The day my partner moved out after ten years of relationship was a Wednesday. I slumped onto a kitchen chair and was amazed at the long "puuhh" that flowed out of me like the air from a balloon. So that's how it felt: to be alone.
I was alone
A first feeling inventory showed: There was a great relief. Sure, we had a tough relationship, with permanent communication mismatches and a lot of struggling for compromises that didn't make either of us happy. I was finally able to breathe again without this sack of problems that overwhelmed the joy of life. But there was also another feeling, still a bit shaky on its feet, but already in wait to get to true size: fear. I was alone. "Alone alone." Wasn't there even a hit with this chorus? In general, many songs are sung about being alone, unfortunately few of them are very constructive. Mostly it is about leaving and unfulfilled wishes. Everyone else is happy, only you yourself are excluded from this all-round connection to pink cotton candy. Like me in my kitchen, where the boiler's light was the only sound that broke the evening silence. Not even the annoying neighboring dog was beeping. Was I the last person in the world? It felt that way.
I poured myself wine and was already afraid of the second and third glass. This wasn't relaxation after work, this was different. I drank to stop feeling the diffuse feeling of loss that was spreading through me. In my mind's eye, I saw myself becoming one of those scurried old people who shuffle to the kiosk at four in the bathrobe to drown the grief in a bottle of "Smirnoff". My eyes fell on the kitchen block in front of me. "Harzer Roller" was there on an old shopping list. I impulsively crossed out the word and scratched it three more times. A little euphoria came as a complete surprise. Never again this miserable stink cheese, which my friend used to pickle with onions and which then contaminated the kitchen for days when you opened the fridge door! I crumpled up the note and started to write.
Things that are good for being alone
Point one was easy. You don't have to buy things you don't like. "I don't have to cook when I don't feel like it," I wrote. "I don't have to go shopping on Saturdays, after all there are petrol stations." Continue. "No more advice on how to read conflict resolution through nonviolent communication. Instead, thrillers or the" gala ", and without stupid comments." Continue. "No more free jazz for breakfast." "No fight, who can go to the bathroom first." "No more black men's socks in white underwear." "The bathroom console all to myself." "No more sleeping with the window open below freezing." "Smoking under the extractor hood when I feel like it." "No more stock market prices ticking on the TV screen." I took the last sip of wine and was satisfied with myself. That was eleven nice points for my new life. I was kind of over it, right? I went to bed and fell asleep almost immediately.
Where are you going on vacation?
The colleague certainly hadn't meant it badly, but her question felt like a slap in the face. There was no "you" anymore, there was only an "I". And could this self really go on vacation alone? Where do you go as I? I didn't want to go to a single club, I definitely didn't want to get to know someone new. But alone in a hotel, only families and couples around me? Just don't. Pityful sentences like "you are welcome to sit down with us" echoed through my head. My friends offered to go on vacation with them and their partners, but I didn't want to be the fifth wheel on the car. Squatting alone in a holiday apartment and blowing tribulation also failed. I'm not the type for a backpack tour through Asia. It was also difficult for me to tie my 22-year-old son to the leg. With mom to "Rock am Ring"? God forbid. But what then? Stay at home? Maybe for the rest of my life? I fell asleep much worse that night. Things that I can't do well alone rushed through my head. Go on vacation. Celebrate Christmas. To become old. Actually only three items, but the last one seemed to me to be not insignificant.
A few days later, a book fell into my hands in the bookstore. There are such coincidences that are not. "About the art of being alone," it said. Subtitle: "How to overcome loneliness and fear of being alone and learn to love yourself". Of course, there is the fear of being alone that extends to pathological monophobia, says author Janett Manzel. But what do people who have learned to enjoy being for themselves actually do differently? From her work as a coach, writes Manzel, she knows that most people feel lonely, but very few would show that. Instead, they dub it through social media, appointments, phone calls, going out. To where the others are. "Only that they encounter supposedly happy people there and fear that they will be recognized and devalued in their loneliness. One easily gets lost in the belief that one has done something that would have caused being alone." Manzel knows what she is talking about: As the only child of a single mother, she got the feeling early that she was not seen. Her sadness hid behind a hidden anger that manifested itself in panic attacks decades later when she felt alone. "Those who are lonely usually do not know each other or do not appreciate their positive aspects. I had no choice but to learn to be alone and to enjoy my time with me." Manzel helped therapy to find her inner core and to accept it. Today she is the greatest source of strength for herself and enjoys her own company.
There's something wrong with me because I'm alone
This sentence is firmly anchored at the bottom of the soul of many people who feel lonely. But once you know that it sticks there like tough old chewing gum, that's a huge step. Because the worst is not being alone, but the feeling that you are somehow unfortunate. Someone who has no partner or friends to eat with him or, as in my case, to share the best time of the year with him. I know it's strictly bullshit. I have friends. Even those who go on vacation with me – provided they have enough lead time to plan for it. So I am alone this year has nothing to do with the fact that something is wrong with me. And yet I can't get rid of the idea: sitting at a cat table and chewing on a bifteki while the rest of the dining room furtively looks at the cheery fifties without any attachments. Something can't be right with that, can it?
The perfidious thing is: if you feel alone, you think everyone else is happy because – together. Happy couples, happy families. Whether one or the other just wants the rest of the brood to hell and longs for nothing more, well, once the fear has taken over, it is not easy to turn things around. It only helps to take countermeasures. Acknowledging the fear and telling yourself that it is normal to feel uncomfortable at times. And that – old therapist wisdom – is so much more than your feelings. Only then will other emotions surface again. For example, the little happiness in the morning when you stretch yourself on the balcony, the sun rises over the mountains and the feeling that you are the only person in the world is suddenly something beautiful. No child wants attention, no partner wants to embark on an ambitious hike. Only you, the mountains, the sun. Pure luck. Anyone who threatens to miss such moments can, like a friend of mine, keep a smiley diary. Nice moment: grin smiley. Sad moment: howl smiley. Over time, you will notice that you experience a lot more happy moments than you think.
Things that I can do alone
… is on the piece of paper that I just filled in yesterday. Recognize yourself in order to learn to appreciate your own society – Franziska Muri also sees in her guide "21 reasons to love being alone" the most important step. For example, I can go to the cinema on my own very well. I don't have to let my ear whisper as the film ends, and after the end credits debate whether the book was better. I'm not bad at going solo shopping either. I like walking alone, preferably in my neighborhood. I almost always meet someone I know. I may be for myself, but I am part of an urban village community. Like the devil's holy water, on the other hand, I avoid the usual weekend trails: perfect families with pretty children and even prettier dogs in the city park, closely entwined couples on the banks of the Elbe. You can't feel lonelier than here on the north face of the Eiger. Why should you do this to yourself?
What else can I do solo? City trips. It took a little while, but today I'm booking a weekend in Paris without a stomachache. In metropolises you not only have enough distraction, you can also immerse yourself in anonymity: Nobody looks funny because you are in front of the "Mona Lisa" without being accompanied. Sometimes I send WhatsApps to friends. The answer is never long in coming. Little digital conversations that tell me: Maybe you would like to share this moment, but they are there, your favorite people. Reliable, indestructible, wherever. I have already booked a yoga trip for the holiday and found three interested friends for a shared flat to grow old. And I'm celebrating Christmas with my neighbors this year. Otherwise I might have implemented Janett Manzel's tip. Since her mother often spends the holidays in Norway, she decorates her tree with photos and memories of loved ones, whether living or deceased. Because as I said: They are all there, our favorite people. Reliable, indestructible, wherever. Only we should belong to it.
Time with me
Relieving, fulfilling or lonely: What experiences have you had with being alone?
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"About the art of being alone: How to overcome loneliness and fear of being alone and learn to love yourself on the side", by Janett Manzel, 188 pages, 14.99 euros, self-published.
"21 reasons to love being alone", by Franziska Muri, 288 pages, 19.99 euros, integral.
"The art of enduring yourself. A way to inner freedom", by Michael Bordt SJ, 96 pages, 8.99 Euro ZS Verlag.
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