Monday, 24 February 2014

186/111 - How To Be Alone by Sara Maitland

I bought this book after reading a piece by Sara Maitland in the Guardian. I've read a couple of the books from this series so far and I really like them. I think they are charmingly designed, and they cover a range of topics that I'm interested in exploring. They are all published by the School of Life, who also run courses out of their centre in London. I would love to attend one, as I'm sure they are probably all thoughtful and interesting areas to look at. I also have another one of Sara Maitland's books, A Book of Silence, which I have had for years and never read.

This book is for people who are interested in solitude and being alone, which is why I was interested in it. I consider myself to be mainly an introvert who is able to display extrovert qualities, and being not-alone around others drains my energy. When I take annual leave, as I have done this week, it is partly to be away from people. There are times that I have spent a lot of time with others and really enjoyed myself - I live with my boyfriend, for one; and I have been on several holidays with good friends where I am surrounded by them all the time - but there are more times where I can recall being in a situation and having had enough of being around others. I don't see anything wrong with this, although my lack of extroversion can make me feel like I'm missing out sometimes, but more often than not I just want some peace and quiet.

When I was taking it home, both my boyfriend and my boss asked me what I had bought, and they were both together when I took it out and showed them the cover. I pitched it as a sort of philosophy book, of sorts. My boyfriend made a jokey 'should-I-be-worried' face and they laughed it off. So people can be mildly uncomfortable with the idea of solitude, which is fine. I understand that for most people, being alone all day is not what they would consider fun, but I love it.

I'm not sure where this tendency in me comes from. I grew up with both my parents around, and I have a brother who is 13 months younger than me, so we were close in age growing up and spent a lot of time together. My parents are both only children and we have a small family as a result. No big get-togethers with dozens of cousins, aunts and uncles. My mother is also from France which means that her extended family are farther away than usual. I think my parents are both pretty introverted - there are regular small gatherings but no huge raucous parties. I was always more of an introvert growing up, too. I always tended to feel on the outside, and I think I still do to a large extent, but I have learned to mask it in order to get by in life. That does tend to come at a price - I end my days much more tired than if I worked somewhere quiet and on my own.

I really enjoyed this little book, although for me personally it didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know, it was more a good gauge to affirm some things that I already knew to be true - that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be alone; that some people find it healthy to spend a lot of time in their own company; and that being alone for extended periods of time might actually be really blissful. Maybe I'll get the chance to try it one day.

1 comment:

  1. A Book of Silence is wonderful - I recommend it most strongly! I grew up in a large family (four children) but still have a tendency to spend most of my time alone. (This is not entirely through choice, admittedly, but it's not difficult for me)_