I live in a house by myself along with my rescue animals, who are often the best company I could hope for. In normal circumstances, this arrangement is perfect for me; my house is a quiet sanctuary from the motion and noise of my everyday life. When I’m around the bustle of production for one of my shows or on an adventure with some of my friends, my home makes for a welcome place of solitude I can come to, a place to relax and recharge.
But what about when solitude becomes the only option?
Like everyone else, my life changed dramatically in March as the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread to the United States. As we began to experience lockdowns and social distancing, I knew my life was going to change. Because of my autoimmune conditions, being extra cautious meant being cut off from many of my usual patterns of socialization. My house wasn’t just my sanctuary anymore; it suddenly became my whole world.
A lot of us, I think, have a quiet fear of being alone. We’re afraid that things we experience aren’t valid unless someone else shares in them. We’re scared of what being alone will mean for us, will mean about us. Loneliness is real; humans need each other to live, need community and comfort and support and love, and the prospect of being cut off from so much of those life-giving forces can be frightening.
But there’s something waiting for us on the other side of loneliness. There’s a chance to know ourselves better, a chance that we too often pass up in favor of knowing others instead. A chance to feel comfort in the quiet, to relish in the stillness, to see time with ourselves as a precious gift instead of a curse. How do you act when there’s nobody around? What interests are you drawn to when you alone are in full control of your time? Maybe you’ll find something you never expected in the silence: a newfound passion, a deeper focus, a softer and sweeter compassion for the voice inside your own head.
There is another gift in developing a comfort with being alone. When we no longer need to use other people as background noise or distractions, we are able to appreciate them, fully, for what they are. The people in our lives are no longer constants that we take for granted or tools we use to stave off loneliness; they are a treasure, actively chosen every day because of the value we know they have.
Our appreciation for other people can deepen so much when we stop thinking of them as a means to an end, and our understanding of the good they bring becomes so much clearer. They become beloved, precious extensions onto the happy life we have at our core instead of depleted resources that buckle under our expectations that they will fix our own inner unhappiness.
When you’re comfortable being alone, the experiences you choose to share with others can become absolutely magical. When we face the limits of living through a pandemic, our own imaginations can surprise us, and only make our connections stronger. A big, grand adventure might not be possible right now, but with some care, intentionality, and imagination, we can still create memories worth treasuring.
Last weekend, a friend and I decided to camp out in his back yard. We cooked our dinner on a grill, brought everything we needed outside, and set up our tents to give us the best view of the stars.
We pretended his pool was a nearby lake and brought a fan outside (if you’re going to pretend to be camping, you might as well go all the way and pretend to be glamping!). The ability to sleep under the stars, to change my perspective and spend time with a friend made for the perfect supplement to my socially distant life, and becoming comfortable in my own company made it all the more valuable.
If you’ve been spending quarantine alone, you might be surprised by what you learn about yourself, and the blessings and strength you find in the silence. You might also find that the ability to find small adventures, moments for joy and creativity in uncertain times, is one of the greatest gifts you can have.