Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
Being alone has never really been a big problem for me, but then I’m technically an introvert. I draw strength from within, not from without. It doesn’t mean I don’t like people; I just don’t need them like others sometimes do.
In fact, I tend to overdose if I’m constantly with other people. I need my solitude.
Most people think of a particular friend of mine as an extrovert because she’s so assertive and you never have to ask her to speak up. Her voice carries and demands authority. She’s charismatic and people flock to her. But she’s much more an introvert than extrovert. She draws on internal resources, and that’s the difference.
She and I discovered this on trips to writers’ conferences years ago. At a five-day conference, we’d both be great for the first three days. By the third night, we’d be hiding in our room, chatting until 3:00 in the morning and she’d be up again by 6:00, but away from the frenzy of the crowd. By the latter half of the conference, we’d be dipping in and out of the fray and retreating frequently to our room.
We used to stay in a room with four roommates to save money, but we’ve found that we really need a refuge in some of the more frenetic conferences and conventions. And it seriously has nothing to do with the male cover models wearing fake feather angel wings and loin cloths while fretting about their curling-ironed hair. We just need a little solitude with so many people around and under foot.
The subject of solitude seems to be a hot button for all my women friends in their late 30’s to early 50’s. Some can’t wait for their mates to go away on business trips. Others are scraping their husbands off of them because they need desperately to breathe. A few others say they and their long-term partners take mini-vacations from each other and it helps to make their marriages stronger because it gives them a chance to pursue their own interests and become even more interesting as individuals.
It’s funny how many women who have been married for twenty years absolutely love their time alone and treasure it. I do know the feeling. It’s me time.
Then again, as an acquaintance puts it, after years of solitude, it can no longer feel great but instead a lot like loneliness. I don’t know. I’m not at that point yet.
For me, it feels really good knowing that I’m okay by myself and can take care of myself and my girls, and I really en- joy that sense of independence. I hope that if I ever take an- other partner in my life that I can maintain the freedom and individuality and balance the closeness with independence. Other- wise, I think I’d rather not have the partner.
But I’ve been on my own for a year and a half now and hey, it feels pretty good knowing I haven’t imploded.
But then, I think it does help that I’m an introvert, and a very busy one at that.
Some people think that introversion is equivalent to shyness. It isn’t. It’s simply a matter of where you draw your strength. For example, I’m an introvert and Shannon is an extrovert.
“I can’t imagine being put in solitary confinement,” she tells me. “I have to have people. Solitary confinement would kill me.”
“Not me. I do okay with solitude.” Then I smile. “As long as I have a pencil and paper. Not being able to write would kill me.”
“Argh! Not me,” Shannon declares. “I’d probably stab myself through the heart with the pencil because I wouldn’t be able to stand being alone.”
And that’s the difference in an introvert…and an extrovert.