Appreciating SOLO Time

Self-discovery is a journey

When I look back I have always being a loner… I like spending time by myself and with myself.  Always had. At times friends and boyfriends would complain about me being reclused and moody, and I always admitted to it, never fought it or felt insulted. It was true, I could recluse myself into solitary to study, to soothe my mind, to nurture my soul. I just need time alone.

I have always been surprised how after 20 years of leaving my home country, my friends (my closest friends) are the ones I have back in Panama.  Those amazing 13 women were, are and will be one of the best gifts life has given me, and thanks to WhatsApp we are constantly chatting, giving advice, reprimanding, complaining, encouraging and congratulating each other.  Of course, I have made friends since coming to the U, but 20 years later there are just about 5 people that have been close enough to call them a friend.

When I turned 35, there was a major shift in me. I started reading self-improvement books, marriage books, communication books, mindfulness books and with this new information I was learning, I became aware that me being a loner was a trait of my personality and most importantly I learned to embrace it.

So what are the things that I enjoy doing all by myself? Here are a few of them:

Watching a movie: I work next to a movie theater and ever so often I try to treat myself for an early afternoon movie on Fridays.  Maybe it happens once every two or three months but when there is a movie (especially a rom-com girly movie) I go in, popcorn in hand, and have a blast all by myself.

Having a meal in restaurants:  I know it’s not easy to see people eating by themselves, but what if that person is choosing to be alone?  In my case, there have been so many times in which I have been eating by myself, in a nice place, watching people walk by or just observing the restaurant.  I remember when I was in college I would go to this cafe for lunch and sit by the window just watching people walk by, I enjoyed the meal, the view, and the loneliness.

Traveling:  Walking into an airport is instant relaxation for me.  I like going to the airport at least 2-hours before my flight and sit in a food court or Starbucks and watching people walk by.  Also been by myself in a long flight (8 or more hours) is therapy to me.  Watching movies, reading, writing, or just plainly thinking, enjoying the constraint of not been able to go anywhere for the next 10 hours. Princeless.

It is my experience, now at 39 years old, that taking the time to get to know yourself better is pivotal in our continuous self-improvement.  We need to decipher ourselves and embrace our own thoughts. We are all different and when I am walking in a mall and I pass by a group of friends, I smile… my lonely trip is their group trip… and we are equally enjoying it.

Question of the Week: What song or songs remind you of your younger self or of a specific time in your life?

This question has been on my mind for a very long time, the reason I think this question often pops in my head is that I have vivid memories that are strongly attached to specific songs, each time I hear these songs, my soul goes time traveling back to that moment and I feel encapsulated with all the colors, people and places of that time. Which song/moment combo comes to you when you think about it? It can be a sad, happy, lonely, coming-of-age moment, or just powerful enough to find its place in your memories. My Top 3 moments and their songs are:

1.Place: Street Car in New Orleans   Band: Duncan Dhu (all songs)   

I studied  Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the University of New Orleans and one year into my studies I moved to an apartment in uptown New Orleans with my best friend.  While living in uptown meant we were closer to our Panamanian friends and Bourbon Street with all its glory, it meant also that I was far from where the University was and had no car, so for a full year, I took the Streetcar (from beginning to end which is approx 1 hr) and then a  bus that would take me across the city until reaching the University campus. I went back and forth every day while listening to Duncan Dhu, a Spanish band and one of my old-time favorite’s. I had a big collection of their records so I was always changing the CD on my CD player (oh yeah!!) and never ever getting tired. 

I have one perfect memory of being in the Streetcar, passing through Audubon Park in Saint Charles Avenue while listening to A Tientas, with my head resting on the window.  Its been 20 years since that time and the memory remains the same.  It is one of my favorite memories because although I felt tired, lonely, and overwhelmed with the studies, and uncertain about the future, the song lyrics and melody allowed my soul to sing giving me profound hope for the next chapter in my life.

2. Place:  New Orleans    Song: Late in the Evening by Paul Simon (in Concert)

When I was 14 years old my dad introduced me to Simon and Garfunkel and was love at first sight.  I barely spoke English but the album Bridge Over Troubled Water had a special place in my music collection.  With the years I was able to slowly collect more albums and the album The Concert in Central Park became my favorite.   In 2001, when I was living in New Orleans Paul Simon came to Jazz Fest and he was giving a concert and of course, I wanted to go.  I could not get one person to come with me so I asked my then-boyfriend to drop me off and pick me up after the concert to which he agreed.   I remember I had bought the cheapest ticket and was on the second floor, but since I was by myself I slowly moved my way down and placed myself in the center of the fourth row. It was magical. Seeing all these people singing Paul Simon’s songs was unbelievable to me.  And then he played Late in the Evening and the people exploded and I was there, dancing, singing, seeing Paul Simon singing while playing his guitar was unbelievable, it was a moment of excitement, of pure joy, of pure greatness.  No matter where I am, every time I hear this song, I smile… I fill myself with love and joy and happiness… Thank you, Paul Simon.

3. Place: Driving in our car   Song: Everything will change

We have been fans of Gavin Degraw’s music for years.  We have all his albums and we constantly listen to him in the house or while driving.  My husband and kids are huge fans too which makes it super easy to ask Google to play his music at any time. He is our to-go-artist when the four of us are together.  My husband always dreamed of buying a convertible and after saving money for a couple of years we were able to buy one. One beautiful morning, we went for a ride, with the top down, the wind blowing, the sun shining, and Gavin Degraw’s Everything will change playing out loud.  I captured this moment in video and this moment represents fulfillment, joy, happiness, and love. I catch my husband every now and then watching the video with a big smile on his face, holding on to that moment in time in which as a family, we felt whole, we felt connected and we felt loved.  The kids are much older now and although their love for Gavin Degraw and especially this song has not diminished, this moment in time will forever be ours.

I believe in the power of music, on the power of songwriting, from been a teenager and listening to Sublime, to Ruben Blades (of course best ever), to singing Regueton with my oldest son, or reaching for Pearl Jam during traffice time, music plays an important moment in my life. So what about you?  Which are the songs that connect you with that special memory time and time again?

Question of the week…

stencil.facebook-link-post

I have been thinking about ways to engage with you, the reader, and have decided to do, every Thursday, a “Question of the Week” segment, in which I will ask a fun, insightful, interesting and hopefully smart question that will challenge you to answer it.  You can answer it out loud on the spot, use it for your journal entry, or just reflect on it for the next couple of hours or days.

The intention is to invite you to reflect and make you aware of your thoughts and feelings while you answer the question… creating a mini mindful moment.

The question of this week is:  If you had an extra hour every day, how would you spend it?

When we ask ourselves this question, we tend to gravitate towards those actions or activities that we “keep putting off” mostly because of the “lack of time”.  Some of the most common answers are:

  • I would exercise
  • I would cook a healthy dinner 
  • I would take time to converse with my husband and children (or parents or friends)
  • I would study to further my education (go back to school or a work-related course)
  • I would practice meditation or work towards mindfulness
  • I would start my own business
  • I would start a hobby (or go back to it)

This question, when we answer it honestly, can reveal things that are sincerely important to us since we are no longer blaming the “lack of time” as the culprit for not doing them.

Think about that extra time and what you would do with it. Maybe you will realize what is truly important to you, and rearranging your schedule to make it happen can be something worth looking into.  All is possible within our reach and our time schedule. Yes, we do need to rearrange and prioritize, but we can do it.

 

 

Mari Park