I know that when I feel anxious or swimming in thoughts, I need to just write them down. It’s amazing the clarity that can be realized when I put my anxious thoughts to rest.
Being alone is hard for me. Ironically, I’m an introvert. But I think in today’s terms I’d be considered an “extroverted introvert.” I thrive on meaningful one-on-one interactions that still give me the time and space I need to decompress and process my experiences.
I never really had to learn to be alone before I got married. I lived in a busy household with my parents and sisters, and into high school I was very social. During college I lived at home, and though I didn’t have to share my room, I preferred to do my calculus homework at the dining room table rather than alone in my room.
I went straight from my parents’ house to my husband’s and my first apartment. For a little while we worked different shifts: I taught during the day and he worked second shift. So I did spend quite a few evenings alone.
There is one evening I distinctly remember nearly 14 years ago now. I think he was either at work or already at basic training for the Army. I laid down to take a nap around 1pm and didn’t wake up until 6pm. For one thing, I must have needed the sleep. For another thing, I woke up feeling so groggy and even mad at myself for sleeping so long.
Our laundry facilities were in the first floor of the building, and I would freak myself out by forgetting to lock the apartment door while I went to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer. I would come upstairs, scared someone came in while I was out for only a few minutes. I’d go around the house and check in all the closets and behind all the doors. I was a bit paranoid.
Here I am, a decade and a half later, and I still have trouble being alone. Granted, when I first had to spend extended time by myself, it was because my husband shipped off to basic training only a couple months after being laid off. Living the military lifestyle was not our original plan. And now as a woman in my mid-30s, I want to want to be alone. I want to relish in it, and as my sister told me, give myself the gift of having to think only of myself.
She told me to lean into it, give myself new experiences like day trips, and just enjoy it. Tonight I leaned into it by making myself a real dinner, one that I can eat on all week. I got dressed and went for a walk and enjoyed the beauty of the day.
I’ve been a little emotional recently. Chalk it up to recent life-changing surgery, family members coming and going, or the impending full moon, but I realize if I just let it out, I’ll feel so much better. Expressing emotions by crying is cathartic.
On a walk with the dog (just she and I – I can now return to most normal activities!), I felt a little overcome by the clear blue sky, warm breeze, and smell of freshly mown grass. Life is beautiful, and the world is a beautiful place. When I allow myself to rest in that, my anxiety quiets down and I can finally take a deep breath.