Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Pleasure of Spending Time Alone

 The other evening I had our house to myself. Both of my flat-mates were out. I spent my time cooking, a chopping board on one side of the hob and a glass of white wine on the other. I listened to a podcast and pottered merrily. It was bliss. A very simple, easy form of bliss, yes, but wonderful nonetheless.

Spending time alone is one of those funny things that some of us relish, and others loath. Either it’s a luxury, a much-looked-for window to fill with solitude and self-determined activity, or it’s a to-be-avoided-at-all-costs kind of situation. Or, you know, it’s something somewhere between those two extremities. I err much more towards the camp who love snatching any chance to spend several hours being solitary. Not for too long, mind. There’s definitely a sweet spot between independence and isolation.

But give me a book, a museum, a river to walk along, or simply a morning to play around with unaccompanied by anyone else, and I’m content. It’s when I get all my thinking done. Lots of my seeking and learning and scheming too. Also most of my writing – though I only tend to count that as proper ‘alone’ time if it’s not accompanied by a nagging sense of fear at one looming deadline or another. It’s worth mentioning though, as I do seem to spend approximately half my life on a laptop with headphones in and fingers whirring. However, here I’m mainly interested in lonesomeness for leisure, rather than work…

‘Alone’ is such a different word to ‘lonely’ though. One is just a description of a temporary state of being that doesn’t include other people. The other is charged with dark resonance. Loneliness, the newspapers tell us, is on the rise. To be lonely is to be somehow lacking. Of course, the former can be used in just the same way. How many of us, at one point or another, have sighed/ cried/ written in a diary “I just feel so alone?” (Levels of melodrama up to the individual's discretion.) But now, to me, to be ‘alone’ is to have some much-appreciated time and space to call my own. 

In fact, being happy to spend time by myself is something I remain supremely grateful for. Of course there’s the odd spot of loneliness, but mainly I feel at ease in my own company – happily self-sufficient. There were definitely points where I was less keen to just hang out with my thoughts. Perhaps they’ve helped to build the sturdy appreciation for mornings lazing around in bed with books, or evenings going to the cinema solo.   

In case I’m painting some winsome, slightly sickening image here of days on end spent wandering through meadows and reading poetry on my own (that only happens occasionally, promise…), I should also point out here that I adore socialising. Most of my friends know that I tend to thrive on dashing around from one conversation to another. Last time I was in London I saw four consecutive lots of people, and collapsed, knackered, back on the train at 9pm. But I was also thrilled. The buzz of a day filled with good chats, ideas bandied back and forth across a table or living room, gave me a satisfaction like little else. In fact, I could flip the entire premise of this blog post to write something reveling in seeking and finding pleasure in the presence of others. Spending time with those I admire or appreciate is the most wonderful, joyous experience.

Maybe I welcome both states of being – intensely sociable, quietly solitary – precisely because there’s a balance between them. They cohabit side by side. Raucous laughter is fun. So is getting up early and cycling through a near-empty empty city. Each increases appreciation of the other. Maybe it helps that both are active choices – things I've had the ability to prioritise and value. And what a wonderful privilege that is... 

These photos were taken over the summer in Sweden - where I was with my family, and played A LOT of very competitive Scrabble with my younger brother, but also spent a lot of time happily in my own little world: merrily reading, swimming and scribbling notes/ poems/ general witterings. I also spent lots of time swanning around in this glorious vintage Liberty print two-piece, which I adore. I nicked all the accessories from my mum. 


Closet Fashionista said...

I LOVE being alone! I'm alone most of the time, haha. Unless you count the dog. But I'm a shy introvert so being alone is perfect. I like to limit my time around people ;) But when I am with friends I'm super loud and crazy, haha.

Joana Sousa said...

As I was reading this post, I was thinking about myself. I'm exactly like you in that point - I LOVE being by myself, and it's so rare I tend to miss it a lot, but I also LOVE to be surrounded by the ones I love. It's great when you can chose what you want - I imagine this is not so easy for someone who can't chose between the two.


Carlota Antolin Vallespin said...

Oh! What a topic....I think I have trouble to enjoy time with myself, my thoughts are so intense that control my mind and they quickly make me feel lonely. Despite of that I am aware of how healthy it is to be able to enjoy your own time alone. Sometimes I try it hard and I manage to enjoy like hell. But it is not always under my control.
Anyhow, maybe in the near future I re-appreciate this time alone because I will not have at all.

The two-piece outfit is just lovely and make you look stunning. But the best of it: it looks extremely comfortable.


Fashion art and other fancies said...

Ah, I adore spending time on my ownsome - in silent solitude.

Vix said...

I love my own company. I don't think anyone who doesn't can have a decent relationship with another human being.
The photos look blissful. What i wouldn't give for the kiss of sunshine on my limbs right now.
We're in Oxford next Saturday!! Are you? xxx

Melanie said...

I'm with Vix. I am sometimes annoyed how people get "concerned" if you enjoy spending time by yourself. I like both, alone time and frolicking time.
I absolutely love that vintage swimsuit. That area of Sweden reminds me of cottage country in northern Ontario in Canada.


I've learnt that having "alone time" is essential. I enjoy being surrounded by great friends and family, which is wonderful, but I find that some things, you just need to find out on your own. Personal growth cannot happen otherwise - nobody else can grow for you, it's when you are alone that you can choose to mature or remain in the same state. When I'm in artsy mode, I love to draw and sew in solitude. What a marvellous two-piece vintage Liberty print, and perfect environment to sit and read.

Lola Byatt said...

I was once given a wonderful compliment by somebody I have known for quite some time. He told me that I could never be lonely. It's something that I fear from time to time. I don't want to have a pity party but because of my disability, I feel that there will be a point in my life that others will pair off and go on to have families and I won't. I might do but I feel it would be harder for me to do so. I tend to dwell on the futures on the "what ifs" I wonder if the relations I have now will come under strain once partners and children take top priority. I suppose it is because as a society we are trained to believe that these are the goals we must achieve in order to feel normal, to feel part of society. I have to remind myself that as a species our only goal is to survive, this often puts things into perspective for me. So, when I was told (after my hour long rant of how I will end up on my own with nobody but me) I could never be lonely, it put a different spin on things. I don't need to fear being on my own because I'm fine with that.

Ivana Split said...

When I questioned my habits, I realized that often sports (swimming, running, hiking) were for me only an excuse to spend some time alone. I never really did team sports and now I understand why. I love people and I'm quite social but I always had this great need within myself to be alone at least half an hour or an hour a day. Today I had to fight red tape and that meant walking about 5 km , going from one office to another in my hometown Split. However, the day was sunny, it felt like Summer and I really enjoyed that solitary walk. I honestly don't mind when I have to spend a evening alone at home. I often quite enjoy it.

You look absolutely gorgeous in this matching set!!!!!!!

Willow said...

This is such a great topic to write about. I LOVE being alone. I think you're right, though: it's best when you have a healthy balance of socialization and alone-time and the ability to choose. I think that having that balance is essential to getting to know yourself, because you have time to be alone and explore your thoughts and feelings and interests without any kind of agenda, and then on the other hand, you can see all the ways your personality reflects on different people. These pictures are great. To me, that first photo totally captures the blissful feeling one can achieve through time spent alone. And oh my, that two piece really is glorious! Perfect for holidaying. You look really pretty, too; your skin has a lovely summery glow about it.

Alyssa G said...

Love this post. I love being alone... honestly, I prefer it to being with company most of the time. There's something just so special about enjoying a night in with everything YOU want to do, exploring a city on your own, learning about yourself. Thanks for sharing!

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