I strongly believe one should know how to be alone; in fact I think it’s important to spend time alone, “with ourselves”.
Do not mistake me: I’m a gregarious person. All my life I’ve been an extrovert, a communicator, I never had any trouble making new friends and I really like meeting new people; I love getting together with my friends and talk for hours on end; I love spending time with my boys and I love the time I spend with Nuno, be it on weekends or holidays or an evening out…but I also like to be by myself. I may be alone, but I never feel lonely.
In my late twenties- early thirties I began to travel for work and many times I travelled by myself. I remember going to meetings in Paris and staying near the Opera, as the meetings were in that area. I would come out of the meetings and walk on the boulevards, going to Lafayette department store, and then have dinner at Hippopotamus, where I would usually eat a fantastic steak tartare…and very much enjoying those quiet moments by myself. Some people say “Oh, I hate eating out by myself, it feels terrible”. I never felt that!
When I separated, as we had joint custody of the boys, at first it was somewhat strange to be alone at home, it felt empty…but then I adapted, and after all joint custody was the only way for two parents who had always been equally involved in raising their children…and are still doing that. So after a certain time I became used to it, and I made the most of that time I had all to myself: after all there are so many things I can do when I’m alone – I love reading, I watch the occasional TV series, I range my drawers and cupboards, and in the last year and a half I’ve been writing…
Life has taught me that being alone doesn’t necessarily mean you are lonely, and also that, even when you have someone by your side you may feel incredibly lonely. I felt exactly that during the last years of my marriage – two people who were drifting apart and no longer shared thoughts and feelings. You have someone sleeping by your side every night but you are worlds apart, and that is the worst kind of loneliness, I think: it’s a “shared solitude”, and it invariably leaves you sad and longing for something else, the true companionship you once experienced but is there no more.
Being alone means spending time looking inside yourself and getting to know yourself so much better; it means developing the capacity to listen to that inner voice usually called intuition; it means spending some time away from the crazy daily routine and enjoying being in your own company.
I think life is about finding a balance between the time you spend with your family, your friends, your colleagues at work, and the rest of the world – and the time you spend with yourself. And above all not fearing to face some time by yourself – as I know some people do, avoiding to be alone as much as possible – and learning to become your own best company.
As time goes by and we get older, it is a fact of life we’ll be spending more time alone. It is the cruelty of life that we may live longer than some of the people we love. But, as long as I live, it may serve as some consolation to think that, whatever happens, I’ll always have my own company to stop me from being lonely- no matter how alone I am.
(When I was very young there was a song by Gilbert Sullivan called ” Alone again (naturally)”. Then its title puzzled me – why the singer found it natural to be alone – but it now longer does.)