Have you ever heard of a “silent retreat”? It is exactly what it sounds like; silence during the whole stay. It usually lasts 5-7 days. There are no books, no music, no movies, no paper or pen and pencil, no device to connect you to the outside world and especially, there is no verbal interaction with anyone else. You get an hour a day to talk to a therapist, should you need one and that is it. You are alone while being surrounded with people with whom you cannot interact. Most people break down. They cry, scream and they become a little wired during their short stay. If that isn’t proof that we are social beings who must interact with others, I don’t know what is.

This silent retreat forces you to face yourself at a cellular level; your feelings, your thoughts, the most inner and secretive part of yourself that you have carefully or unconsciously hidden. Some people have issues they prefer to bury, as a defense mechanism to not deal with a devastating trauma. So, if that is the case and you have unresolved issues, you will break down. If you have any darkness in you that you have drowned in alcohol, drugs, work, denial and/or by being busy on your phone or any device available, you will break down. That silence and lack of distractions push you to face your emotions and feelings which come rushing back.  There is an important percentage of the visitors that have mental and emotional breakdowns. That is what a few days of silence and lack of interaction can do to someone’s soul. I find it fascinating; you may call it whatever you wish.

This silent retreat has one obvious similarity with living alone: being by yourself. When you live alone, well, by definition, you are alone most of the time and that can be good or bad, depending on who you are and where you are in your life. Some people could see it as depressing, but I see it as liberating, in a way. I am talking about being alone, not lonely. There is a sizeable difference. Being lonely implies there is an inherent sadness. Being lonely means, you voluntarily took a step back from being with people, it is the worst version of being alone. I am talking about being alone while having people you can hang out with, having friends, having a social life.

Living alone means literally that you are alone. There is only you, no one else is around and that’s about it. You are living in a physical three-dimensional space where, once again, only you exist, matter (without ignoring friends and family), eat, shit, breathe, sleep, etc.

I personally know something about living alone as I have been doing it for the past 13 years. Frankly, I would encourage anyone, granted that they have the means and time, to live alone. You wouldn’t believe the things you could learn about yourself.

On a personal note, I come from a big family and growing up, our house was always full of people. There was always someone to talk to, to play with. There was always a presence in the house so I wouldn’t feel alone or lonely. Now, I live by myself and I am alone but never lonely. Why did I do it? I figured it was time I faced myself and I took life in my own hands as every adult should do.

The main thing about living alone is that you have one friend and one enemy: YOU.

You are your own friend and you are your own enemy simultaneously. The main benefit is you get to take care of yourself. Suddenly, all chores and activities are yours to do. Whether you like it or not, you learn how to cook and clean, you learn how to groom yourself and how to be an adult. Moreover, when the house is empty and there is no one around, one person will keep you company: YOU. I know we have a million distractions with the internet and our devices but in the end, you are there by yourself. Every time you will look in the mirror, you will see your face and no one else’s. Those distractions will only delay the inevitable; facing yourself with everything that is right and wrong about your damn self.

On the other hand, if something goes wrong, you don’t have anyone to blame. How could you ever blame someone else for something you did or didn’t do? No one was supposed to do it but you. If the house isn’t clean, if the fridge is empty, if a bill isn’t paid, if you are behind on your rent, if the laundry isn’t done, ain’t no one to blame but YOU. It sounds selfish and it is! You must take care of yourself first and then, Gods willing, you take care of others!

Granted, there isn’t a perfect human being out there. No one expects anybody to be perfect as we all have flaws and shortcomings. No one will ever be ready at 100% to face everything themselves, that will never happen. Yet, when you live by yourself, you learn so much about yourself: Can you stand the silence? Can you stand the creeping loneliness that could turn into sadness or depression? Can you face your demons and not break down and cry? Do you need help from a professional? What are the things that bother you? What can you do or not do? What are you fears? What do you like? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What makes you happy? What fills your soul with joy? And try being alone after a breakup!! That shit aint funny, it is fucked up! Goddamn! Just remembering all the fucked-up shit that have happened, I smile because I feel like I came out of bad situations with a stronger mind!

Every day, you wake up and you see only one face in that goddamn mirror: YOU.

I know it might sound like a Republican slogan, but when you live alone, you learn that you really are responsible for how you feel and what you do. Living with others, aside from the obvious warmth it brings, it can also be a distraction, a way of not facing our own problems, insecurities and fears. Living with others kinda keeps your mind occupied. Yes, you get to talk to people, they offer advice, they can lend a hand, they can lend you money, they offer reassurance but living alone, YOU must offer all that to yourself.

I hear people say living alone brings a selfishness and a need to be by yourself forever because you might see the others as the source of your problems. They would be right to think that, I admit it. I know how easy it is to turn into a selfish fucker because one lives alone. Yet, I feel like living alone prepares for the rest of your life. It gives you strength and independence. You get to be self-sufficient; you get to grow up and take care of yourself.

I am a fierce proponent of living alone for a little while. It helps tremendously. Now, I will leave you to a final quote of a dear friend of mine with whom I was talking to and who inspired this subject. Here goes:

“If you can live by yourself and you manage your life, that means you know exactly who you are, from point A to Z, almost automatically. You cannot build a family if you don’t know who you are because living alone allows to find out not only who you are but also where you are going, what you are about. It doesn’t mean you are perfect; it just means you know who you are. Some people, unfortunately, try living alone for 6 months and end up being depressed (it could be unresolved issues or something else and ultimately, if it is a mental issue, we cannot blame them for that. Then, the same people look for someone to help them get out of the depression when they should try and do it themselves because whatever issue you have, you must always try to fix by yourself before looking for help. Moreover, those issues that push them towards depression, they are usually mental obstacles they have put up themselves. You know, sometimes we all have financial problems and that financial issue can become bigger, simply because your brain cannot manage the situation. If you owe money, unless you find the money, you will still owe money the following day. But if your mind breaks or blows that problem out of proportions because you are not mentally ready to deal with the problem, then you will have an even bigger problem.

You are responsible for yourself. Do not blame other people all the time.”

The man has some good points, cannot argue with that.

Just one man’s opinion.

Now smile and go on with your day.

Freeman. B

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