On Being Alone and Defining Yourself

I spend about 80% of my time alone. It is not something I choose, but it is the hand I have been dealt for the last 10 months or so. I have always been a bit of a loner I suppose. I was the youngest of four children and often a pain. The one that everyone else had to feel some responsibility for. Again, a situation not of my choosing. I adjusted to being alone. I learned at an early age how to entertain myself. As I sit this morning and gaze out the window, I realize my tendency to label myself. My first labels:  the baby, a loner, quiet, shy. Funny how I never chose the label self-sufficient.

As I grew up my siblings went in their own chosen directions and eventually, I became the last child at home. Being the last child at home (label: only child) meant more time alone. Of course I was older and more social which was nice. Summers were long.  Mom and Dad worked and I cleaned house, did laundry, washed dishes and cooked some. I dated and had fun, don’t get me wrong, but there were no siblings to share my adventures with. My good friend Cindy became my adopted sister of sorts and we shared most everything. Even so, at night, at the close of the day, I was alone.

Fast forward through the labels of wife, mother, photographer, intern, manager, divorcee, manager, artist. I do not wish to revisit those years here today – suffice it to say it was a time of change and re-labeling myself. I start to see the pattern labeling myself with what I did, rather than who I was.

Happily remarried, I relocated to Florida with my husband – as a newlywed (label). It was a glorious time – one of the best in my life. I was able to own a home for the first time in my life. We decorated, we took classes, we rode bikes, we took trips, became grandparents! – we really enjoyed our lives together. We even worked at the same company – dare I say co-worker (label).

Then 9/11 hit. What a horrible time. I had a team of people who boarded a plane that morning to fly to Atlanta for a one day meeting. I don’t think I took a breath until I knew they were okay. Stranded from their homes, spouses and children, but okay. The economy eventually bottomed out and I found a new label for myself – unemployed. Two jobs gone in less than a year. I kept that label several years. It was a difficult time. There were no jobs.

Eventually I went on a very awkward interview for a job I didn’t think I really wanted – of course I was offered the job. For five years I was a ‘teacher’. A label I came to love. I worked with at-risk children teaching art and photography. It was fulfilling until politics got in the way of the work. 40% of the staff was eliminated. I looked into my past and dusted off the ‘unemployed’ label. It did not fit me well, so I worked hard through lots of red-tape and was able to go back to school. For 12 months I became a student (label).

Now I work from home as a web designer (label), so the majority of my work time is at home, in front of my computer solving problems. During this time my husband took a job out-of-town, so I am again, spending the majority of my time alone. I know it will not always be that way, but for now, it is where we are.

IMAG1640Why did I sit down to write this blog this morning? It all started with the coffee cup I chose for my morning coffee. I purchased these from Jane – a talented potter and friend. I bought one for me and for my two sisters (label) to celebrate our annual trips to a cabin in the mountains. It is so symbolic to me. It is a reminder that even though I might spend a great deal of time alone, I am not lonely. I am blessed.

I am going to work on putting aside the need to label everything in my life. If we are not careful, we fit ourselves into those labels. That’s not who we are. Those are our jobs, our roles, our situations, but nothing to do with the core of our being.

For today, I will celebrate the time I have been given to reflect and remember what is important in my life. I will celebrate the artists that create vessels that hold such beautiful memories. My thoughts have now shifted from my labels to examining and remembering who I am. Though I have met many, many people – have had friends walk in and out of my life, have a husband, children and grand-children that I love with all my heart, who I am is something different. I want to find a connection to who I am without labels. It isn’t easy – try it. I feel a future blog about this, but not today. Today I will enjoy a ‘free day’ with no expectations — a day with coffee and memories and no labels.

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6 thoughts on “On Being Alone and Defining Yourself

  1. No one who knows you would ever mistake one of these labels for the whole person. It is a very one-dimensional perspective. As a young person, even while you were a sister, you were also a daughter, a friend and a student. You have played many important roles in many people’s lives. Well done, Maggie.

    • Thanks for your insight, my friend. It is such a complex issue as I’m trying to re-discover my authentic self. You know, the essence of who I am as a person and not me defined by the roles I fulfilled.

  2. This strikes me as a search to find a unicorn. When was the last time that you were your authentic self? How old were you and what were the circumstances?

    From infancy, people are imposing rules and expectations on us. Society, parents and friends all try to define us. Who we are is often is often a result of our individual willingness to accept or our battle to resist and reject this imposition.

    In a course on child psychology I took for teaching, I believe that researchers have identified 4 (or possibly 6 – memory fails) basic personality types that are exhibited by infants. I suppose that these personality types could be described as an essential self, but then the rest of who we are is so much a result of our interactions with people and our environment. We are an aggregate of the roles we have played.

    Personally, I think you are in an uncomfortable place. Transitions are stressful. I think that you have been forced into roles that are not satisfying – trying to manage men in trucks for instance. You have not had time to be creative and expressive, to play in areas that are the most satisfying to you.

    This too shall pass. I know you will be able to be the creative artist that you are, your authentic self. You just have to see this through.

    • You know me. I don’t accept science as the end all. I do think people and places change us throughout our lives. Some experiences, change us in a way our normal path of growth would not have imagined. Even you are evidence of that, my friend. I know this will pass, but it is too much of a demand on my time which alters my being. When WAS the last time I did anything artistic? That’s the situation that trips me up.

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