<b>Slice of life:</b> Alone, not lonely
In today’s connected world, spending time by oneself is a luxury at best and a lost art at worst
Last evening, I was at a friend’s place, visiting her at her new home, for the first time. Warm, welcoming and done up beautifully, what immediately caught my eye was a delightful large wooden plaque, about four by two feet, leaning against the wall, painted sky blue, which had the words “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning to dance in the rain.” I remarked how beautiful the saying and the plaque was. My friend said that it was something that held true for her and that she lived by this dictum. The plaque with its rustic, vintage finish was an unusual artefact and she said she had it shipped all the way from Australia, where she got it. While transporting it, as a part of checked-in luggage, a portion right on top broke off. Had she not mentioned it, I would have imagined it was a part of the vintage look, done deliberately. The rough, now imperfect top edge, complimented the saying that it sported perfectly, adding to it’s charm.
We had an interesting conversation later. We spoke about needing alone time or me time to recharge. My friend used to work as cabin crew at an international airline and had a hectic flying life. At the end of very long flights, flying across time zones, when she finally got off work, she didn’t want to see anyone, or speak to anybody. All she wanted was to be by herself, so she could gather back her energies. I nodded in agreement with what she was saying, as I felt the same way after I travelled for literature festivals and book launches. At an international literature festival that I attended recently, which saw an enormous number of attendees (in lakhs) and multiple sessions, I felt a deep need to be disconnected from it all, and took frequent short breaks in my hotel room to recover, before I could go and meet more people.
Our circumstances and career choices were different from each other. But our outlook was the same. Meeting tonnes of people, smiling, being nice and polite — as it is a part of your job — while enacting and living Edvard Munch’s scream inside your head for various reasons beyond your control, the time spent alone becomes more precious than the air you breathe. It becomes an essential that you require to retain your sanity.
In today’s connected world, spending time by oneself is a luxury at best and a lost art, at worst. Some people find socialising energising and some find it draining, the former being extroverts and the latter being introverts. But science tells us that even the most extroverted among us, do benefit from spending time alone. Jennifer Kahnweiler, a certified speaking professional and an author says that just because someone is extroverted, it does not mean they don’t need alone time at all. It merely means, the amount of time they need alone, for recharging might be shorter. While an introvert might need an entire weekend, the extrovert may be ready to go and meet people after just a couple of hours.
Another study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience talks about how the brains of extroverts associate the dopamine that their body releases with the environment that they are in, at that time. Hence for extroverts, instant gratification matters a lot more.
Mostly, the world tends to equate the need for solitude with anti-social tendencies or with people who are depressed, lonely or sad. Never is a need for me-time or time by yourself seen as something that is accepted and the norm.
Life does not always go the way you want it to. It meanders, twists, turns and throws you off the map you had chalked out. At times like these, whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, it helps to take some time off, and to reconnect with your core. Who we are at any given point of time, is constantly changing. We have multiple thoughts, each one racing with the other. When you take time off from everything, you slow down and contemplate.
It is imperative to reflect, think and choose a path, which feels right, under the current circumstances. That is the only thing, one can do, to face life’s battles. And whether you win or lose, it is important to remember those words inscribed on that plaque in my friend’s house.
(Preeti Shenoy is the author of eight bestselling books,the latest being a fiction titled It’s All In The Planets)
Columnist: 
Preeti Shenoy
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