On the art of being alone

“for I myself am best,
When least in company.”- Shakespeare, Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 4

I had one whopper of a migraine yesterday. It was a nice follow-up to a panic attack that left me exhausted…just drained of all my reserves. But as I recovered, I found the thought of spending one more minute in my cave of a bedroom (if you suffer from migraines you understand the importance of a dark, quiet space) just as nauseating as the migraine itself.  So I packed my battered psyche and went to the Detroit Institute of Arts this morning.

The DIA is a very soothing place to me.  And as I wandered around amongst the art I started to feel better, physically and mentally. One thing struck me though: how much I love doing things alone.  Coming from a known introvert and loner this isn’t a surprise. But as I stood there viewing Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait with Shaded Eyes I felt…at peace. Even with crowds of people milling around me.

Going to places alone is actually something I’ve done my entire life. But only lately has the act had such a profound effect on me. Perhaps because introverted personalities and loners are gaining more acceptance in society, and if not acceptance, then at least extroverts and gregarious persons are more aware of our existence. Or perhaps it’s because I recently had to comfort a waitress at my favorite restaurant and convince her that it was, in fact, okay that I was having lunch alone. She still looked at me aghast as I paid my bill even after my insistence that lunch alone will not kill me; completely unable to fathom the idea that a person could be alone, but not lonely.

It’s really a fantastic way to experience the world. To be amongst people but to still feel distant and able to be alone with your own thoughts while in a crowd is a special thing. And it’s something I would recommend to everyone. Even if you aren’t a loner take an afternoon to go see a movie, have lunch, visit somewhere that means as much to you as the DIA means to me. But do it alone, with nothing other than your thoughts to keep you company. And in the end I think you’ll discover for yourself the art of being alone, but never lonely.

For an interesting read on the loner personality check out “Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto” by Anneli Rufus.