Photo by Alejandra Mavroski
Jason has been in New York the past few days and (as usual) I’m feeling a bit pathetic about flying solo.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not one of those people who “can’t sleep” when their spouse is away, and even though he’s the real chef in the family, I can hold my own in the kitchen. I’m even capable of getting the kids off to bed at night and then to school the next morning (although helping with math homework can be a bit of a challenge).
My main problem is that I’m an extrovert. After spending the day working solo, as a freelancer does, I’m really ready for someone to process the day with, dish over the news with, and laugh at the silly stuff with. It’s not that I can’t do life alone, it’s that I’ve already done my share of alone and have decided it’s not for me.
Facing a more permanent sense of alone
Soon after my first husband and I separated, in 2003, I bought the book How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen. I had read enough of Franzen’s earlier essays to know I wasn’t buying a practical, how-to guide that would provide strategies for being alone. But I was definitely drawn to the title—fearful of the very idea of being alone, and fascinated by the concept that you could do it well, or poorly.
In my case, I was pretty sure I was going to do it poorly. Besides being an extrovert, I essentially had no experience living alone. In fact, I had done almost nothing significant on my own—never taken a big solo road trip or made a significant purchase like a car or a computer. I’m pretty sure I had never even been to a movie alone. I had a lot to learn.
And I did learn. In many ways, I even thrived. As a single mom for a few years, I proved to myself that I could do pretty much anything and everything on my own, from buying a car and taking road trips to buying a house and being in charge of the maintenance. I’m generally not a fan of the word “empowering,” but there really isn’t a better word for how doing all of those things alone made me feel.
The difference between “I can’t” and “I don’t want to”
Now, even though I’ve got the whole “I’m capable” thing ingrained in me, I’d still rather have Jason by my side. And when he’s out of town, it’s good to realize I haven’t fallen into the trap of taking for granted what he brings to my life. See? I’m still learning from the discomfort of being alone. That’s what was on my mind when I read this quote in a recent Seth Godin post:
“This is what always happens when something goes from scarce to surplus. First we bathe in it, then we waste it.”
I went from scarce to surplus in my life when I met Jason—from a life without deep companionship or a partner to lend a hand, to a life filled with support for both my gifts and my deficiencies. I’ve been bathing in that surplus these past four years and am determined to keep right on doing so.
What “scarcity-to-surplus” experiences have you had in your life? What do you think is key to not wasting the surplus of gifts you’ve been given?