Flying Solo

Bon voyageI’ve been thinking a lot lately about turning points. I’m not talking about the gradual changes we all go through as we mature and have more life experiences; often without even noticing them. I’m talking about what some people call “aha! moments” that result in an immediate change in thought or action or both. Sometimes we didn’t have any intention of changing but events occur in our lives that force us to change.

One turning point for me was learning to do things alone. That might not sound like a big deal but it was for me and I’ve noticed that a lot of women find it difficult to go out and do things alone. I have a friend who even thinks that other people look at her as some kind of a “loser” if she goes for a walk alone.  I think most women believe that they will have a partner in their life or, at the very least, the company of friends or family will be available to them so it can be difficult when things don’t always go as expected.  I can relate to that because it is exactly what I believed. I can remember exactly when I had the aha! moment about going out and doing things alone. I never had to think about doing things alone until, at the age of 43, I moved to St. Augustine, Florida from New Jersey and didn’t know anyone in my new home. I wasn’t employed and it took me six months to find a position in my field so I didn’t even have a work place in which to meet people. I realized it could be quite awhile before I had a social life and I didn’t want to sit in my apartment everyday just because I felt awkward and self-conscious about going out alone.

I devised a plan to overcome my self-consciousness that involved taking small steps. I explored the beautiful old city of St. Augustine by visiting historic sites and museums. I had never eaten alone in a restaurant and, for a long time, that was the most difficult activity for me. I learned tricks that made it less intimidating – lunch rather than dinner, choosing a casual outdoor restaurant and taking a book so I could read if I felt uncomfortable. I went to the beach alone for the first time in my life. If there was a movie playing that I wanted to see, I went to a matinee rather than an evening show when I knew there would be people on dates or with friends. Very gradually I became more comfortable doing things alone and I got over the feeling that people were looking at me and perhaps even – oh no! – thinking there was something wrong with me!

I have always been interested in travel and didn’t have the money for most of my adult life to explore that interest but, when I finally did have the funds to at least enjoy some modest vacations, I found myself without a travel companion. My effort, beginning several years earlier when I moved to Florida, to overcome my self-consciousness about doing things alone paid off. I remember asking myself “What if you never again have someone to travel with? Does that mean you’ll never go anywhere?” I decided to dip my toe into the water of solo travel by going to a place I had been wanting to visit on the west coast of Florida. It was just a 3 1/2 hour drive from my home and I only went for 3 nights but, it felt like a major accomplishment to me. I remember feeling nervous at first but then gradually realizing that I was actually enjoying myself. In the following years I made solo, or partially solo, trips to Arizona, California, and the North Carolina mountains. I have taken vacations with other people and, as much as I enjoyed their company, I have learned that there are many benefits to traveling solo and, in fact, now I often prefer it. (BTW, business trips don’t count!)

I hope to someday travel all over the country in an RV and I’ll probably be doing that with only my dog, Liberty, for company. At one time I wouldn’t even have considered that but I have overcome most of my self-consciousness about doing things alone. I was inspired by the travel blog of one 63 year old woman and discovered that there are lots of independent women like her who are traveling around the country in their RV’s. There are also many women who travel solo internationally. Many are women in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, who, when confronted with the unanticipated life changing events of divorce or widowhood, experienced the same turning point I did – they realized that just because they didn’t have a companion didn’t mean they couldn’t enjoy life!

Obviously, I’m not writing this for strong, confident and independent women who never had a problem flying solo! I’m writing this as encouragement for women like me who, as younger women, always felt self-conscious about doing things alone or believed there was something “wrong” with them if they didn’t have a companion. If you’re denying yourself the pleasure of a vacation you’ve always wanted to take or even a movie, concert, or meal in a favorite restaurant just because you have no one to accompany you, it is you I am encouraging to venture forth. You don’t have to jump right into a tour of Europe or a solo cross country road trip – take small steps like I did and each step will add to your confidence. If you need more encouragement, there are many resources on the Internet for women traveling solo. One of the first things I read (many years ago) is a book called “Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips” by Lea Lane and I recently discovered “RVing Solo Across America .. Without a Cat, Dog, Man or Gun” by Lois Requist, Lura Dymond, Linda Foley, and Carrie Requist. There is even an online RVing Club for Women, www.rvingwomen.org and some great travel sites for women.

I guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised and will discover things about yourself that you never knew.
“Not all who wander are lost”
from The Lord of the Rings

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Liberty 5-2-14

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An Introverted Tale

A Star to DiscoverShe pulled the car into the garage and pressed the remote to close the door behind her. It always felt like she was closing out the world when that door rumbled down. She exhaled a deep sigh of sweet relief as she entered her peaceful home. Her dog was waiting for her as she entered the kitchen from the garage and greeted her with much tail wagging and soft cries of happiness. She placed her handbag on the counter and bent to pet her dog. She felt a comfort and happiness to be back in her “sanctuary” that would be hard to explain to anyone who didn’t share those feelings. She knew that many people were lonely and unhappy about living alone but she didn’t feel that way. She never had a problem spending time alone and, in fact, most of the things she enjoyed the most were solo activities like reading, drawing, writing, and listening to music. She had discovered in her later years that she even enjoyed traveling alone – no matter how much she liked someone, after a few days she craved solitude. She knew this was something about her that was hard for some people to understand. The past couple of weeks had been good, but also had depleted her energy reserves and she was looking forward to recharging her battery with alone time. Her best friend, who lived in another state, had visited for 3 days and it had been wonderful to spend time with her. Then she had enjoyed a vacation with her mother and, finally, that night she had attended a friend’s birthday party. She hadn’t really wanted to go but she had promised so she drove for more than 45 minutes in the pouring rain to her friend’s house. She enjoyed the first hour at the party but, making small talk with people was an exhausting experience for her and she had to force herself to stay an “acceptable” period of time before leaving. She realized that most people didn’t feel that way but she was used to living in a society where extroverts were in the majority and she often had to pretend to be one in order to get along. She changed into her pajamas, settled on the sofa and happily picked up the book she had left on the table a few hours earlier.

This little story is about someone who is known as an introvert – defined generally as one who is drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits – it is about me. Shyness is not the same as introversion, although the term is often used interchangeably. I admit I did struggle with shyness in many situations in the past but, I have overcome that and I am perfectly able to socialize when I want to. The difference now is that I often prefer not to. I know and accept myself much more than I did 15 or 20 years ago when I used to force myself into social situations on a regular basis because I believed there was something wrong with me if I didn’t so, I tried to “fit in”. To me, a “cocktail” party is like a holding cell – that doesn’t mean I can’t keep up my end of the small talk and even enjoy some of it, it just means I’m counting the minutes until I can escape. These days I’m not trying to prove anything to myself or anyone else so I stick with things I like, such as one-on-one conversations, small group gatherings, and lots of solo time. I like to visit historic sites and beautiful vistas – Las Vegas and cruises are not my style. I’m not a hermit, a “loner” or some other kind of defective personality and, in fact, I’m more empathetic and a much better listener than most extroverts I have known. I have a deep respect for my privacy and for the privacy of others. I’ve recently been reading a book called “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength” by Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., that refreshingly validates all that and points out the many positive aspects of the introvert personality. I don’t feel the need to explain myself or make excuses anymore but I do wish I had read this book many years ago when I felt so often like a misfit – now I proudly and unashamedly declare that I am an introvert!

FYI, some famous introverts include Bill Gates, Thomas Jefferson, Julia Roberts, Clint Eastwood, Abraham Lincoln, Woody Allen, Carl Jung, and Jane Goodall. Surprisingly, many performers and public figures are introverts. We might think of introverts as librarians or writers but, in reality, they can succeed in almost any career as long as they are in tune with their need for solitude, thinking, and problem solving.

If you recognize yourself in anything I have written and have ever felt like a misfit because of it, I highly recommend that you read the above mentioned book and embrace the things that make you unique and special.  Trying to be something you are not is never sustainable – plus, it makes you unhappy! Once again, the bottom line is self-love.

Stella enjoys a quiet moment of  solitary contemplation

Stella enjoys a quiet moment of solitary contemplation

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Alone vs Lonely

Cozy homeWhen you are alone it doesn’t necessarily follow that you feel lonely and if you feel lonely it isn’t always caused by being alone. Alone and lonely are often mutually exclusive. In fact, some of my loneliest moments have been spent in a room full of people. I have felt lonely when trying to communicate with someone and realizing they don’t relate to what I’m trying to express or they just don’t seem to “get” who I am. Perhaps the worst loneliness you can ever experience is when you’re with a person you love because in a close relationship you don’t expect to feel lonely so it catches you off guard. We expect to feel connected and loved and understood in a close relationship – we like to have that safe feeling of being with someone who knows us – and when that closeness isn’t there we can feel like we have been cut adrift but there is a lesson in that.

The lesson is that whether you are married or single, spend most of your time alone or are usually surrounded by family and friends we are all, in the final analysis, alone. A lot of people don’t like that idea because it feels too solitary. They don’t like to face the fact that we are all islands in the same sea. We can visit other islands but we can’t take up residence. Every one of us is all alone in our heads – a lot of our lives take place in our private thoughts –  so it is essential to figure out how you want that internal environment to feel. How do you want to decorate your “home” – your inner dwelling place? Do you want your thoughts to create a warm, comforting place where you can always find love and acceptance? Sort of like a cozy room with a fireplace, an overstuffed armchair, a friendly dog or cat (or both) waiting for you … and how about a cup of cocoa and some warm cookies? Or would you prefer a cold concrete cell where you are punished with your thoughts of fear, insecurity and constant reminders of all your shortcomings, failures and disappointments?

Your actions, as well as your reactions, toward people and events all start in the inner room where your thoughts are created and, once again, I’ve been reminded of how powerful thoughts are. Recently I’ve been forced to clean my inner room because some negative thinking cluttered it and made it uncomfortable. I swept out the crumbs of self-doubt and fear, threw another log of gratitude onto the fire of my contentment, fluffed up the cushions on my armchair of love and acceptance, and lit the candle of hope. Instead of beating myself up for allowing negative thoughts to sneak in and accumulate I set myself to the task of cleaning house and accepting that this will be a task that will never end – just like cleaning the house in which my physical body dwells!

What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it – like a secret vice.   

                                                                                                               ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Alone but not lonely

Alone but not lonely

See more of my artwork and books at www.LyndaLinke.com