((Edited to add: I hope this isn't too loose written and non-cohesive! My boyfriend is coming home from out of state today, so I've been rather distracted.))
In my last entry, I talked about letting yourself be helped, and ways in which we often don't let ourselves be helped by others (sometimes without even realizing it!). The isolation and secrecy of eating disorders or other mental disorders can keep us stuck inside our own little world, expecting little from others and expecting so much from ourselves.
Last week, I decided to step outside of my self-imposed box of isolation. A girl I met in one of my classes at the beginning of the term was celebrating her birthday at an indoor waterpark in Wisconsin (the seminal experience for a 20 something year old!). She invited me to come with, and I agreed to go, bathing suit, eating, and meeting new people (her friends) fears in tow. I was not a happy camper at first, but I wanted to celebrate her birthday with her, and I wanted to get to know her better outside of class.
It was strange. I spent about two and a half days with my friend, having spent the night at her house before we left for Wisconsin. I haven't had a sleep over in about nine years. Imagine that! I wouldn't have even thought it possible a year ago that I would be able to do that again. But my friend put up with my initial awkwardness and shyness and got through to me. She had me swing dancing around her kitchen with a record player going in the background, laughing too hard to care about how silly I looked. For the first time in years, I was completely immersed in another person's presence. I wasn't separate, watching myself dance around from the outside. I was inside of me.
Check out my awesome rainbow socks.
To tie this all together, I think we have to be willing to immerse ourselves in other people. We have to be willing to try to honestly communicate what we're thinking about and feeling to the people we care about. I once had a good friend tell me that life is all about the connections, the connections we make with other people. When it comes down to it, I really believe that friend's advice. Think of how many times a really crappy situation, school day or work day can be improved by someone simply smiling at you, someone just chatting with you about what's going on in your life. If it weren't for the people, it would be pointless, I think (not to say that we should neglect our self, but rather that part of being a self is being that self in the world, with other people).
(Aw. Me on the left)
When you think about it, our very context is human. We rely on other humans to teach us how to talk, walk, act....even our thoughts are representations of language in our head. And as we know, the purpose of symbolic tool like language is to communicate. What use are all these thoughts if we only ever ruminate in our head?
After I got back from Wisconsin, I spent a few days happily glowing from the awesome social experiment/experience. Then, I decided I needed some time alone. I actualized my dream of taking a short roadtrip north--I headed up to Michigan (brrr, frozen beaches!) to spend two days on my own, travelling around.
Saugatuck Dunes (Saugatuck, MI)
And you know what? I've had the capacity for YEARS to be able to go on that roadtrip. I've been more financially stable than I am now, wanted to go on a roadtrip, and didn't. Why is that? Well, I really think it's because I felt too alone. Not safe. I couldn't leave without an anchor. After I spent that week in Wisconsin with my friend and her friend, I felt like I could be comfortable with my own alone-ness (read: NOT lonliness) and spend that time in Michigan by myself. I'd charged up my social battery, so to speak, so I had the energy to be alone. My friend helped me to prepare for my trip since she was a frequent traveler in the past, and I appreciated her respect and understanding for my need to be alone with myself.
Holland Beach (Holland, MI)
So what do you think, dear reader--do you agree? Do we find ourselves more easily when we are able to connect with others?
I think part of learning who we are means learning how to separate what we are from what we aren't. I think it means letting other people into our lives and learning how to be comfortable enough to move away from them, too. It's hard re-learning to trust others and yourself--if you've been in isolation for a long time, much like starvation or nutritional deficiencies, you might latch on to people (or even REFUSE to latch on to people) for fear of them leaving. How do you stifle yourself in your own relationships by fearing the inevitable release from togetherness? And how will you cope with that?
Learning to be together means learning to be alone sometimes. They're two parts of the same whole. I really don't think we can properly be "alone" without knowing how to be "together."
A sign from a park in Holland. Think about it...
And PS...let's get started on the art train.
I bought a little sketchbook in Holland Michigan from the Hope College Bookstore:
Yes! I am wearing leopard print pajama pants ;).
And here are two sketches I did while in Michigan (Holland Park, sitting up by the green lighthouse, and the Saugatuck Dunes). The writing is just lyrics that were stuck in my head at the time, for the record.
I had the energy to pour myself into sketches and traveling and walking all around these forests and parks that I visited.
I really don't think I would have been able to assert my independence without that boost from my friend, without those days in Wisconsin. Even when I was in MI, I still kept in touch with my friends via texting them and instant messaging from the hotel. It was a nice safety net for me to be able to still communicate despite being ~4 hours away from home.
So what can you do to foster your relationships with others and make your alone time more enjoyable?
- Accept invitations from friends and follow through with actually going
- Ask your friends or acquaintances to go out with you for tea, brunch, coffee (you can make them short outings if you're not feeling too social yet) or something non-food related, like bookstore, park, on a walk
- Don't get too caught up in being around other people all the time. Allow yourself time to relax, too.
- Know that being lonely is a good thing, in a way. It indicates that you need connections with other people, as a human being.
- Contact others when possible if you are feeling lonely. Chances are they care enough about you to NOT want you to be lonely.
- Remember that you do not HAVE to be isolated, and it's okay to care about others. It's definitely not weird to miss people or care about them.
- If others reject your feelings about them (such as having someone say why? when you say "I miss you") realize they may have problems with getting close to others, or may have a hard time talking about emotions. That's not your fault.
- Remember that your feelings are valid, however painful they may be to hold.
- And lastly, go out on a limb, try something new, go someplace new, talk to someone new! Do something crazy and you might just end up loving yourself for it ;) But be safe, okay?
Don't forget to have fun on your own, too!
Cheers to being alone without being lonely,