I recently read Abigail Thomas’s new book, What Comes Next and How to Like It. It’s a poetic reflection on a lifelong friendship and life itself. You can read it, as I did, on the span of an airplane ride.
After the death of her husband, Thomas has chosen to live a life without romantic companionship–a relative life of solitude. Her consideration of this decision can give introverts a real sense of permission for the choice to be alone.
We often idealize what it’s like to have someone else in our space overlooking the mundane realities of what it’s actually like. The value of having someone doesn’t get questioned because the entire culture seems to be built on being coupled.
She does, of course, have her dogs and that contributes a lot. It’s not a life of isolation. I know this from my own experience. The long solitary hours and days of writing are accompanied by the dogs. Thomas reflects:
Sometimes I wonder if I might be missing something with only dogs for companionship, but then I think about mornings. First there would be the discovery that there is no milk for someone who takes it in his coffee. Then the likelihood of conversation. I want to listen to the mourning doves. I like to sit on the sofa with the dogs, stroking Carolina’s silky chest, and Rosie’s satin flank. Harry Sits on my feet, standing guard. Suppose another person were here? What if he had opinions. What if he used “deconstruction” with a straight face?
Like Pascal, she knows the value of being able sit in her room quiet and alone. The key to being able to “simply enjoying being alive in this room” is to be at peace with what is going on between your ears. She goes on to say:
Lot’s of people in my somewhat leaky boat are on the lookout for a human companion. Not me. I have learned to love the inside of my own head. There isn’t much I’d rather say than think.
“I have learned to love the inside of my own head” could be the start to an introvert manifesto. Of course, the best way to come to love your inner headspace is to practice mindfulness and is the major theme of my book, The Awakened Introvert: Practical Mindfulness Skills for Maximizing Your Strengths and Thriving in a Loud and Crazy World.