10 In thinking out loud

the possibility of going bat-shit crazy

188 / 365 - I could really use a wish right now
188/365, by Noukka Signe on flickr

it’s taken me a really long time to learn how to be alone.
i don’t mean the kind of alone that happens only when everyone else i live with leaves the house and i have time to watch a movie, fold laundry or surf the internet in peace.

i mean the kind of alone where i remove myself from my space… a retreat if you will. to somewhere unfamiliar, without all the trimmings – no tv (not that we have one anyway), no magazines, no internet, no fancy camera (i left my shiny new dslr at home), no distractions. a place where the water is heated by lighting a fire, drinking water is collected from an outside tap, the loo is outside the accommodations; there’s nothing to do, nothing to fix, nowhere else to be.

it made me kinda twitchy. okay, really twitchy.
shouldn’t i be DOing something? reading a book? i wonder if i should make some more tea. sweep the floor (again). go for a walk? i started out with all these rules in my head about what this time would look like, what was going to happen, what i would do, what i would get out of it, what i would ACHIEVE… and i have no idea why. it seemed somehow that i was trying to set myself up to fail because i wouldn’t be able to keep to this program i had pre-defined.

it took patience to be still. and quiet.
i don’t mean the quiet of not talking to anyone else; i’m talking about the quiet of not thinking and the quiet of listening.

there were a couple of the first days where i fell into unhealthy patterns of trying to disconnect – eating food i didn’t want (or need) and swigging back wine to try and avoid any kind of conversation with myself about what was really going on.

i did wonder if i was going to go bat-shit crazy being alone for over a week.
however as i stuck with it, the feeling of calm and of knowing how to be alone (without feeling lonely) for an extended period of time, came so naturally that i don’t even remember when it happened, or how i transitioned from feeling-like-i-ought-to-be-doing-something to simply being. i just remember sitting on the step one evening realising that a whole day had gone by where i hadn’t felt at all uncomfortable or like i should be anywhere but right where i was.

and with that realisation, and the realisation that i wasn’t broken and had nothing to be afraid of, there were no further attempts to avoid myself – no more junk food, no more quaffing back the wine as if to shut the world (or myself) out. my movements became more relaxed, i saw more, heard more, slept better, and made it out the other side only slightly more crazy than when i went in!

the things that really are important to me finally got the chance to be heard. and i listened.

If she got really quiet and listened, new parts of her wanted to speak.
S.A.R.K.

i do know that what i expected that i would get out of this time alone (when i began) was totally not what emerged. it was something better. something that i felt i could put on and wear because it fits me. it was my retreat, with me listening to myself, giving me what i needed, rather than following someone else’s rules or guidelines for what a retreat should look like. actually, i didn’t even follow my own rules and guidelines. i chilled the fuck out and let everything unfold itself naturally without trying to pressure myself into coming up with a Big Life Plan.

and today, of all the thousands of wishes i could make, this one seems to want to be spoken first:
i wish for you to be able to find the time and space (however much or little that you need/can reserve for yourself) in order to sit and listen to any parts that want to speak.

may it be so

oh, PS (totally offtopic) – just a wee update about my book… my etsy shop is in vacation mode, however if you want to buy my book of poems, click on the image on the sidebar (or this link here) and you will be taken to a preview, and can purchase, on blurb. cheers

  • Amy
    30/09/2010 at 20:24

    What a fabulous and amazing experience. I have alot of trouble being alone with myself, even with all the comforting trappings and distractions. I tried to do this a few months ago–I had my getaway all planned out and arranged, but twisted my ankle two days before I was supposed to go. *sigh* Maybe next year… It is very encouraging to read about your experience, to know that you were able to get comfortable and listen to yourself.

  • Karen Travels
    26/09/2010 at 18:40

    Oooooh, I want to do this. But I love being by myself, and I don’t think I would be concerned about not have human contact. But I am a wuss at night. For example, I would love to rent a cabin in a remote area for a week, but every single sound at night would have me shaking. The problem: My imagination is way too vivid!!

    But I want to get over my fear and do it!

  • pohanginapete
    25/09/2010 at 21:25

    The irony’s that people who do this, even if only occasionally, are so often labelled “loners” — and not in a good sense; much of our society seems to have a fear of people who can be comfortable with just their own company. One of the things I love about this post is that it helps foster the idea that spending time completely alone not only isn’t weird and strange and suspect but has great benefits: that it’s something to be encouraged, not something about which we should feel suspicious. For me, time alone in the way you describe (alone in the Ruahine Range is ideal) helps me NOT to go bat-shit crazy.
    Thanks for this excellent post, Leonie.

  • Swiry
    25/09/2010 at 16:45

    This is so beautiful! I have been on a couple of similar solo retreats, but not in a long while, and you have inspired me to make this a commitment. I have been yearning for this kind of time to myself for a long while now, and I need to simply make it happen. Thank you for sharing this.

  • bella
    25/09/2010 at 13:51

    The prospect of real alone time can be scary, especially for me who’s never taken this sort of time to myself. It’s something I’d really like to try. I would hesitate and procrastinate – but I think I would do it.
    ~as for your own experience: i feel so good for you – that you took the leap and did this for yourself. you came out of it as a different you, stronger and full. loved reading about your experience – and love you. xo

  • Marianne
    25/09/2010 at 02:55

    You are brave. And you are right.
    When I let myself be still and quiet long enough, I hear new voices – my voices – saying things I hadn’t listened well enough to hear before.
    Thank you for reminding me.

  • Pip
    25/09/2010 at 01:43

    Wow – so you were on your own out there? I love this post! Sounds like you had a challenging but totally rewarding time of it. Looking forward to seeing you soooo much!

  • Ashley
    24/09/2010 at 21:40

    This is an amazing post and an amazing idea. I’ve honestly never thought of going away on a retreat by myself. Perhaps it would be a good idea. I feel as if I’ve forgotten how to be alone and be with me. I feel as if I’m almost avoiding myself sometimes, so I don’t have to work through some ideas, so I don’t have to be creative, because being creative is painful.

    Wow…. I was just able to put into words something I’ve felt but haven’t acknowledge for the last month. Thank you!

  • darlene
    24/09/2010 at 18:21

    love this. so love that you did this for yourself, makes me want to revisit it. when i was in my early twenties, i took myself to the forest by the lake and camped in my tent for a month. by myself. alone. i didn’t see another human out in the wild. it was all sorts of scary and then all sorts of crazy and then all sorts of beautiful and it was the best gift i have ever given myself. i love you xoxo

  • Jo
    24/09/2010 at 17:46

    You AMAZE me Leoniewise. Truly.
    Here’s to chilling the fuck out in our own way.
    I love you x