The Underestimated Benefits of Spending Years Alone

Vanessa Torre

It’s not living outside your comfort zone, it’s increasing it. by Jure Širić

I’ve spent a good number of the 46 years I have been on this planet attached to someone else. I was with my first husband for seven years and my second husband for nine. Before and after each were short spurts of being alone but nothing substantial. Nothing like the last three years.

Some of it was by choice. Some of it I would have desperately chosen to be rid of. There were days so hard and so lonely that I went to bed at 8 pm just so the day could be over and I could move on to the next one.

There were ones where I wished more than anything that I had someone to come home to that would help me and soothe me. Make me feel better. My fluffy Chihuahua, no matter how darling she is, doesn't always fit that bill.

I am fresh on the heels of a breakup. Still hot from the oven fresh. I am not a disaster. I have a whole lot of feelings that change every few minutes but I’ll live. I’ve figured out how to do that.

A year or two ago, this would have flattened me to the ground. I would have been sitting in my living room, staring down that big, fat, ugly alone with a sense of despair.

Though I miss my boyfriend’s presence terribly, I have an arsenal of things that made me a happy person before he came into my life. I go to those. I read, I write, I work on my house, I watch a ridiculous amount of period films where people speak in beautiful British accents.

Being alone taught me how to enjoy those moments for what they are: mine.

I am comfortable in my own skin. There is no fear of being alone for me so being thrown back in the world of unattached single people isn’t scary. I have proven to myself before that I can not only handle it but do well in that space. I am resilient.

Being alone for most of the last three years has taught me how to be emotionally strong. It’s created out of necessity. Sure, most of us have a team of people we can go to when we need comfort but at the end of the day, when you have to sit with yourself, you’re the one who has to do the hard work.

Right after I got pregnant with my daughter, my dad had a massive heart attack. When they got in to look at the blockage what they found was surprising. Most arteries were completely or almost completely blocked. But a strange thing had happened.

My dad was always athletic and his heart was strong enough to create its own bypasses to keep blood flowing in and out despite the blockages.

This is the crux of adaptation. I think, emotionally, our hearts and minds work the same way.

Being single for several years, we don’t have that direct route to the person that is there for us unconditionally. The main source of unconditional love, then, becomes us.

In learning to love myself unconditionally, I learned to both forgive and give myself grace. I learned to accept the parts of me I felt shamed into hating. I learned to improve the parts of me that needed work and to rid myself of what was inside of me that didn’t serve me or anyone else well.

It’s not that we can’t harvest our own sense of personal power while inside the parameters of a relationship. It’s that it’s different. Being alone for an extended period of time tests our comfort zone. I’m not a fan of living outside of my comfort zone. That sounds horrible.

What I am a proponent of is pushing the edges so that it encompasses so much more. When we expand that area, our ability to live comfortably exists nearly every place we go, either with someone or without.

Being alone helped me understand and appreciate the present. We are not our past and our future does not exist yet. We are here. Now. We may not always be alone, but if this is our current lot in life, we might as well enjoy it.

I have already started planning my next solo vacation. It’s not the one I imagined going on to a romantic place where I’d stroll somewhere on a warm, sunny day with someone’s hand in mine.

It’s the wild, fearless trip that will continue to grow my strength and tenacity. It’s the one borne out of need and desire to both calm and encourage the feral side of me. I can’t go and long for the presence of that other person’s hand. That’s not mine now.

Adapting to and appreciating being alone isn’t shutting yourself out from love and other people. It’s not making a decision to be someone’s spinster aunt. It’s knowing that our ability to be happy rests solely on our shoulders and knowing we can bear that beautiful weight.

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Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, she won’t stop taking pictures of her drinks. IG: vanessaltorre Twitter: @vanessaltorre

Phoenix, AZ

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