“We only truly find ourselves in periods of solitude.” -Willow Smith.
This morning I was listening to Red Table Talk while I was in LA Fitness getting ready, as I usually do, and this quote just resonated with me.
I’ve experienced many periods of solitude, on a normal every day basis and during prolonged periods. The prolonged periods were usually dark times—phases of heartbreak, loss, guilt, isolation, doubt and negativity. They were by force, and not by choice. Many of those times, I wished I was anything but alone, yet I had no choice in the matter and always remained so.
As for the daily instances, those include any time that I’m alone with my thoughts and emotions—any time free of distractions such as TV, my cell phone, computers, other people, loud noise, and so on. For me, I’m in this place of solitude when I’m in the sauna, when I’m driving without music and just zoning out, when I walk across the street to Starbucks mid-work day to take a break from work and sit outside feeling in-tune to my surroundings, when I’m running outside and get lost while taking notice of the breeze on my skin and the small insects on the road that my feet are repeatedly pounding, and even during times like right now, when I take a moment to jot down my thoughts and let them flow.
We’re human—it’s so insanely tempting to avoid conflict and escape reality when it gets too complicated, and it often gets very complicated. Escaping reality usually consists of seeking out anything and anyone who can help us switch focus and disengage mentally and emotionally. We drink, we smoke, we have sex, we surround ourselves with friends, we pile on responsibilities at work, we add in time-fillers to create a sense of urgency and make ourselves feel “busy” (when we really don’t need to be), we shop, we find ways to make fitness unhealthy (hours and hours at the gym, eating disorders, etc)—ANYTHING to pass the time until the thing that we were avoiding is now seemingly more manageable.
And yet… by doing this, we’ve turned down growth. We’ve denied ourselves the chance to become more self-aware, more compassionate, and overall more resilient. Instead of going through what we were meant to go through, we’ve decided that the current version of ourselves is safer. We’re also declaring that it’s easier to remain unchanged by the hardship.
Instead, we need to force ourselves to stand still and fight the urge to run away. Allow ourselves to be feel all of the emotions and think all of the thoughts, no matter how crippling. When we allow them to come, we can then allow them to go. We let that sh*t in and we consciously let it go as gradually as necessary. It’s naturally occurring and it’s beautiful… because THAT is what life is about. Because we had the courage to let the process occur, we will then blossom internally with deeper empathy, a newfound perspective regarding the world around us, a more clear sense of what is and is not important, and the ability to handle MORE the next time a battle comes our way so that a) we won’t crumble and b) we might be able to help someone who goes through something similar and can’t yet handle it.
Every time we chose to embrace solitude, we’re saying to ourselves “okay, it’s okay to just be.” We start to get to know ourselves, and a little deeper each time. Did you know that most people barely know themselves, they can’t answer the simple question “who are you?” when asked? Take away the false identities we give ourselves like “I’m a teacher” or “I’m a gymnast” or x y & z and we struggle to come up with a valid response. We spend so much time getting to know the people around us and so little getting to know ourselves. That’s where we go wrong, that’s the problem. Some of us struggle with insecurity, self-doubt and even self-hatred—I genuinely believe it’s likely because we haven’t gotten to know ourselves.
I’m going to wrap it up soon, but imagine that person who has rubbed you the wrong way almost right within minutes of meeting. That person who may have come off as self-absorbed, arrogant, hypocritical, whatever. Then imagine a week later, you learn that they grew up with an abusive parent who dealt with a heroin addiction that led to the individual jumping from foster home to foster home until they turned 18. After that, they lent on student loans to push themselves through school and eventually got married to their soulmate, who then passed due to cancer. They’re going to counseling sessions and engaging in fitness, and they’re here now, not really trying to create a fresh start but just to survive.
It would be pretty difficult to dislike that person, right? I know that’s pretty intense but that IS how the story goes, EVERY day and it happens within ourselves, too. WHY did we feel one way (indifference, disdain, unwelcoming, negative, annoyed), then feel another (admiration, empathy, compassion, hopefulness, appreciation) shortly after? The answer is simple, we got to know that person. So why don’t we get to know ourselves? Think about the hardship you’ve been forced to endure, the things you’ve pushed past, your greatest accomplishments, maybe the lives you’ve impacted… how much do you give yourself credit for? And think about those insecurities you have, can you imagine that maybe they aren’t flaws or imperfections at all? The more you understand, the more love you seem to have to give.
I want to clarify (because I hate being a hypocrite) that I use this platform to share my insights. Many of these concepts are things that I need to apply, myself. It’s a way for me to hold myself accountable. I post this for the public to see, and there can’t be any excuse for me to behave & speak in a contradictory way, because I know better, right?
So, my question to US is this: how will you spend more time getting to know yourself?
These are the things I have come up with:
I will opt to leave my headphones inside when I go for a run.
I will chose to take 15 minutes out of my work day to go outside and breathe, focus on my surroundings, and let my thoughts flow.
I will take 10 minutes in the morning or at night to journal—not intending to share it, but just using it to externalize and reflect.
I will add in 10 minutes after my training and cardio to go in the sauna and practice meditation.
When I begin to feel stress, anxiety, sadness, etc., I will not use social media, Netflix, or others to distract myself and fill time.
I will let negative emotions in when they arise, so that I can let them pass… and practice the art of letting go.
If you relate to this, know that you’re not alone in that. We’re all out here, struggling, and yet we’re all trying to hide it, so we never see it. You’re worth getting to know. This relationship will be the most rewarding of all, so long as you chose to invest into it.