Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"I shall gather myself into myself again..." *

I don’t like you.

Actually, I do, but it may seem like I don’t.

While I do indeed have several lovely and fun friends who go out and drink with me, or knit with me, or just hang out with me, I usually prefer to be by myself. I don’t require company to go get a beer, or to eat dinner out, or to see a movie, or to go shopping for yarn or clothes or books.
I really enjoy being alone.
The people for whom I forsake this aloneness are very few.
And I generally don’t do it for long, if I can help it.

Fortunately my husband is not too different, and we have our own separate lives (in addition to our mostly pleasant life together, that is, with our beloved, if demanding and perpetually going, children). I go out to browse a bookstore or the yarn shop, or to get a cup of coffee by myself, or run or swim for a long, solitary, fulfilling, time on a regular basis. We have separate bedrooms, and have for years. We both like our space, and our solitude.
I more than like it – I require it.

It’s not my fault. I get skittish and short and cranky if I am with other people for too long. Especially if I am with other people in a smallish space, and especially especially if there are other people there whom I don’t care for.

I have always regarded this as a personality flaw. Obviously, there is something fundamentally wrong with a person who so often disdains the company of the very nice, funny, smart people whom I am lucky enough to call my friends. I know I am VERY lucky that they put up with me and this oddity of personality. (Perhaps this is because many of my friends share this quirk to some degree?)

But, again, I can’t help it. My brain is wired this way. I need chunks of time to be by myself, to recharge my batteries, so I can venture out into polite society again.

And – again – I always thought of this somewhat shamefully, as a giant pointer to everything else that is screwed up in my weird brain. Until my dear friend A lent me her copy of Anneli Rufus’ Party of One – The Loner’s Manifesto.

Oh my God, the revelations.
The chapter on the emotional wrench of mandatory participation in family holidays.
The pages on eating alone. On enjoying eating alone.
The commiseration about how one can adore one’s children but at the same time need to be away from them, away from their constant, never-ending demands.
This simple explanation of what I go through just about every day:
“…time shared, even with true friends, often requires loners to put in extra time alone, overtime, to recharge. It is a matter of energy: As a rule, loners have less for the social machinery, the talk and sympathy. Our fuel runs out. That is what nonloners don’t understand about us, what they cannot see. We do not choose to have such tiny fuel tanks. These can be quite inconvenient. They are why we seem rude, when we are, why we seem bored and often are. Spaced-out and often are. Running on empty.
Not heartless. Not unappreciative. Not fools. We know the rest of the world has big tanks. We know they don’t know.”

And this:
“They [nonloners] do not understand that what we have to give is not always what others have to give…being friends with a loner requires patience and the wisdom that distance does not mean dislike.”

I have disentangled myself from several friends over the years who don’t get it. Who don’t understand why I don’t want to spend hours chatting on the phone, or seeing them every day. That I value their friendship and their time and all the things they can offer me (and selflessly do), but need some space. (Let’s not even venture into the thorny arena of my spotty and convoluted love life and ex-boy/girlfriends.)

Rufus explores the existence of the loner in film, in art, in literature. She delves into the plight of the loner forced to work in an office environment (cubicles ARE the devil’s handiwork). She examines the friendships and romantic relationships of the loner. She even discusses the miracle of the Internet, the boon of loners everywhere. (It’s much easier to find other loners online. Hi there! I’ll be going now…)

I read half of this book this afternoon, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I may be sick, but there are other sickos just like me out there.

Reading this book was as good as therapy.

It’s ok to want to be alone.
It’s ok to enjoy your dear friends and then hole up for some solitude.
It’s ok.

Or at least – ha! irony! – I am not alone.

"The Crystal Gazer," Sara Teasdale


sueeeus said...

What a relief! I'm a loner too. And I work in a cubicle 3 days a week, but it's a corner with high walls so it offers some protection from the big mean office. The other days I work from home. Alone. I kicked Gadget out of my office ages ago.

wv=forit. ha!

Suse said...

Me, the husband, the eldest and the youngest are all solitude lovers. The middle child is a full on party animal, social butterfly, whatever you want to call it.

It is SUCH a challenge. He needs to be WITH people all the time. Exhausting, and inexplicable.

KPB said...

Hmm. I think I need to read this book. Is this why I just struggle so very hard to have my kids in the kitchen when I'm making dinner? Is this why a couple of times a day I just have to steal myself away from everyone?

But then too much time on my own in my own head space is just not a good idea for anyone?

And get me in a room and I can hold the floor?

Mary said...

Whilst I don't think I am quite as much a loner as you I must have time on my own. When the kids are all at school it is complete bliss to me to have NO NOISE, no radio, no tv, no music - just me and the birdsong.

And we had always had a spare room that one of us would cheerfully use if needed. I miss that now the kids are here.

Unknown said...

How you recharge your batteries is the fundamental difference between introverts and extroverts. You're absolutely right- you're pretty much wired from birth.

Lion seems to take after my husband in that he loves being around lots of people. I'm glad about this, and hope this trait persists. I have to admit I would change into an extrovert if I could. Some aspects of life might be easier.

Paula said...

My husband and I are loners together. So, are we really loners?

I don't know, but I do know we don't like to spend too much time with others.

So, maybe that just makes us insular, but you know, in a good way.

Badger said...

Okay, so I need this book. Like now.

Hungry in LA said...

whew, I never liked you either. :)

BTW email me if you're on ravelry.

Kristin said...

I have to read this. I am a loner for sure (as is my mom), but my husband is most definitely not. I married someone who likes to be in the same room with me ALL OF THE TIME. I have learned to live with this most of the time, and he has learned to let me have some time alone, but we are fundamentally different in this aspect of our personalities. The idea of having separate bedrooms!!!! My dream!!!

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I married C was that we were so good at being alone together. He got it and was great about it--not many people are.

The Boy LOVES to be around people--the more, the better. I don't know if it's because he's an only child or what, but he really loves a crowd.

Me? I can happily go for days without speaking. And I'm off to request this book.

MsCellania said...

I have always maintained:

Q: Do you know why the rich have separate bedrooms?


We have separate bedrooms. We might start off together, but we wake up separate. Some mornings I will wake up with both kids and the dog. My husband says the kids figure out which bed has The Mom in it by feeling heads - his is nearly bald. They always go to sleep with him after reading, but if their are night YIPES, they want me.

Jess said...

So many extroverts don't get it - I vividly remember being teased as a kid for being an introvert - by adults! Hi, I didn't choose this - it's just who I am. There's NOTHING WRONG WITH IT. I can only love being with other people if I also have time by myself. There's also a book called The Introvert Advantage that might provide you with some consolation.

Caro said...

You have just made my day. I thought there must be something wrong with me in that I love my kids but also want them to not constantly be underfoot. Phew.

Sarah Louise said...

Just requested this book.

Did not like the Introvert's Advantage.

Wish I was at home with a book or a movie instead of at work with children and adults crawling around willy-nilly.

Last weekend I went to a café for lunch alone (I generally eat out alone) and the waitress was so thrilled that I knew *how* to enjoy eating alone.

I'm a strange one: the extroverted introvert. I'm on the very edge of the Meyers-Briggs designation, and can be an extrovert if I have to be. (I tested as one my senior year in college.) I am a loner who sometimes actually spends *too much* time alone, so I have to schedule time with folks so that I don't get too into TV or Internet and forget there is a world out there.

Learning to care for oneself: a gift and a lesson that takes a lifetime.


Samantha said...

Look at all these loner/bloggers/comment makers here! Can I play too? Like Suse I find my VERY outgoing youngest girl not just exhausting but nearly almost debilitating ;-)

Love the sound of ths book ...