I’m getting to know myself better because I live alone. For me, the key ingredient to single life is enjoying luxurious times of silence. Read on…
Every so often, there is a media buzz surrounding the growing number of solos living alone. But, for seasoned solos, living alone is not always presented as the positive life experience it can be. Instead, it is more likely to be presented as a lifestyle associated with unpleasant emotions and experiences. A portrayal often leaving solos who live alone with a sense their life is in some way lacking or incomplete.
Can you think of a solo widely regarded as having ‘made it’ or finding success in life in the same way a person with a partner and children has done? Negative portrayals can stem from a lifestyle view projected upon us by the opinions of others; because, in reality, solo living is a relatively new phenomenon and one not fully realised or understood by mainstream society.
The picture being painted is one where we eat unappetizing meals at an empty kitchen table glancing longingly at the neighbouring happy couple living next door. In contrast, my experience of living alone is not that bad at all. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Advantages like having the freedom to take long, undisturbed showers; letting dishes pile up; and not having to put up with someone else’s bad habits are certainly some of the small joys of living alone.
Although it is interesting to read about the growing trend of living alone, I cannot help but feel what is generally talked about is only touching the surface. Having been single my entire adult life and living solo for most of it, I am convinced there is more to living alone than meets the eye.
For me, living alone allows me to have the lifestyle of my choosing. My social network and home enable me to form a solid foundation from within, where I have been able to get to know myself better. Compared to other constellations, solo life generally involves less social obligation and disturbance, opening the door for a great deal of alone time. After all, living alone means I need not compromise too much with others, whether they be family or friends. I am less obliged to prioritise others in the way couples must do with partners or as parents do, with children.
But, back in the day, I was an involuntarily single and living alone was more of a forced situation rather than one borne from choice. My ‘alone time’ mainly consisted of binge-watching mind-numbing reality tv; endless phone calls with others ‘trapped’ in solo-life; and worst of all – being consumed by social media. Obviously, the quality of this kind of alone time doesn’t cut it for me. Nor, do I imagine, would it be particularly satisfying for anyone else.
Gradually and remarkably, it has become ever more apparent that the key ingredient to meaningful alone time is silence. ‘Hey, what?’ you may ask, “How can silence be the key ingredient to living alone?”. Well, if you are going to spend time alone, as we solos frequently do; making the most of silence and solitude seems sensible if ensuring quality alone time is spent. For me, living alone comes with luxurious times of silence. It’s a luxury not often afforded by other relationship and lifestyle choices.
My definition of silence goes beyond the absence of audible sound and also includes ‘noise’ in the form of distraction, expectation and judgment from the outside world. In my case, 90% of external ‘disturbance’ has been connected to my forever and ongoing single status.
During times of change, from once being uncomfortable with my single status to where I am now, where I feel very much the opposite; poorly timed and predictable questions from others were persistent. Being asked “When are you going to settle down?” and being told, “You’re biological clock is ticking”, were frequent occurrences in many a conversation over the years. And do not get me started on the constant declarations of engagements, pregnancies and couples’ home purchases glorified and posted online. Altogether, this adds up to nothing less than pressure!
Once I positively introduced silence into my everyday living, it was a relief peeling away the layers and pressures created by the outside world. Stepping through the door of my home and pressing mute shut out all of the things I should be doing and the unreasonable expectations of others, we often take too seriously.
Instead, with the silence offered by living alone, I enter a space where my authentic self can step forward where I am no longer blurred by white noise. I tap into what feels good for me and what’s more, I am allowed to dream big without interjections or interference.
It’s self-investigation zooming in – to what brings me joy, laughter, inspiration and curiosity. Through the luxury of silence, I have found answers and clarity on issues and dilemmas most important to me – from day-to-day ponderings to pressures preying heavily on my mind. I feel compelled to get down to business and act in response to newfound ideas and inspirations evolving from self-investigation and personal quizzings.
It’s proving to be an exhilarating and never-ending process, allowing me to blossom and happily follow my own path. Sure, there were (and still are), occasional echoes in my mind, but I find it keeps getting easier to exclude external distractions when you’re alone.
Sounds amazing right? Well, don’t get too excited just yet. There is a flip side that’s not so pleasant. I guess it is the reason why some shy away from and would avoid living alone. I’m referring to periods of uncertainty, sadness, anxiety or any state of emotional unease.
During difficult times, living alone – or specifically, coping with silence, may not feel like comfort. Far from it, it’s more likely to feel like a sense of sadness because of being alone. Temporary relief in the form of work, keeping busy or being surrounded by people can be an easy escape from the discomfort felt inside.
But what if I told you silence can be just as valuable while experiencing emotional turbulence?
To demonstrate, let’s have a look at when two people get acquainted and go on to form a meaningful bond. The most meaningful bonds are built on sharing both pleasurable and challenging times. If one party is in pain, the other person’s reaction and contribution, if satisfactory, can deepen their connection. Once the hard and fast winds have calmed down, the result may be an enhancement in trust, appreciation, loyalty and ultimately, in the growth of love. If not, it would suggest the relationship is in need of repair.
Interestingly enough, this kind of development within relationships has a strong resemblance with the process I have with myself during tough moments. Through the luxury of silence and having the flexibility in life to lower the outside “noise” during stressful times, is for me, the equivalent of turning to another in times of need.
Aside from the clarity of mind silence brings, it also provides an opportunity to strengthen your inner core. Resulting in very similar and positive outcomes – trust, appreciation, love and loyalty manifest in ways parallelling the kind of support you would receive from others.
Once the hardship of complicated feelings has passed, you find you have created those positive feelings from within and most importantly, for and by yourself. You create your very own strong and stable core – an internal framework you come to understand. I can tell you now, there is no sadness to be found there. This is why times of silence can enhance your life while living alone.
By no means do I suggest underestimating the importance of having supportive social networks with family and friends close by. But while they have their place, what I am saying is in my experience, silence deserves more credit! With our noisy lives, silence is a joy to behold, worthy of our appreciation and a luxury afforded by the experience of living alone. They are times I have learned to cherish.