Serenity in solitude

I’ve been spending time offline for the last few weeks reconnecting with myself, with friends and family. The last year has been the most exhilarating and eye opening of my life. I discovered who I am and what I want. I cried. A lot. I grieved for my old self. Lost relationships. Lies. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been magical.

As an extrovert, the idea of living alone, travelling alone, being alone, filled me with fear. Evenings with no one to eat with. Films with no one to share thoughts and snacks with. Mornings with no one to talk to. Afternoons with no one to have coffee with.

In reality, living, travelling, being alone isn’t like this at all. Solitude isn’t loneliness although, honestly, it can feel extremely lonely.

Solitude has been my saviour.

I learned who I was without interference. After years of difficult relationships where I had been fearful to be myself, obsessed with perfectionism and controlled into submission; solitude gave me freedom. Freedom to be emotional, to have flaws and secrets, to be feminine and masculine in my own way, to date with an open mind, to dance like nobody’s watching and sing like a stadium is listening – to explore myself.

I can’t underestimate the power I feel eating alone in a restaurant. No book. No phone. No friend. No buffer. The pride I feel owning my journey everyday. From the clothes I put on my body, the books I read, the podcasts I listen to on walks with my dog or travelling for work, the meditation routines I do in complete peace and quiet, and countless hours of reality TV I unashamedly binge uninterrupted.

I fucking love it.

The biggest surprise, despite all the times I was told this in therapy, books and philosophy; a year prioritising solitude has helped me build better, kinder, more honest relationships.

With family and close friends I have become entirely vulnerable and act with a total lack of embarrassment. I am myself. Everyday. 24/7. If I want to call someone and tell them I love them, I do. If I’ve texted someone, they haven’t replied, and I hear music I know they’ll love, want to tell them they’re amazing, that I’m thinking of them, buzz buzz it’s me again!. If I want to celebrate a friends birthday with a tribute sober karaoke performance of Amy Winehouse’s Valerie in a room full of strangers, then I will. If I want to buy a book that I think a colleague might like, I gift it. I don’t second guess my ability, and want, to love and to give. I accept this part of myself as my strength, not my weakness or exposure to pain, and those who love me, get it. Cherish it.

Unlike the Londoner stereotype I tend to embody, I’ve got to know most of my neighbours. I say hello to them everyday. To staff arriving at the care home near my place when I’m out for a walk with my dog. To the barista in my local coffee shop and postman who always takes time to give Ronnie a cuddle before delivering letters. I even, sometimes, say hello to people on the tube… I know… you’re thinking I’m mad, and I am.

Mad for my new love of humanity. A year alone has taught me how to love again. How to love myself and others around me. How to date different people and let love in. How to give others space, respect and time to be themselves. How to actively listen and empathise with others. Treat others with true kindness and understanding, even when the outcome might lead to something opposing to my wants. And, how to vocalise my feelings, needs and desires so I stay authentic. How to truly honour mine and others’ time.

In finding myself, I found others. I found humanity again. I found hope. Love. Divine love that is not in one person, place or thing. Love that transcends our human experience and remains constant.

A year ago, my life was over. My world collapsed. I couldn’t trust myself or the world around me. I had lost hope. I couldn’t accept love.

Today, my life is blooming. My world has grown. I trust my gut and the world in front of me. I live in happiness and hope. I am love.

In my quest for perfectionism, I was fake. In embracing imperfection, I am real.

Life deserves to be lived, so let’s live it.

I’ll be changing how I interact with the online world for a while to focus on humanity and the real world in front of my eyes. To focus my mind away from the material world, the fake, the cynical, in favour of love. I’ll keep writing, when I feel inspired to share, but you’ll hear from me less.

I am so grateful for all of you out there reading my words, who’ve supported me in my career, my writing, my mental health journey and world travels. My online community saved me when I was stuck in a job and relationship that was killing me. If you’re reading this to find your space, your reason to roam free, we are all here for you.

This isn’t goodbye, but a happy, honest note of gratitude and TTFN.

You’ve got this.

Peace and love.

A conversation I urge anyone resonating with my words to listen to. My favourite podcaster, Elizabeth Day, and Mo Gawdat, a man who’s studies and vulnerability has changed my life [here].

A few highlights from a year embracing me:

In July, I’ll be running 10k for Samaritans (alongside my mum!) who were there when I felt I had no one, and who help save lives, like mine, everyday.

If you can, I’d really appreciate your donation [here]

If you identify with any of the thoughts shared on my site and feel you would like to talk to someone, please reach out to your GP, contact Mind, or the Anxiety UK helpline. And if you ever feel like things are too much, please call Samaritans on 116 123.

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