Sunday, 24 May 2015

how to be alone

OK, so I'm fully aware that the title 'how to be alone' is going to make me sound like a complete hermit who hates socialising - so let me preface this post by saying this isn't true. I love meeting new people, socialising, spending time with my friends etc. It just so happens that right now, I'm not doing this as much as I used to. This is partly because I'm single... and that's kinda what I want to talk about.

When you're in a relationship, a lot of your time is spent with others. With your partner, with their friends, with their family - and of course with your own friends and family. So when a relationship comes to an end, that time is cut in half. And you may find yourself alone more than you use to be. At first, this only emphasises the pain and loneliness that inevitably comes with a break-up. You might think to yourself 'who am I without him/her?' 'what am I supposed to do now?' and, as scary as it may seem, this is exactly what alone time is for. To answer those questions.

Of course, before you get to this point there are usually a few potholes to navigate. Going out drinking and kissing strangers may seem like the perfect antidote to this fresh loneliness, but the hollow feeling you get the morning after will quickly make you realise this isn't true. And wanting to get close to others is a perfectly natural reaction, but it won't really help. Instead you've got to get close to you. Remind yourself of who you are as an individual. What makes you tick? What are your passions? What do you really want for the future?

And so begins the fun. Because that's what it should be. Through trial and error, you can use this time (before you get into a new relationship) to understand yourself better. What have you learnt from your last relationship? What won't you compromise on next time? What will you do differently? And once you understand yourself, you're in a far better position to share yourself.

So, what should you do during this alone time? And, unless you're a social butterfly with a million projects on the go, there will be time to fill (coming from the girl with zero plans this bank holiday *waves*). Of course, everyone is different and I am certainly no expert, but here's what I've been doing and what I would recommend:

Address your health

Healthy body = healthy mind. One great thing about having extra time is finally having the time to get fit. Eating better, yoga and spinning are making me feel far more confident and happy.

Read more

When the glare of the computer/TV screen gets too much, I stick some music on and read. On holiday I read 'Quiet - the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking' and it was somewhat of a revelation. I understood why I did the things that I did and even why certain things fell apart in my last relationship. Try reading something that speaks to you.

Challenge yourself

It's easy to not bother with this one and keep on living the easy life, but what are you learning? I challenged myself to cook more and be braver with my driving this year, and while I am not ready for an appearance on Masterchef just yet, and I definitely still have some issues to overcome with my driving - the small achievements (like cooking dinner for my family and driving certain routes without my satnav) keep me motivated.

Say yes more

When it comes to social invitations, saying no is easy. You can feign an illness, blame work or pretend you never got the email. Saying yes can feel harder, but it is almost always more rewarding. 

Go on an adventure

Go on a day trip by yourself. Go see something you've always wanted to see, but didn't have the time before. Go on holiday. Go travelling. I've booked myself a two-week yoga/photography course in Costa Rica in November to develop some skills, meet new people and experience a totally different world for a bit. And I can't friggin' wait. 

Learn something

What subject did you love at school? What hobby did you love as a child but never do now? I loved Spanish at school, but when I studied it at A-level I was more interested in my first real boyfriend and skipping classes. I decided to rekindle my love for Spanish with an app (Duolingo) and a grammar book and I'm loving every minuto. 

Watch something of substance

Disappearing into a Netflix-shaped hole is pretty standard when you first get out of a relationship, but at least try to make some of the shows you watch informative. In-between episodes of Community and Daredevil, I'm watching Human Planet and TED talks for a little mental stimulation.

Do something to free your mind

Thinking too much has become a 21st century epidemic. If I had a penny for the number of times my mind has wandered back to the past since I've been single, I would be writing this from my yacht in the Caribbean. I'm trying a few things to overcome this, most recently I've been colouring in. I wrote a blog at work about the therapeutic benefits of couloring in and thought, that sounds nice. So this weekend I started colouring in this book and, yeah, it is nice. My mind is relaxed but focused, giving it some much-needed downtime.

I don't know when I'll next be in a relationship. I could meet the love of my life tomorrow, or it could be years down the line. Either way, right now, I'm enjoying this alone time. Sure, there are twinges of sadness/loneliness/regret that seep in from time to time, but that's life. That's being human. So don't beat yourself up if you're not ready to 'seize the day' every day. That's what chocolate, Grey's Anatomy and cat cuddles are for ;) As long as you treat yourself with love and understanding, you'll be on the right track.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

a perfectly sunny afternoon

After breakfast and a quick morning stretch, I take myself out to the garden. Armed with new music, a magazine and some slightly-too-big-for-me sunglasses, I'm ready for my afternoon.

The cat struts over, proudly waving his tail in the air and meows in that demanding tone that says "Where the hell am I supposed to sit then?". I obediently pick up the cushion on the unused chair next to me and put it on the iron table, so he has somewhere comfy to bask. He jumps up and lies down looking smug (he does have a nice life). 

But the sudden rushes of air are unsettling him, and he decides that underneath my chair is safer to sit. What unsettles him has the opposite effect on me. The breeze is just cool enough to take the edge off the hot sun and its ferocity almost rocks me in my chair, like a lullaby. 

I get lost in music I've never heard before. Instrumentals play over Austrian bar background-noise and something that could be either rainfall or the crackling of a fire. I read interviews with fog experts, jewellery makers and directors. I read stranger's descriptions of what the clouds in the sky look like to them. I think of three blog posts. I pick up my phone and note down a book, a film and a website I want to look into later.

I only go inside to make lunch, which I immediately take outside to eat. It's a chicken and avocado salad. The creamy mellow tastes of avocado and chicken get slapped in the face with salty feta cheese and vinegar-y sun-ripened tomatoes - delicious. I finish reading my magazine and start writing this blog in my head. I regret my decision of wearing yoga pants over shorts and get too hot.

When I do come back inside to cool off, my dad tells me I've caught the current bun (sun). I look in the mirror and he's right. My forehead is decidedly pink and my freckles have found the confidence to pop up and say "hello!".

It's been a lovely afternoon.


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