finally embracing this notion too. That’s awesome. Wish I got to meet her!

  1. It’s so great that you still think about the importance of this, even though you’re in happy relationship. I think this mindset leads to better relationships in the long run!

    1. Thank you! And I am glad you see what I mean. Of course, for me, it really resonates since divorce is what led me to this realization, but it doesn’t mean that is the only way it can be or should be realized. Everyone should embrace it!

  2. This is a very good post! It brought me back to the time in my life when I had to embrace being alone, a time that I like to call “the best of times, the worst of times!” Even though that season was hard (oh so hard!), I learned so much about myself and about what I wanted out of life. Sounds like you did too! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh thank you Amanda!! I am glad that it brought you back to a time where you realized this too – the difference and how you can embrace it. I think it makes us stronger too.

  3. This is such a great post!! I think it’s so important for people to have time to be “alone”. There was a time in my life when I was constantly surrounded by people & I was miserable, I was lonely. I didn’t have a real connection with anyone, including myself.

    It wasn’t until I was able to truely embrace being alone that I figured out who I was as an individual – and similiar to you…that’s when I found Eric! Funny how that happens 🙂 And even with Eric in my life, I still need my “alone” time. In fact, I LOVE my alone time.

    1. Exactly! Now, when I don’t have my alone time, I sort of go stir crazy. I just NEED it. And I think we all need it, it’s very healthy. And I LOVE that you too embraced who you were and being alone and then met Eric. Just so right.

  4. It’s taken me a long time to enjoy my alone time. I used to think I had to be with someone (or on the phone or the computer, etc) at all times. It’s weird because now I crave to be by myself because it’s very rare I get alone time anymore!

  5. this is a beautifully written post! I love hearing what you learned through a difficult time – we can all relate in one way or another which is pretty powerful. it took me years in my 20s to get to a point where I really & truly enjoyed being alone. and I still need my alone time now. it helps center me. 🙂

  6. It is ridiculous how much of this I am feeling — Right. Now. — as I wait for our final court date to sign the papers and move on to this new life everybody keeps talking about. Which terrifies me. Thank you for sharing this with us. Every milestone you hit gives me more hope for my own journey.

  7. This is one of my favorite posts from you, sis. It was such a huge realization for you – to actually find how much you liked being alone, just you and your thoughts, your schedule, your desires, nobody else to worry about or deal with or whatever. And to realize that you actually crave that time now is such a big change from where you were a few years ago. I admire that about you – constantly evolving, changing, GROWING, into an even more stellar version of yourself. 🙂 ps. miss you!!!

    1. Aww thank you sis. ((hug)) Means a lot. I admire you too…because I think you are realizing this too, now, as you travel more for work etc. Miss you too!

    1. It is definitely hard to separate, but once you realize what you are really feeling, whether it is lonliness, or just the fact that you are physically alone, you start to embrace it just a little bit more.

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