I spend a lot of time alone these days. I moved into my own apartment in November, and broke up with my girlfriend two weeks later. Where nearly all of my free time used to be spent with her, or in the company of my roommate (we didn't consciously spend time together, but I always felt her presence in the room next door), now my time is spent alone. I still see friends a few times a week, but this doesn't account for the many hours alone over the span of a weekend, or the time after work and before bed on week nights.
You could say I'm purposely doing this. I've had another relationship opportunity that I turned down in favor of spending more time with myself. I am trying to fall in love with solitude, I am trying not to see it as a negative but rather an opportunity to take full ownership of my time. I'm an introvert so some of this comes naturally. I always needed a certain amount of alone time each week when I was in a relationship. Now, I find the default of alone time quite nice, with the sporadic interruptions of socialization throughout the week.
So what am I learning? What have I been doing?
I'm learning there are times when I am really uncomfortable with my mental state. Where I want it to change, I don't want to just let it be. This is when I turn to CBD oil or edibles. I'm not sure if the resulting change is qualitatively better, it's just different, and that is what I'm seeking in the moment. Writing this out makes me think I need to give meditation another earnest chance.
Other times, I feel content, like now. I am sitting in my bed, drinking French press coffee, listening to Small Million, writing this. Moments like this I wish could stretch out and unfold deep into the night. I could probably live out my days like this, breaking only for food, bathroom, and an hour bout of exercise each day. Alas, even today I will have to break from this situation soon enough, because I have plans to go to the Legion of Honor with a friend.
I am learning that TV does not make me very happy. I resort to it when there is nothing else I can think of doing. I'd just as well do away with it altogether, and watch the occasional movie. That said, right now I have more time than any other particular pursuit demands, so TV often wins out.
I'm learning that passive creativity suits me well. I find it hard to sit and focus my attention on just one thing, but if my attention can disperse to a couple things, I can stay engaged for a while. For example, yesterday I drew and colored with the TV on in the background. I was barely paying attention to the TV, but I would not have been able to sit and draw for that long without it on. Similarly, I have music on right now – without it, I would not be able to sit and write this. Once again, this makes me think I need to give meditation another shot. My attention span is nearing zero; even at work it flitters from one thing to the next with barely a minute in between.
I'm learning that I am in love with my apartment, and my neighborhood. Home environment is so important to me, and I love making small improvements to it over time to make it feel even more like home. I hung up my guitar yesterday, thus creating a little “music nook” where my piano and now guitar live. I could just sit and look at the way my bed is situated against the gabled windows, or my clean kitchen floor, or my bathtub, for a while and never tire of it. My apartment makes me so goddamn happy.
I'm learning that a few good friends are way better than many acquaintances. I only feel the need to socialize maybe 2 or 3 times per week, so I'd rather fill those times with deep connections, with people I can skip the small talk with. It is enough for me, and I have no desire to fill up more of this treasured alone time with people I don't like or know very much.
I'm learning that I need to be creative. I spend my work day as a manager, which, for however challenging it is, is not the most creative. Of course I often need to come up with creative solutions for dealing with people or distributing work, but I mean “creative” in the literal sense, where one creates something. I do not produce anything at work. In my free time, I need to. I like to write, draw, code, practice music. I like to cook. I need to be making things to feel fully content. I'd like to nurture this side of me even more. Right now, I dabble. I'd like to get really good at some things, though. On my list right now: writing, piano, data visualizations.
I'm learning that I still need rituals to moor me. Every weekend morning I make a batch of French press coffee and drink it in bed while reading or perusing the internet. Every evening I stretch and use the foam roller. Every night before bed I read the New Yorker. These little things create predictability, comfort, they serve as guide posts from one day to the next. I can't imagine not having small habits like this. Daily repetitive acts that are unique to me remind me of my own personhood.