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Necklace by Dharma Wanderlust. Click for more unique handmade jewellery by Mr. Wanderlust.

As I sat down at my computer to write this edition, I hesitated. How will this post be perceived? Will those who know me judge me harshly after reading the post? Will people understand? Then, I came across Joshua Rothman’s article Virginia Woolf’s Idea of Privacy in The New Yorker, and felt a jolt of confidence at the reminder that I’m not alone with the status of a loner. It also reminded me of how much I enjoyed reading Mrs. Dalloway in English 101 in the first year of undergrad, inspiring me to pick up the book again, soon.

A week ago, I drove alone to listen to Kate Morton speak and to meet her briefly while she signed my copy of The Lake House. I had invited my mother-in-law to join me, given that we both are devoted fans of Morton’s work. Since my mother-in-law was not available to join me at the event, to attend which she would have had to drive for over an hour, I went alone. Driving along dark rural roads, I listened to the new album by Enya while heeding the directions of the GPS. When I entered the charmingly decorated hall of the golf club, with Christmas lights and poinsettia sparkling festively, I snagged a solitary spot close to the front of the room at a round table full of women who arrived as a group. I learned many years ago that one advantage of attending events alone is that a solitary seat can almost always be found if not in the front row then in the second row of a crowded theatre or hall.

The lady beside whom I sat down asked me bluntly, “Did you come alone?”

“Yes,” I replied with a smile while removing my coat and draping it on the back of the chair.

“You must really like Kate Morton,” she said.

“I do.” Small smile. Simple. No unnecessary explanations or additional small talk.

I have always enjoyed my own company. I sometimes wonder whether it’s selfish to admit this fact. The truth is, spending time alone helps to nourish my soul in an honest manner that allows me to take better care of my loved ones.

At about five or six years of age, I started going to see children’s movies alone at the theatre across the street from the apartment building in which my parents and I lived. Sometimes, at the behest of my mom, I would reluctantly invite along my friend Pavlik, our neighbour from the fourth floor. I felt mildly annoyed every time he would turn to me during the movie to ask me a question or make a comment.

I remember getting puzzled looks from my friends’ parents who would offer me a ride home from school on a rainy day only to hear my answer: “Thanks, but I like walking alone in the rain.”

I enjoy eating alone in restaurants or hiding with a book in the cozy corner of a quaint cafe. I love visiting art galleries and museums alone. I need to be with my thoughts, to process certain experiences by myself and for myself, without feeling the need to speak with the people next to me or worry about whether they are enjoying the experience as much as I am. Of course, these days, I rarely have the opportunity to do the above, given my family and work schedule, but whenever possible, I do steal away a few hours for myself.

As Rothman quotes Woolf in The New Yorker, “There is a dignity in people; a solitude; even between husband and wife a gulf; and that one must respect … for one would not part with it oneself, or take it, against his will, from one’s husband, without losing one’s independence, one’s self-respect—something, after all, priceless.”

I love spending precious time with my family and friends. It’s healing to sit down with a person with whom I connect on an intimate level and have a real, honest, deep conversation that flows easily, devoid of banal gossip. I prefer to spend one-on-one time with my husband and close friends in a quiet environment that allows us to hear one another, rather than in a loud, crowded venue. Sometimes, it can feel great to attend a play together and discuss it at length afterward over a cup of tea. At other times, it feels just as great to attend a play alone.

Society expects us to want to be with others all the time, and when we deviate from that expectation, we are seen as odd. I’m not immune from that judgment. I still sometimes second-guess my confidence. Yet, it’s possible to be a happy loner and I’m convinced that there are many of us out here, quietly lurking in a café, scribbling contentedly in a notebook, relishing the experience of our own company.

Would you openly admit that you are at least a wee bit of a loner? How can we change the stigma that surrounds introverts and private people in today’s society? Please feel free to leave a comment below to add to the discussion.

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My older son and I were sitting at a local coffee and doughnut shop yesterday in the evening after dinner, enjoying a mini escape from the house, a mom-and-son date. While I waited for my mint tea to chill, I watched my son and answered his questions about the various signs he kept noticing in the small shop, advertising sandwich combos, a new roast, and free WiFi (“What is WiFi, Mommy?”). He was sipping his hot chocolate, slowly at first, until he started to take bigger slurps and finally finished it before reaching for his double chocolate doughnut. Like me, my son has a sweet tooth. I have often wondered whether in our family, we all have a sweet tooth gene that continues to be passed on from generation to generation. When I started to introduce my son to ‘real’ foods as a baby, I offered him pureed beans alongside pureed yams. Guess which one he relished, seated in his high chair with a smile full of sweet-tasting orange-coloured happiness. The other vegetable was promptly spat out, as soon as the BPA-free teaspoon touched his lips.

As a student of Mindfulness, I have a profound interest in how we can utilize Mindfulness practices to change negative habits into lasting positive ones. Particularly, I have been applying the practice to my personal eating patterns by observing my emotions and thoughts during stressful/challenging times, noticing the foods I crave during those times: anything made with sugar.

I am also a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s work, the author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. Her new book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, to be released on March 17th, explores the science behind habit-forming behaviour. Visiting Rubin’s website, I came across this quiz and as I read the post, I had to pause to listen to the ‘ding ding ding’ sound coming closer toward me from a distance.

It turns out that some people are natural moderators while others are abstainers. As much as I don’t enjoy labels, what this means is that for some people, like me, it’s easier to give up sugar cold-turkey and after struggling through the initial 14 days or so, to abstain from sugar altogether. Others more easily take the approach that ‘life is too short to miss out on treats,’ and are able to stop eating dessert after the first two bites. Rubin mentions yet another fascinating fact, that moderators often try – unsuccessfully – to turn into abstainers, and abstainers – again, unsuccessfully – attempt to become moderators.

This information provides a different perspective for my practice. It also leads me to wonder whether, perhaps, Mindfulness practices that relate to food consumption come more easily to people who are naturally better at moderating. On the other hand, a daily seated or walking mindfulness meditation practice might come more easily to a person who takes the ‘all or nothing’ attitude. I would assume that people who are able to effectively abstain from consuming certain foods would also be naturally better than others at repeating the same behaviour every day. I might be wrong, but to learn more, I will just have to read Rubin’s new book and continue practising.

What are your thoughts? Would you say you tend to choose the ‘all or nothing’ or the ‘you only live once, so let’s enjoy the treat’ approach? Please feel free to comment.

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