Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
Being alone has never really been a big problem for me, but Â then Â Iâ€™m technically Â an Â introvert. Â I Â draw Â strength Â from within, not from without. It doesnâ€™t mean I donâ€™t like people; I just donâ€™t need them like others sometimes do.
In fact, I tend to overdose if Iâ€™m constantly with other people. I need my solitude.
Most people think of a particular friend of mine as an extrovert because sheâ€™s so assertive and you never have to ask her to speak up. Her voice carries and demands authority. Sheâ€™s charismatic and people flock to Â her. But sheâ€™s much more an introvert than extrovert. She draws on Â internal resources, and thatâ€™s the difference.
She and I discovered this on trips to writersâ€™ conferences years ago. At a five-day conference, weâ€™d both be great for the first three days. By the third night, weâ€™d be hiding in our room, chatting until 3:00 in the morning and sheâ€™d be up again by 6:00, but away from the frenzy of the crowd. By the latter half of the conference, weâ€™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 weâ€™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 Â male cover models wearing fake feather angel wings and loin cloths Â while Â 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 Â women friends in their late 30â€™s to early 50â€™s. Some canâ€™t wait for their Â 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.
Itâ€™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. Itâ€™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 donâ€™t know. Iâ€™m not at that point yet.
For me, it feels really good knowing that Iâ€™m okay by myself and can take care of myself and my girls, and I really en- joy that sense of Â 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 Iâ€™d rather not have the partner.
But Iâ€™ve been on my own for a year and a half now and hey, it feels pretty good knowing I havenâ€™t imploded.
But then, I think it does help that Iâ€™m an introvert, and a very busy one at that.
Some people think that introversion is equivalent to shyness. Â It Â isnâ€™t. Â Itâ€™s Â simply Â a Â matter Â of Â where Â you Â draw Â your strength. For example, Iâ€™m an introvert and Shannon is an extrovert.
â€œI canâ€™t imagine being put in solitary confinement,â€ she tells me. â€œI have to have people. Solitary confinement would kill me.â€
â€œNot me. I do okay with solitude.â€ Then I smile. â€œAs long as I have a pencil and paper. Not being able to write would kill me.â€
â€œArgh! Not me,â€ Shannon declares. â€œIâ€™d probably stab myself through the heart with the pencil because I wouldnâ€™t be able to stand being alone.â€
And thatâ€™s the difference in an introvertâ€¦and an extrovert.