alone versus lonely

Last week, as I was walking home from work, I thought, "What can I do that's not quite running and not quite walking?" I want to lace up my sneakers, but for what? Finally, it hit me so hard I felt stupid for not thinking of it earlier. Hiking!

Fenton was up for any adventure, so I coaxed him into the car (dog doesn't understand that because he can hop over fences he should be able to jump into my Toyota Corolla. Instead, I'm over here pushing his butt into the backseat). We parked at the Sanitas trailhead, a destination I will sorely miss when departing Colorado, and sped up the trail.

I'm so glad I reminded myself that I can go for a hike on a random Tuesday after work. It's light out enough now that it becomes even more possible as spring wanes into summer. Once I'm back in Alaska, I'll have even more of a chance (and summer light) to make this me-time happen later in the day.

I am incredibly grateful for times like this, to be alone with my thoughts and my canine in tow. I've always relished my alone time. I am extremely introverted and need to set aside time regularly in solitude.

As an example of this, once in sixth grade, a friend asked if I wanted to come over to her house after school. I declined, saying that I'd rather go home and read instead. To her, that was the ultimate insult, but I didn't mean it as a slight. Rather, I felt like being alone that day and figured we would play at her house another time.

Despite needing a certain level of connection, I love being by myself. Moreover, I need it. Thankfully, I think I've gained a bit more tact since then.

That said, a lot of people have asked if I'm sad that Peter is gone. The answer is: it depends. Yes and no. There's nothing that can fully replace the companion you've chosen as your partner. Of course I miss him. I want to be there in person to support him with this big undertaking of a move and change in career. I also want to be able to turn to him to be supported and take in his advice. But it's nice to miss someone for a while and I think it's worthwhile in any relationship to take short times apart.

The upside of being alone is that I'm more social than usual. Recently, I have felt a growing anxiety as my time in Boulder is waning. As the anxiety grows, so too does my tendency to reach out - both to enjoy extra time with friends before I leave and as a distraction. When it feels like distraction, I try instead to sit with my feelings for a while before picking up the phone. But it has been wonderful to see so many friends. I don't know whether I would have had the chance to connect with as many people as I have if Peter was still here.

Long before Peter left, I suspected that this time of being together but physically apart would be transformative for me, but I couldn't fully anticipate how. Overall, I'm grateful for the opportunity to be so introspective right now, to have so much time to reflect before making a big life change. There has been a lot of back and forth, feeling happy and then unsettled with being alone. I expect that will only increase when I start the road trip, but for now I'm grateful to work through the struggle and enjoy my own company when I can.

Iris Rankin

Soulful questioner, exuberant organizer, here to find the balance between discipline and delicious relaxation. Iris Rankin is the founder of Project Intention, a values-based community focused on living day-to-day with purpose, planning, and heart. Iris encourages women to adopt the self care practices that make them feel divine, the planning tools to hone in on their essential wants and needs, and the emotional resilience to express their most authentic selves.

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