by: Lanisha Porter
I think Maya Angelou said it best, "When you see me sitting quietly, like a sack left on the shelf, don’t think I need your chattering. I’m listening to myself. Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me! Hold! Stop your sympathy! Understanding if you got it, otherwise I’ll do without it!"
Not too long ago this self-proclaimed hero invaded my space, I'm sure only trying to be a Good Samaritan, killing all of my good vibes. After a busy morning, I was finally eating lunch, tucked away in the corner of the café while checking my emails. I was at peace.
That is until I got a rude snatch on my shoulder demanding to know why I was eating alone. This person’s sympathy was marinating all over my lemon-baked chicken. I explained that I was fine and was just trying to enjoy my lunch and answer some emails. The person confidently insisted that something was wrong with me and offered that I get up and move with them and their friends. At this point I was very grateful that this person had cared enough to extend an invitation. I thought it displayed a lot of compassion and class on their part. However, really needing to be alone, I politely declined. They kept insisting. At this point I was annoyed. I grew more annoyed when this person kept hinting at how much of a weakness it was to be dining alone. At this point I felt they had completely invaded my personal and sacred space.
My biggest worry by far isn't finding someone to chow down with. And it frightens me that in my generation that is someone's most gruesome fear—the art of being tolerant of one’s own company. For me I greatly enjoy my solace, and being accompanied by own thoughts—uninterrupted by others. Eating alone isn't a social suicide and it isn't a weakness. That's what I wish people would understand. If I'm alone it's because I've made a very intentional choice to be so. If I wanted to fellowship among others while breaking bread, I would make the calls necessary to make it happen. But there is a time for fellowship and then there's a time for self-engagement.
Between so many engagements forcing social interaction with others, I cherish the 20 minutes I may have to myself during the day to divert into my own inviolable sphere of the world. Walking up to me out of sympathy is a generous gesture, however I wonder why so many people see aloneness as a disadvantage or defect. So many people miss the beauty of aloneness. In aloneness—which is drastically different from loneliness—there's an opportunity to thrive. There's an opportunity to hear yourself; recharge your energy and balance your spirit, while not running the risk of an outside forces draining it with their unsolicited presence. On most occasions I'm not really shy and don't mind walking up to any table asking to join...if I wanted.
The real problem here is that I see so many people afraid of aloneness. Afraid to function independently of a group. Embarrassed to be enriched in their own presence and would rather get lost in group dynamics. I'm not that girl and don't wish to be that girl either. I like aloneness because it's really the only time it's okay to be selfish...you only have to consider yourself and what you want to do. When you are with another person you should always aim to be courteous and that often means checking to see if that person is hungry, are they thirsty, are they comfortable, is the temperature okay for them, is it okay to play this artist or should you put in your earphones, is this person okay with eating barbecue and getting messy, is it okay if I sleep in or do they want to go out and do something today, should I reword how I say this so they don't get offended, was my tone too harsh, are they ready to leave, do they have enough money to participate, are they allergic, etc...the list goes on. And being in the company of others garners you to be considerate of a myriad of things. But in aloneness you escape having to be mindful of others. You escape being depleted. You are free to be your only obligation. This is why I am a fan of aloneness because you get to recharge and be unbothered. I only wish people respected the boundaries of others when they are trying to recharge, instead of writing it off as a defect. If someone likes to be alone, it doesn’t mean they value people any less or that they aren’t “people-persons.” It simply means they need to recharge in aloneness. It’s not an attitude problem, it’s not depression, it’s not being mean, or being stand-offish…it’s simply taking time to ourselves.
Welcome to my views from this horizon!