Writing Memoir

Seeking solitude and sanity in everyday life

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal

I was contemplating the complexities of being an introvert or what feels like introvertedness when I thought about the times I had tuned out.

On my 21st birthday I was dragged out of my comfort zone to sit in a bar in Omaha Nebraska with a bunch of strangers. The reason I was in Omaha was my friend Sara asked me if I wanted to accompany her to go visit her boyfriend, and since I had never been to Nebraska, I said, yes, why not?

During the drive I learned that Nebraska is one flat state. Of course, we were coming from Colorado so the comparison seems terribly unfair.

I sat at the end of a long table with my friend’s friends awkwardly while they tried to rouse me into going bar hopping, drinking and revelry. They were nice, but I hadn’t wanted to go out and I wasn’t in the mood. I suppose I missed an opportunity to make new friends and have an adventure when I asked Sara to return me to the house. Under the covers of a super soft bed, I opened up my latest stash of X-Men comic books and got lost in reading.

Another opportunity I missed was when I was 16 and visiting family in Thailand. My mom woke us up early and said that this was a special day; someone was getting married in the village. I didn’t want to go. We fought. It was a fine moment in stubbornness, and in the end, I won. I stayed in the hotel room, read, and then got bored waiting for my mom and brother to return. I regretted not going, but looking back I probably needed time to be alone after constantly being with them.

According to Bustle, a website for women by women:

Though many people confuse “introversion” with being shy and “extroversion” with being friendly or popular, the terms actually refer to your relationship with social interaction. Extroverts find social interaction emotionally nourishing and “recharging,” while introverts find it taxing and often have to “recharge” after hanging out with friends or going to parties.

Apparently there are four types of introversion: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained.

A successful day for me is if I don’t leave the house. That might sound crazy, but I’m pretty low-maintenance.  I love a full fridge, working electricity + Internet, and hours to read and write (and spending time with my BF and buffalo, of course).

However, I don’t think that being an introvert is some great thing necessarily. Sometimes I feel like it’s a curse: needing space, being touchy and hyper-sensitive. Other times, I simply drink in the silence and solitude, and luxuriate in living my own universe.

I can’t say that I have that ‘fear of missing out’, but I do admire extroverted personalities and their endless seemingly inexhaustible energy. They are out there raising their glasses of wine celebrating life, dancing into the early light. I knew an extrovert who gave so much until her life was taken by cancer. She was incredibly positive, too.

And while I know that I have this ‘hide in my cave’ tendency, I’m also aware of how much I enjoy making people laugh. I love teasing my friends, and listening to stories. I was in high school and college theatre.  I’ve thrown a surprise party for my bestie and a dress up party at my house. (Both were pretty kickin’ if I may say so.) I used to participate in Chiang Mai’s Irish Pub’s quiz night even though I had nothing to offer my team, but snarky remarks. I can dance, as in, scare you with my chipmunk impersonation and I’m fearless about walking up to strangers and talking to them. I’m a complicated woman.

Nevertheless, this conversation plays out regularly in our apt:

“Ugh. I don’t want to go out!”

“You always complain about having to go out with your friends and then you have a great time!”

“I know, but that’s not the point!”

The Atlantic put out an article on how post-Millennials are experiencing consequences of always being on their smart phones, for example, depression, lack of social skills, and what appears to be introversion. I think before introversion became hip, it was seen as something negative and to be avoided, so I feel like when we talk about being introverted we should mention what kind. The good or the bad? Because I think the kind The Atlantic was discussing is the latter.

For me, part of being introverted is making space to self-reflect (the good kind).

When I’m alone, I realize the thought-patterns I create. I recognize that I’m thinking of work when I’m getting up in the morning. Or that I’m reflecting on the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Or that I’m having a conversation with an imaginary foe or friend about politics.

When I’m at work, I don’t know if I’m aware of my thoughts as clearly. There’s too much going on around me. When I’m teaching, I’m much more likely to be in the moment, and that simply comes from years of training. You really can’t daydream too much in the classroom. It’s important to be a facilitator and available to your students.

It’s important that I have time to get back into orbit, to center myself. When I’ve been traveling too much or pushing myself with too many social obligations, I start to feel like life is out of control. I want to scream. My skin feels itchy and my tolerance is ready to burst in a very messy and regrettable way.

Hannah Arendt reminds us, if we lose our capacity for solitude, our ability to be alone with ourselves, then we lose our very ability to think. We risk getting caught up in the crowd. We risk being “swept away by what everybody else does and believes in” — no longer able to distinguish “right from wrong, beautiful from ugly.”

I’ve always felt like it was necessary to be alone after a long-term relationship breakup, to not rebound, but to remain in the company of you in order to contemplate what happened and, well, like yourself again, even if you were the one who ended the relationship. It seems healthier despite the discomfort we might feel from the separation.

It’s natural that we want things to be easy. We like easy answers. We’ve certainly gotten used to quick answers. But it’s like we move faster than ourselves in order to escape being alone with our thoughts. We plug in, but I wonder how much we’re aware of what’s going on internally when we auto-share, like, scroll, blink and scan.

However we do it, whether we pray, meditate or walk quietly through the neighborhood, I feel we have to take the time to stop downloading what the world wants us to hear, and learn to listen to our heart beat instead…because that’s when the sanity enters, and the magic begins.

What about you? Do you like to be alone? How do you find the time? What to you usually do?

Advertisements

51 thoughts on “Seeking solitude and sanity in everyday life

  1. I love being alone – listening to music and catching up on films I’ve recorded. But i also like being with my wife watching films (alas not music – for some reason punk/new wave never hit Thailand and she doesn’t get the Undertones, Clash and most importantly The Jam). So yes, everyone should have time alone/ time out/ just time on their own. But also make time for the people you love and care for. Too much time on your own can make you lonely.

    Steve

    ps: Lani you always brighten up my day and inspire me – keep it up – i love reading about your life and travels. Now

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Steve. I’d rather brighten than darken anyone’s day, and by saying that you’ve brightened mine!

      Yes. Music.It’s funny, we were just talking about that last night, as in, I can’t always listen to music when I write. I have to do one or the other 🙂 Punk isn’t for everyone. Although I think a small group of younger Thais have found it. 😀

      It is a balancing act – making time for others and yourself. There are times in which I definitely have to pull myself out of ‘alone time’ and reach out. There is just too much literature that talks about the imporantance of community, too.

      Like

  2. I really like that definition of introversion you shared – that it’s not about a shy personality, but more like how we interact with others and the world. I’m an introvert, have always been and probably will always will be. Going to a party and coming back halfway like what you did is so not me – whenever someone proposes a social situation with more than a few people, my response immediately will be no. Just no. This also goes for after-work drinks. No for me.

    Alone time is very important for me. I can go a whole month without catching up with any of my friends in real life over a meal or drink or a day out. Can even do it a couple of months, which I’ve experienced. There’s a certain power I feel when it comes to being on my own. Not only do I feel free to think what I want to think, my thoughts flow more freely and cohesively, and no one to tell me off or let alone comment on what I’m doing with my life.

    ‘It’s natural that we want things to be easy.’ So true. Being alone, I think that teaches you to fend for yourself in more ways than one. On my own, I’ve learnt how to change a lightbulb on my own, explore places unknown on my own two feet, you get the picture. Give me a weekend on my own and I’d take a walk around the city, window shop without making eye contact and then getting out of there the moment I start to feel overstimulated, go back home and tidy my house.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, if you ever feel like stretching yourself, moving out of your comfort zone, I’d say yes to drinks and yes to a party sometime.I remember when I was reading something about challenging yourself to be alone, as in, go to the movies alone, eat out alone and eating out alone (this was in high school) seemed really scary and a big deal, so I brought a book and went to a fast food joint to try it. Now, it seems funny that – that was ever a big deal!

      But that’s me. I think sometimes you have to do what scares you.:P

      Being alone has taught me to be more independent. Good point. It’s nice to feel empowered and capable. I used to think it was weird that folks needed a friend to go to something, like errands, but sometimes having a friend along can make it more enjoyable. I appreciate both sides.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve previously tried being social in recent times, going for drinks, playing games with people I don’t know so well, going to see an exhibition as part of a group…all the time I just wanted to get out of there lol. It’s like I get scared even more and I have decided to avoid these things so as not to hype up my anxiety 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I am an introvert and although I have mixed with people more than i have done, I do have to have my own time. If i don’t, I burn out. (Something I have mentioned on my blog.) I don’t feel i miss out whether on my own at home or travelling on my own. I love it. I love the peace and quiet too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ME, TOOOOO! I do burn out and feel exhausted and resentful even. My time alone is important, sacred and precious. I wish that I didn’t have to work for a living! But I know that my job gets me out of the house 😀 otherwise, it would be challenging to get out of pajamas!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If I did not have to go out, I think it would be easy to stay in, although I would have to go out at least in nature of some kind. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I can really relate. I do enjoy connecting with others but I also love being alone, and I find that the older I get, the more I treasure my alone time and crave more of it. I might be a total hermit by the time I turn 90.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heheh. I can now look at older people and see how it happens. Cat lady? Oh, yeah, get it. I’ve contemplated many times in my life, retreating into the countryside.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. After reading this, I think I must be an introvert too! Like you, I want some time alone after I’ve been around a lot of people, traveling or after a long week at work. It’s difficult to explain this to people who don’t feel this way, especially if they think you are just avoiding going out. I think it’s important that you mention that you aren’t cloistering yourself from society, but rather taking some time out to evaluate and reflect on things going on in your life. Do you have to handle people who think you are just brushing them off when you just don’t feel like going out? How do you balance socializing with your own time now that you are a little older?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Friends who really know me, know that I’m this way and they put up a fight until they realize the battle is lost. I’ve said ‘no’ enough times and I’m never seen in after work affairs that my coworkers don’t bother asking me (but the sweet thing is they ocassionally do, just in case I’ve changed my mind and I know I’m always welcomed).

      And I’m okay with all of that.

      If something is important like a birthday or going away party, then I make the effort. I’ve been to more ‘new teachers welcoming shindigs’ than I’d like to count. I do like my friends, love them even more for putting up with my ways, actually. But it’s hard sometimes. There’s a girl at work that is just always asking to hang out and I’m like, “hey, I’m writing a book. It’s not you, it’s me. I need to get stuff done.” Because when I was social, I didn’t write as much as I should or could have. I get more done by closing the door.

      Like

  6. Oh, yeah, we really love our easy answers. Black and white ones. Maybe if we took more time to reflect, we’d see more grays. We’d have more time to think, to consider how to be proactive rather than, as you say, simply reactive to the crowd around us.

    Maybe that’s why I hate crowds. They become mobs.

    Like

    1. I think because we live in the Age of Information that we are totally overloaded and we assimilate all that information by simplifying answers and solutions. It takes much more time and energy to research (hello, college days!) and have a think about stuff (especially with social media at our finger tips).

      The psychology of crowds is an interesting thing. I generally don’t like them either. I remember trying to see the NYC New Years Eve ball drop, my friend and I decided to bail once it got too cold and crowded (esp. with drunks). Music crowds can be great, but I usually have to step away because I don’t like having people too close to me. Hahahah. Don’t read into that!

      Like

  7. I don’t mind being alone. In fact, because I work from home, I am alone all day. I normally don’t even need to open my mouth all day, unless the dog does something and I yell at her…

    I don’t have many friends here, so my weekends are not exactly very social either. Normally it’s just C. and I! I like reading so that’s what I do mostly on my spare time. I wouldn’t mind having more of a social life though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There have definitely been times when I have felt a bit shut in and not as social as I’ve wanted to be so I can relate. But it can be challenging to find the right people. We’re not drinkers, partiers, swingers (hahaha), so finding folks who are on the same page makes us seem anti-social I fear.

      Like

      1. You got it absolutely right. I don’t get along too well with the partiers and drinkers and also I don’t have too much in common with the mums (also they don’t have much time to hang out anyway). I’m totally in between hahaha.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I loved this post, Lani. I could really relate. I crave to be alone sometimes. I love being home and don’t look for opportunities to go out in the evening. The exception would be time with family or my dearest Thommmee. I never considered myself an introvert but after reading this I may have become one- andI love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heh, heh. There is the running joke that we introverts should start a club, but of course, we’d never meet. 😛

      Yeah, I love being domestic. I like just puttering around home, cooking, cleaning, reading, writing and living in my own little world. Nature is important, so my dream is to be able to walk in a big beautiful park again near our home, and if we were more settled we’d have pets.

      Like

  9. This is amazing! Trust it to be you who opens my eyes to something new about introversion. I actually had no idea there were four different types! But it makes total sense. I’ve always known from personal experience that many introverts seemed to be extroverts (me included), but would never have classified themselves that way.

    I immediately went and read all about it – fascinating! And funny, because when I took the test, I scored fairly evenly across the board, but strongest on Thinking, which I assumed anyway.

    Yes, I love to be alone…mostly. It’s funny, because 99% of the time, I would prefer to be alone than in any kind of company. I could never fully, completely relax with anyone, friend or family. But recently, I’ve been kind of…lonely at home. I’ve lived alone for two years now, and maybe I’m getting my fill. I find myself wanting to go out on weekends, a feeling utterly foreign. I want to hang out with coworkers and share stories and small talk. It might be because we don’t have students, so my days are less hectic, and that once I get students again, I’ll go right back to needing alone in the dark time all the time…but maybe the seasons of my life are changing.

    Anyway, yet again, you’ve given me food for thought.

    I’m glad the world is a little more open to us introverts, and we’re slowly starting to accept ourselves too!

    Introvert hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that we go through phases, sometimes needing that outside contact and other times needing to retreat.

      I think I really do need a balance because otherwise, I’m inside too much. Which I should mention has a lot to do with living in Cambodia (a very hot climate) and being an expat, too.

      So, I think it’s natural that you’d want to be social especially with folks who understand what it’s like to be a foreigner in Korea. It’s funny, I have a student from S. Korea right now and I’ve told her I’m going to find her if I ever visit!

      Glad you liked the post 🙂

      Like

  10. Funny bc I have ready a piece on my own hermetic mind to share in a wk or so. I appreciate the part about needing to download yourself, esp after a disappointing fall-out. Probably bc after such an episode, we are more vulnerable to defining ourself by how our friend might have viewed us or we might run our sense of worth through the grid of the unsavory experience when are in fact so much more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we are more vulnerable, aren’t we? So it makes sense to sit with that, but there are plenty of others who just jump right back into the game. Hahahahha.

      Like

  11. I have my dog to thank for getting me out of the house at least twice daily, otherwise I’d probably see the light of day maybe once or twice a week at best. I love the days with no commitments, where I spend the precious hours doing things I really enjoy, like baking or reading, or just catching up on sleep. I used to feel like I was somehow broken because I prefer being a homebody to going out and engaging in an activity (or two). I dunno… I guess with age comes acceptance of self, and this self of mine loves to sit around in jammies all day and I don’t care if others think that’s an unproductive use of time.

    It’s like what my husband and I used to say to each other at the beginning of every summer, “we HAVE to make the most of the summers; they’re so short!” So we’d have these grand visions and plans of traveling or taking trips into nature to do camping/canoeing/hiking. Then comes the cold and snow and we’re like, “oh, we did none of that, oops LOL”. We stopped thinking that way this year because the truth is, we were only planning those things because we felt we had to do those things, lest we “waste” away our precious summer days. This summer we’ve been enjoying quiet weekends spent doing our own thing and taking it easy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Part of the reason why I resented the American work week was I never felt like I could decompress. After running around on Saturday doing chores and getting things done, you only really have one day, Sunday. And that’s simply not enough, hence the rise of ‘working at home’, entrepreneurs, digital nomads, expats and the “7 Hour Workweek”.

      I think we’ve done a great disservice in not allowing Americans more time off. Other cultures and societies have so much more and I beleive they are healhier and happier for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So true! I see my husband slugging out 50-60+ hr weeks and I think, why? In this age of technology, you’d think people could work less but it’s just the opposite. Constantly connected and an expectation that you’re reachable 24/7 via email/text. It’s awful.

        At least in Canada we get a decent amount of vacation time and 1 year mat leave, but our neighbours to the south get next to nothing. They have a long way to go as it relates to the working culture!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Aaaaw…You know I love discussing about personalities. Well, I’m kind of complicated, too. I had always believed I was an introvert until I took the personality test. I’m an ENFJ and having read descriptions of the personality, I became convinced I’m not an introvert after all. I love being with friends and people I like. That said, I have this side that confuses me. I can stay at home and just read the whole day and surf the net. I had gone on days like that in the past. I guess that was because I was more interested in spending time with books rather than the people around me whom I didn’t like and vice-versa.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope we naturally do what we need whether it is spending time with people who care about us or getting the ‘alone time’ we need.

      These days, filled with distractions and technology, I just think that we need more quality alone time to contemplate and reflect more than ever.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. There is sufficient evidence by counsellors for young people, especially children and teens, that way too much computer/iPhone screen time doesn’t expand their real person social skills / some depression. It is different from an introvert reading tons of books (like myself as a child growing up) because online tweeting, FB to others who you only know by online personalities masks true in person relationship building. It hides or amplifies the certain things on online personalities.

    Learning to be alone, content without the Internet communication/need to check online world can be helpful for a calm and peaceful mind.

    My partner and I self-define ourselves as happy, social hermits. We each like talking lots with a person in person and spending time. But happy to go off cycling solo or on solitary activity for many hrs. I personally need to step outside for an hr. or so for a walk or bike ride. It helps me to feel the outside energy or be exposed to Nature in all its unpredictability / glory.

    I do think the comfort of solitude might be partially influenced by birth order. I am a first born and so is he. I’ve noticed a lot of other first borns, generally are happy with an solitary activity/passion and can amuse themselves for hrs.. They don’t need tons of social interaction/constant attention from others around them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting. I’m first born, too. Makes sense. And I like your term ‘happy social hermits’ that describes us to a ‘T’!

      Stepping outside into pristine nature is also very important. I miss clean parks and hiking in the mountains or along a nice trail. But I suppose as long as we try to be mindful and appreciate nature in our own ways that’s what counts, too.

      Cheers, Jean.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I have a tendency to gravitate towards being alone, but I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s something that I’m used to or if I’m socially introverted. It really depends on my mood! I spent a lot of my twenties living on my own, so I got used to my own company. Learning to live with myself. And be happy on my own. I think that everyone, at some point in their lives, should live on their own just to get to know themselves.

    Now, I’m on my own in the evenings every day, what with the husband working nights. Friends have moved away. And I’m back to that place I was in my twenties, being home in the evenings, on my own almost every day. If I hadn’t had the practice of being on my own, life would be tough right now.

    It’s funny, working remotely and then getting together for work for an intense week of work and socialising is tiring. It’s funny, because there’s a few colleagues who feel the same. The need to just retire to our own hotel rooms after a day and a lot of the evening of being with people. It can be exhausting. But if I’m in the right mood it can be just what I need.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree. Living alone is a great way to get to know yourself. Often, we figure that out after we’ve lived with someone. I spent a lot of time alone as a kid, and growing up in general, so it’s comforting, I guess.

      Yeah, work is for socializing. Colleagues think I’m a very outgoing person because I like to be in the thick of it at work, but that’s just me getting my socializing groove out, because when I’m not at work, I’m done!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. As you said there are differing types of introvert and I would put myself in the ‘social introvert’ category. I do love my time with friends and can enjoy the large group setting from time to time, but I definitely need my alone time to refresh and recharge and I know that I don’t get it near enough anymore

    Liked by 1 person

Comments create conversations. Let's talk.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s