Sunday, July 1, 2012

7/2/12—Being Enough

Today's Draw: The Hermit from the Infinite Visions. When was the last time you spent a weekend all to yourself? When was the last time you were your top priority? If you routinely put your needs aside for others, what do you suppose you're teaching them about how to treat you...and how to be themselves?

This week's topic is Five Lessons to Learn Before You Die. I added the "before you die" part because, if you haven't noticed, I'm a little dramatic. :D BTW, if anyone would like to suggest a topic that we could spend an entire week on (like last week's "How to Create More Peace in Your Life"), feel free to let me know.

Today's lesson of The Hermit is about solitude. I really like what the book says, so I'll repeat it here: "You must first know who you are and how to help yourself before you can help others. By seeking solitude, you can collect and organize your thoughts without distractions. Teaching others what you have learned is one of the best roads to self discovery."

No one is better qualified to teach others about solitude than I...haha. For the past 20+ years, I've lived alone. For 15 of those years, I've worked alone. And only for about, say, 3 of those years have I had a man of one kind or another in my life. And by "one kind or another" I mean someone who distracts me from my own little world. That said, I do have dogs and have for the past 13 years. Two dogs for the past 8 years. So I do know how to share my life, albeit with creatures that are easy to communicate with and pretty much always do what I say...haha.

In short, I'm a lone wolf. I actually prefer being alone. Which isn't to say I don't mind having some male interaction, but I don't place it as a priority. If anything, my personal lesson in life would be the opposite of today's...I could use to learn how to live contentedly with another person in my life. So consider that my curriculum vitae for teaching you about solitude. :D

I wouldn't necessarily suggest that anyone live my solo lifestyle. It's a bit far to that end of the spectrum and, as such, not entirely healthy. And it's not healthy because, like I said, I'm not learning the lessons that come with tolerating others in your day-to-day life. (Notice my use of the word "tolerate"? That speaks volumes of my capacity for being around others.) That said, the same, but opposite thing could be said for anyone who hasn't been alone for any significant amount of time in their adult life.

I have many friends who have never been alone in their lives...have never had to fly solo financially, socially, emotionally or any which way. I also have a lot of friends who can't seem to stay uncoupled for any length of time...they need the affirmation of another in their life to feel "right". I think it's important for all of us to find out who we are when we aren't with someone, and to feel "right", if not joyful, in that journey. I also think it's important to do that at different times in your life.

Now, obviously, that's difficult if you are in a marriage or a long-term relationship. But carving out your own identity and taking retreats on your own is essential. Even if you have kids. You need the experience of being free of everyone else's agendas in order to really discover your own. You need to be free of all the labels...professional, mother, wife, friend, get to the essence of who you are. Sure, all of those things are part of who you are. But there's another you underneath all of that and it's too easy to lose sight of that when your life is busy with so many other priorities. 

And that's what it comes down—priorities. When everyone else's priorities take precedence...when your interests center around the interests of someone else...when you can't make time to do the things you dream of...when you'd rather die than live without any one person in your life...when having someone else love you is a higher priority than loving yourself...that's when you've lost yourself. 

And people always come back with "but I have kids and it's selfish to just pick up and leave them to go off on an artist's retreat (or whatever)", but that's a bunch of BS. You're teaching those kids that their lives are not as important as the life of anyone else who may come into their lives. Or you're teaching them that everyone else's lives should stop when they have needs. If you don't want that fate for them, why are you imposing it on yourself? Why not, instead, teach them that self-love, solitude and independence are important parts of life?

Unfortunately, I could probably write a book on this topic, but I only have a single entry here. The bottom line is that people have a tendency to fill their lives with activities, noise and other people so they never have to face the most dreaded state at all—being alone with themselves. And the thing is, as long as you're avoiding it, dreading it or labeling it a bad or selfish thing, you're saying that you are not enough. You, alone, are not enough. And that one core belief..that you alone are not enough...will toxify every choice and every relationship you have.

You can say you know you're enough all you want, but until you've lived it and been right with it, you will always spend your life searching for the missing piece in your life—your own loving relationship with yourself. If you really DID know that you, alone, are enough, you'd be hungry to get away from the world to nurture that relationship every now and again. 

Simply put, there is no relationship more important than your relationship with yourself. And there is no relationship more important to the health of your relationships with others than your relationship with yourself. And if others can't hold that space for you, it's a clue you've been neglecting your relationship with self too long. You're the one that taught them you're not important.

I can tell you from experience that living alone, in and of itself, will not get you there. Likewise, you can get there even if you're married to your high school sweetheart. But in order to really know that you, alone, are enough, you do have to risk being alone. You need to enter it into your priorities and use the time in such a way that nourishes your relationship with yourself. Do something you like to do just for you. And if you don't know what that is, figure it out.

The Hermit comes to us to tell us that not only are we, alone, enough, but that the most enduring relationship we will ever have is with ourselves. Unfortunately, for many of us, husbands come and go. Children grow up. Our parents die. Our siblings go on to their own lives. The only relationship that's there forever is the one we have with ourselves. Having a good relationship with yourself is vital to making the right and healthy choices for your life. It's critical to having the kind of life you want. Yet it's the first relationship many of us dump the second someone comes into our lives or has needs...even when they can fulfill their needs themselves. It's disrespectful to the dream our parents had for us. It disrespects the possibilities God gave to us. And it disrespects ourselves. And that's just wrong. 


  1. Well said, Tierney. I especially love the "but I have . . ." part and how that can pattern those around us to devalue themselves. Good relationships enhance freedom as they provide an environment to be able to expand in the gentle and caring ways that from from developed strengths. Thank You for your blog on The Hermit. Resonantly appropriate from my perspective.

  2. I agree, Jordan. From my perspective (and it's a convenient perspective since I prefer being alone to being coupled) there's an epidemic of neediness in relationships...people staying together, not because the other person enhances their individual life, but because the other person is better than the alternative of being alone. I know that sounds skeptical, but people get settled into a routine and, while they may continue to work on the outer—the body and social skills—, they get lax on the individual inner work. They are a couple now, or a family, and the individual gets lost in all of that. Certainly there are real, practical reasons why they have to work as a unit and that is a path of discovery all its own. But, more often than not, the individual and the individual identity is sacrificed for the whole. And I'm not really judging that...I get it. I'm just saying it's valuable to consider working relationships in such a way that the individual is not lost. Personally, I'm not interested in doing it any other way. And I think that's as much a function of entering into a relationship at my age as it is my own personal work.

    I've had enough relationships to know how people willingly give themselves over to the relationship and coupledom right off the bat because, on one level or another, they want to "lose themselves in the relationship" aka not have to look at themselves. I have a few couple friends that have been together since high school and I commend that, because they still love each other and everything. I couldn't manage a relationship that long, I don't think. And I believe these people were meant to be together forever, which is rare and beautiful. But the thing is, they all have drinking issues. So there is an aspect of their "selves" that they are running away from. In each case, it has nothing to do with whether or not they love their spouse...not from what I can see or hear. But they don't love their lives. And I suspect, that's the toll of living entirely for the whole and having lost the self somewhere in the mix. They were teenagers...15, 16...when they first met, fercryinoutloud! Yes, of course they lost themselves in each other. And it's hard to go back and find yourself, especially once the drinking starts. I know that sounds like a dim view of love and I don't mean it to. It's the reality I see in the sample that's in front of me.