One of my favorite things in the world is to gather with friends, cook and enjoy a meal together—that and uproarious laughter. There are many things in this world that bring me joy but this specific combination is high on the charts. So to even consider setting apart these things would seem foolish. But here I am, sitting solo in a cafe, ordering an espresso and Panini nervously because strangers are surrounding me and there are no familiar faces in sight for me to laugh alongside with. Yet, somehow (despite my southbound directed eyes and awkward posture) a moment of joy has managed to unearth. Being alone would usually terrify me in certain settings, but this joy that became present from being absolutely alone surprised me; I liked being in my own company.
I’m frightened because the norm is to eat with others, and if I’m not with others in public then I must be a lonely person. But I’m also frightened because I’m enjoying this moment of forced peace all too naturally. It occurred to me that maybe this kind of solitude should feel normal because it’s necessary—and calls us out of our reliance in the comfort from being in the presence of others. As I reflected on my afternoon, these realizations came to surface and so I’m in favor of going solo when opportunity arises. Here are additional pluses:
– When there is one set of silverware, we need only to worry about one mind. There is an invitation of self-focus which gives space for us to unwind for the day, prepare for the rest of it or to dream of the days to come.
– When alone in public, senses are heightened. I embody a more curious awareness—details become brighter, noises sharper.
– And when it’s just you and that glorious plate of food, you likely eat at a calmer pace. Savoring becomes your company. (And this is also just a health plus).
These are just the few out of many to note. And though this might sound like something an introvert could only do, there is in fact something notably powerful about the act of stepping into a posture of vulnerable solitude that most might prefer to do comfortably with company. So the next time you find a pocket of free time or receive a rain check, I want to challenge you to make a lunch date with your self. Walk into that café, restaurant, or diner with an upright posture; don’t be afraid to make eye contact, smile and always take hold the attitude that there is a difference between being alone and lonely. And if a meal is known to gather and thread people together, then dining by oneself can only further extend such relational understanding—because when we are alone, we can cater more closely to our own needs and wellbeing. Doing so will surely result in a rested self that will have the power to engage others full and well when that time comes to ask for a table for 2 (or more).
Image via Modern Hepburn