When I was 4 years old (I actually remember this), soon before starting preschool in my native Belgium, I told my mom I did not want go to school, “like, ever”. I wanted to stay home and play with my toys. I wanted to be like her, always home, quiet, and with no homework assignments (all this in age appropriate language, of course).
Fifty years later I am well aware that it’s not because one does not leave the house that one does not have home work, like my mother immediately set out to explain to me. She ran a household of 8 with no hot water in the kitchen (she had to boil a kettle each time she did the dishes), one bathroom, and only a semi-automatic washing machine. Things are very different today and each time I think of how hard my mom worked I say a quick thank you, especially if I’m unloading the dishwasher, my least favorite chore.
One thing has not changed, however: I still long/love to be home alone. Self-help experts often advise that we reconnect with our young selves and do what s/he loved to do at the time. For me my friends it’s definitely being on my own. No demands, no questions, no explanations. I can smell the roses, the tulips, or the stew on the stove, and feel good about it. How daring is that?
As a stay-at-home mom I felt into the trap of endless activities in an unconscious then, and conscious now, effort to prove that I was busy and, more importantly, worthy. Despite countless attempts to grow our gregarious side, I find I have raised two young adults who also need alone time to recharge and stay grounded. They are now facing what I struggled with for decades: the notion that wanting to be alone is somehow unhealthy, antisocial, or simply weird. Since my mother’s days the focus, in affluent communities, has shifted from looking at social busyness as a temporary pleasure or necessity to regarding it as the optimum way of life. Success is not only gauged in terms of career or money but very much in terms of social connections and interactions. How many likes you get on a post or pictures. How many times a week you dine out with friends. How heavy the traffic is on your website. The more the merrier we are led to believe. And if it does not hold true for you, something’s wrong.
Here’re my two cents: if being alone stems from a deep need to connect with yourself, with your journey, with the challenge of living a fruitful life, do not let anyone tell you it’s not “normal”. Not all of us are cut out to thrive through social encounters and people stuff. It’s not that we’re afraid or lack self-confidence; it’s about being honest about how we can be our best and making sure our needs are met. It’s about protecting our true self from outside domination so we can offer it to the world in its most potent yet kindest form. There’s power in aloneness. And there’s love too. Love for ourselves, for life, for others. Choosing solitude is a valid and strong choice in a world that often seems to be socializing out of control.
I leave you with a recent photograph I took of Easter colored tulips. Go ahead, pause and smell them. And if you’re happier running out the door to meet your busy, that’s ok too. I’ll stay here and change the water.
Words and photograph – Maryse Godet Copans © 2017