Saturday, January 17, 2009

Loner or Lover

The way I see it there are two types of people, the loners and the lovers. Loners feel the need to be alone and lovers feel the need to be with others. Lately I have been contemplating a bit about my natural tendency to be a loner. I have rarely been able to be that loner beginning with the fact that I was born into a large family, married very young, had four children and now four grandchildren as well as the fact that both sides of our families love each other and want to be together. I do appreciate the fact that we get along and love each other but there is this little part of me that I keep squashing down that wants to go somewhere and read, write, take long walks and explore by myself. Is this unnatural?

Well maybe.

I remember taking walks as a kid to get away from the chaos and noise of our household. I would sit in the forest and just listen and watch nature for hours. As a teenager I would go shopping with my friends but I hated it. Not that I didn't like my friends, I just didn't like the pull of doing what everyone else wanted to do. I would prefer to shop alone. Every once in a while I would skip school and take a long drive. Alone. Don't tell my kids. Oh they read this. Well they are all grown now and I know they skipped school too occasionally.
**Note to kids: Don't look at me with shocked faces thinking I didn't know.

As a young overwhelmed mother who always worked full time outside the home I used to feel desperate sometimes. Desperate to get away and be alone. The pull of the family needing me and my work needing me left me feeling like I needed to disappear where no one knew my name or my face. Somewhere that I could freely rest, read and not feel guilty. Of course that never happened and as the children grew things got better but I still felt that occasional pull. Still do at times.

I think the thing that saved my sanity was that I drove to and from work alone. Farmer at that time took his own vehicle because we lived in town and I often had to drop kids at school or day care. During that ten to fifteen minutes I had alone, free thinking time. When we moved out to the country that ended. To conserve gas we began riding together. It took me quite some time to get used to the fact that now even my drive was taken up with another person. Not that I don't love and appreciate my husband but I was feeling the pull again. Again I found myself adjusting to the lack of privacy.

A few other things helped during this time. The first was the annual "sisters vacations" where only my three sisters and any sister-in-laws that wished to come would get together. They were pretty cheap vacations because in the beginning we would stay at my sisters house while her husband took their kids and went to visit his family. They eventually morphed into staying a few days at a beach house or an occasional hotel. The rule was no husbands or children were allowed. That is until our daughters reached 18. Then they began to come. Why was this helpful? After all we were all together. But there were no demands on our time and we could reconnect.

Another thing that helped was the occasional trip to the Trappist Monastery where even though I went with a group of women for the weekend, the idea was to rest and refresh. We each had our own room and could choose to be together or not. Long hikes were taken each day. Prayer and contemplation were some things that I almost felt guilty pleasure in.

The final thing I think saved my sanity and the one I loved the most was the annual trip to my home town the beginning of August to pick huckleberries. I went alone. It was only for a weekend but I would camp by myself and pick from the first spark of daylight until it was so dark I could barely find my way back to the car. I literally picked all day, each day. This gave me all the time in the world to let my mind work without interruption, to smell the smells and to hear the sounds of nature. I would be bone tired at the end of the day but as I lay down and closed my eyes, the picture of huckleberry bushes would be all I could see under my eyelids, imprinted on my brain and I would be lulled to sleep easily.

It is probably a good thing that I have not been allowed to follow my natural instinct. I would surely be a very selfish and moody person had I followed that path. Each unnatural and uncomfortable feeling I have had and continue to feel always made me stretch. I certainly can look back and now see the love and lessons. Although the farmer never understood my need to get away and be alone he never complained. He once told me he never felt that need and in fact he feels the opposite. He especially feels the pull of being with family and after a few days alone he becomes restless. This is one reason I know that he loves me.

Are you a loner or a lover?


Country Girl said...

I think this is my favorite post you've ever written. It details so much of your inner soul and I am loving sitting here and reading about you.
You camped alone? I have always wanted to do this. You are so amazing.
I also don't enjoy going shopping with too many people. Or anyone. I shop alone. At Christmastime, I like going once or twice with others, but that's it.
I am neither a loner or a lover. I'm both sometimes. But I can understand the desire to be alone with your thoughts, not having to answer to anyone or anything and to you I say, "Bravo, my friend".

It's been a trying day with my husband. Unfortunately, I am his only friend and the demands on my time are immense. I get so tired of it all and I know you understand. I'll never stop caring and loving him but I just wish he'd realize that it's not all about him and his cancer.

Sorry this is so long. I just really loved your post.

Claire said...

I'm a loner. Definitely. By your definition. I have heard it explained a little differently though, and I'll throw out this idea for your contemplation. The whole idea of being an "introvert" or an "extrovert" is more about how you are inside, rather than how you approach others. Some of us, the extroverts, gain energy and "recharge our batteries" by being with others. Those people thrive on the company and the noise and hustle and bustle of being with a group of people. It helps those people feel refreshed and alive and ready to face whatever comes next. Then there are those of us, the introverts, who find that same situation drains us over time. We recharge our batteries by being alone, experiencing the quietness, the peace of just being by ourselves. I am definitely one of those people. I love my job, and I am at work with people all day, talking on the phone, in meetings, surrounded by office noises and busy people. By the end of the day, I ache to come home to quiet, to peace, because I am exhausted - not physically, but mentally. On the other hand, Kelly is an extrovert, and he is in his car much of the day, by himself, driving, listening to the radio. When he gets home, he wants to talk about the day, the car accident he saw, the comedian on the radio, the things he noticed while driving, etc. He thrives by getting home to me and being able to talk, and meanwhile, all I need is peace. We sort of come to terms with this by talking for a while and then he lets me be. I don't have children, but I do have lots of animals. Somehow, spending time with the animals is "me" time and even if I'm in a group of them, it's not the same as a group of people. They refresh and recharge me too. I don't think of myself as a loner though - I love my family and enjoy my friends, but I need time to myself to recharge, to regain energy, to become "centered" and ready to socialize again. To me, that sounds like what you are saying...but loner sounds too harsh of a term to describe it.

oregontribal1 said...

You said it best! I am a loner to an extent; I'm around people thru the week, and when I come home I just want to go to a quiet room and be quiet myself. Quiet lets me recharge- I'm quite the homebody. Not because I want to avoid people...but too much chaos and chatter sets my teeth on edge and I'm likely to say something hurtful or mean....towards a certain sister in law! Anyway, being a loner is not a bad means you are comfortable with yourself, that you really love yourself and would be okay if on your own someday. My mom told me 13 years ago after I was divorced, that to find someone you are happy with will only come to you AFTER you accept being by yourself a lot. The only person that can truly make you happy is yourself after that, who you find is an extension of who you become.
Believe me, I was single for a long time when most gals would have joined a nunnery by then! I just patiently waited for the Good Lord to bring me the one He felt was right for me; and I also kissed a LOT of TOADS in the meantime!!!! It was worth it for the wait; and I still require alone time....and my hubby understands.

rhymeswithplague said...

Having been raised as an only child, I am naturally a loner, but I do like being around my children and grandchildren for as long as possible because those moments are precious.

I now picture you as Greta Garbo, gathering eggs in a basket and saying, "I vant to be alone, and please hand me the huckleberries on your way out."

Flea said...

I;m an introvert, if that means anything. I love the time away. But I have an introvert friend who does not have children (at 43) and I can see how the time alone has been somewhat warping. You're right - we need our brief times alone, but time with people is essential.

Beautifully written post.

Jeannelle said...

Superb post, Vonda. And great comments. I think Claire hit the nail on the head.....some people naturally recharge by being with others, and some naturally recharge by being alone. There's nothing "unnatural" about wishing to be alone at times. We have to be what we are. I am definitely one who needs alone time.

Mental P Mama said...

I am overwhemlingly impressed that you camped ALONE. What an accomplishment. But I also feel such awe and pride that I know a woman like you. Amazing. And I an not the least bit surprised.

Jill said...

Great post, Mom! I think I'm a combination of the two--I suppose I'm mostly a lover, because I enjoy being around my family and a few select friends. But I LOVE having just a chunk of time to myself, every DAY if possible! Even if it's just an hour. It doesn't always happen, but I feel like it's a huge recharge for me when it does! Sometimes I leave the house, go to the store, sometimes I just go into our bedroom and read for a while. BY MYSELF. So I guess it all depends on my mood!

I've always thought it was cool that you could camp by yourself. That's where I guess I'd need someone with me--I'm a weenie! :)

Linda Reeder said...

I loved this posting. I saw so much of myself in it. I had a large family too, and loved to be able to spend time alone. When my children were young I loved being their mom very much, but I longed for that time when I could go for a walk by myself, without a little one affixed to the end of my arm.

As a teacher I needed that down time after the students left, not to be interrupted or "bothered" by others friendly conversation.

I am an introvert, but I describe myself as cerebral, a thinker more than a doer.
And isn't it interesting that so many of your blogger friends are "loners" too. With blogging we can be alone with our thoughts until we are ready to type them out to share, on our own terms.

Twisted Fencepost said...

I am somewhere in between.
I enjoy my time alone and it is needed. But I also enjoy the company of my family.
Kinda like you.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

This was beautifully written Vonda...I felt like you were writing down all my feelings and many of my own experiences.

As a child, I too, explored the forest, just me or just me and my dog. I could sit and be quiet, enjoying my own company, for hours.

As an only-child I found having my first children turn out to be twins simply overwhelming. So much noise and activity and neediness.
Sometimes it was too much to bear.

But I love my children and enjoy being with them, but I also require my own time too. And thankfully, since my hubby is an only-child, he respects and undestands that need and makes sure that I have it when I'm feeling out-of-sorts.

My favorite me-time is just riding my horse, just the two of us. When riding a horse, you have to live in the can't think about bills or the other chorse that must get done. You ride and focus on riding and your horse.
It's such a sense of freedom and peace. Like no other.

I can't wait to get that back again once my knee heals and I can walk again.

~((HUGS)) Lisa~aka~Rapunzle

Claire said...

Uh oh. Flea said she has a 43 year old friend with no children and the time alone for her has been "warping." At 39, with no children, and none desired or intended, does this mean I am destined to be warped? Or am I already warped?!

Deb said...

Such a wonderful, reflective post. I think like others, our present living situation determines wether we are lovers or loners.
Growing up, I was both. I had one sibling and we were very close. That being said we grew up on horseback and spent many hours in the saddle, no talking required. He and my old horse have both left this world and I miss that time in my life.
Now, I have two great boys, a husband and am care giver to my Mom and Dad, all living on the farm. We are an extremely close, loving family. That being said, sometimes I dream of, no crave a small cabin in the woods with no responsibility, electricity, telephone and a small garden, a few critters and my dog. Sound selfish, perhaps - but honest.

Quiet time is difficult because there is always someone here.
But......I have a little when I milk and I'm up before everyone. I will not have them forever and then the I will hate the quiet. :)

Carolynn said...


I have to have time to be quiet and alone on a regular basis. I wonder sometimes, if that isn't why I'm attracted to long distance romances. I get the closeness of a relationship, while still retaining my autonomy and independence.

I literally feel like a junkie in need of a fix, if I don't get time to fact, I've been feeling that way a lot again lately. It's a sense of feeling overwhelmed and it creates anxiety for me.

I was raised in a violent home, so going off on my own was my refuge. I was also a latch-key kid long before they had a name for it, so I was often home alone and was quite content finding ways to amuse myself with quiet pursuits. My parents both worked shift work, so while they may have been home, they were quite often sleeping, so it was necessary for us to be quiet in the house.

Now, as an adult, living on my own, I rarely have the tv or radio on. I like my own company and marvel at people who are unable to spend time alone.

While I enjoy other's company, I have no problem with shopping alone, or travelling, or going to the theatre. I have no one to answer to but myself. I don't think that's selfish, I think it's nurturing myself. I still have plenty of myself to share with others.

Excellent, though provoking post, Vonda. Thank you!

CeeCee said...

Ok, this will take some thought, I'll get back to you.

Very, very good post. What made you think about it and to post it?

Donna S. said...

This is a timely post for me. I would be considered a "people" person & I am BUT I need my alone time very much. My husband worked evenings most of our lives, our kids are raised & he just recently retired at 57!! For 6 months he was "home". Wants to watch tv with me, go to bed the same time I get it. I love him to pieces but I was getting desperate for my alone time. He is now working 4 hours in the evening!! Thank goodness. All he needs is me but I need friends, alone time, knitting time, reading time, etc. Anyway it was good to read this. Sometimes I felt bad I wanted to be alone.

the7msn said...

Loner, bordering on Recluse and Hermit.

I'm not introspective enough to figure out why I am the way I am; all I know is I am by myself, albeit in the company of my animals, 24/7 - minus maybe three hours a week when I might be in a store or riding down the trail with my neighbor. And I thrive on and love every blessed minute of it.

This is a great post, Vonda. I suspect you'll see a spinoff or two in bloggerland once we've had a chance to ponder it awhile.

noble pig said...

I often crave to be alone but think it's becuase I want what I don't have...alone time. I'm impressed you camped alone, not sure I could do that especially since I hate camping.

DesertHen said...

Wonderful Post! I never really enjoyed being a lone much when I was younger. I always wanted to be with someone, doing something. But as I have gotten older, I find that wanting that alone time is a wonderful, beautiful, refreshing, energizing gift we can give ourselves. I will always take time and make time for myself.

For we must know ourselves before we can give fully to others.

tipper said...

You expressed my feelings perfectly! There have been times when I craved time to be alone so bad I wanted to scream-but like you-I just had to do what was best for the family. My husband feels exactly like yours-he just wants us all to be together-all the time! And most of the time I agree-but I need that alone time to recharge and tackle the world again.

Kelli said...

Hmm... I can't really decide if I am more one than the other. I spend a lot of time alone and I don't mind it. But I always enjoy my time with family and friends as well. I always spend part of my day alone and part of it with people, so I guess I'm content with that. Although, I have noticed when I'm with people all day every day for several days in a row, I crave some alone time. I would say if I leaned one way at all it would be an introvert, as I tend to bottle up thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

What wonderful post! I have the loner tendencies, but I do love to be around my family. I take pleasure in the times I go tot he store alone and can get away for even a few minutes from the house.

The W.O.W. factor said...

Hmmm, Vonda...
I'm torn here. As a kid, I loved to be alone. I was different than my siblings, interests etc. I always found my own space and time.
As an adult? Pretty much the same...but the older I've gotten, I actually miss having more time with others. A weekend a month is all I need and then I'm ready to be "alone" again.
Guess this is why we've lived so far out and away from others. But now, it creates problems for allowing that weekend to become reality.