What Happened in : May. A lot, and Alone.

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May 2018. The month of re-assessing the reality. My April was crowded and full of other people, something that I enjoyed and, at the same time, feeling very conscious about. The month was started by me boarding on a group trip and ended with my birthday celebration with friends and family— indeed, a month-long fiesta. And I loved it. All the flights, the new experiences, the travel, the social life. I also love the fact that my birth date is the last day of April, which make my symbol-centric mind all excited about always having a great way to "close" the month. Birthday party! I love parties!  I love being around people! I also love, equally, the opposite of all that —I love being alone. And quite romantically, my May this year was about many things that relate to the state of aloneness.

Yes, a lot of things had happened in May: Gempa's birthday, our trip to ArtJog 2018, the re-opening of our restaurant, the launch of my brand Senandung, a commemorations of my grandfather's 1000-days of passing away (a Javanese tradition), a reunion event to start the fasting month, a couple plants-shopping afternoon. Then there were other two incidents within this month: the church bombing in Surabaya and the eruption of Mount Merapi in Jogja. The first one was saddening and tragical, while the later was alerting. Those brought me to the alone time. Where I choose to be with friends or family, but deep inside wandering by my own thoughts. Alone time, where I'd reduce my days in Jakarta to spare more days in Jogja, to rest and to put my life on hold —a pause. 

 The ARTJog 2018 - facing Dipo Andi's artwork. Right: the amazing "Sea Remembers" installation by Mulyana Magus.

The ARTJog 2018 - facing Dipo Andi's artwork. Right: the amazing "Sea Remembers" installation by Mulyana Magus.

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When I think about my fondness for spending time with myself alone, I always remember a theory that my friend Hendy Adithya used to describe my behavior, back in our uni days: the social-solitary cycle. He observed, and explained that I ran my social life in a switching pattern of engaging and withdrawing. That means I can be having a very social period (say a month or two) —going to public events, wanting to see people, making overloaded appointments and trying to be as busy as possible— then at some points I will reach the peak of my "socialising" meter and jump straight to the withdrawing period: the time to not being with people. In my younger days, I'd become completely ignorant and do a lot of missing-in-action scenes. Within that moment I'd see other human beings only when I have to: in classes, at home, in the supermarket when I have to buy groceries or something... (if I had a boyfriend during the time, then him too, because of that relationship routines/obligatory). Other than that, I would feel thirst of having very very private time. Mostly I spent those days for reading and writing, though. I didn't recall doing anything extreme, mostly just basic stuff like watching DVDs and re-doing my closets. And I honestly enjoy being home a lot during the period. 

That behavioral cycle of mine was stronger during my childhood and early 20s, if I assess correctly. During my childhood period and before my little sister was born, I used to spend time alone at home, mostly because I was addicted to books and the best way to enjoy reading was, and is, always, by not having any companions around me. I didn't have any problem to enroll in a school without knowing anyone from my previous school (the let's-go-to-the-same-school promises that little girls used to declare to each other? Yeah, never had any.) When I started my blog, I used to take photos alone —some of my old readers would remember— I'd bring my camera and tripod, drive somewhere quiet nearby and took self-timed photos on my own. Sometimes I'd watch movies alone and not in any ways feeling scared or anxious about it. But the "withdrawing" cycle I got, they softened. One of the reason is growing up a.k.a adulting, just because there are more responsibilities I couldn't skip whenever I wish to be alone, especially at work.

   
 Bringing my dogs to a swimming-date with their female friend, London, on a good Saturday of May. 

Bringing my dogs to a swimming-date with their female friend, London, on a good Saturday of May. 

One word I'd associate with the state of being alone is: Okay. Being alone is okay. It's not an extraordinary power, but it won't hurt to face it as part of our daily life too. 

If you hate being alone, that'd be alright too. I'm quite familiar with the discomfort. I won't be liking my sleepless, sobbing-out-of-despair memory either. It would've been nice to have companies when you're sick. Hugs are precious too, especially from the ones you loved the most. However, wanting to have a supportive community around you is not a separating factor between you and the acceptance of aloneness. You can be both longings for social interaction and at the same time feeling content with yourself. It is okay to know that sometimes you'd miss your friends or family while being on your own, too. Some might need more solitary moment than the others, and our job is to measure how much you need to feel healthy and balanced. And let's not compare our needs with others. I enjoy the time I could watch movies in the cinema alone; it gives me special time to be thoroughly soaked in the experience without anyone to talk to. I enjoy shopping alone, driving alone, wander around alone... but not always. It is okay to be alone, but it is also fun to be with others. I've learned to make my aloneness a conscious decision, not a problem. And the perspective of not fearing the moment I spent alone has been truly liberating. 

 Took this picture of Ajeng, my best friend, during one fine afternoon of our Senandung catalogue production. 

Took this picture of Ajeng, my best friend, during one fine afternoon of our Senandung catalogue production. 

 With my mother and sister-in-laws when we went plant shopping together, mid-May.   

With my mother and sister-in-laws when we went plant shopping together, mid-May.   

I don't know if other people think this way too but for me, being alone is more than a physical fact; it's a mental condition. When I'm surrounded by people, I can consciously choose to "be" alone, "inside." That could mean I prefer to build an invisible border between me and others, to assure myself that I'm an individual being and refuse to self-identified myself as a group. It usually happens whenever I'm not in a familiar environment, as a way to protect myself from any unwanted engagement. Between consciousness, it is as if my mind simultaneously choose to be "alone-or-together" quite seamlessly.

I also don't see aloneness as a single tie of introversion, because to be able of being alone doesn't cut off your ability to be together. In fact, it makes both traits to be stronger. Having time for yourself without an outside interruption will create a healthier balance in your social life. It gives you perspective on how you can truly appreciate the time that you shared with other people. It gives you more understanding of yourself because when you're alone, you can learn to listen more. Working and spending time alone with myself has been effectively enriching my being-in-public mastery because I could improve my social skill easier after my inner self-felt completely taken care of. When I lay in my bed and listening to my emotions, that's when I feel nurtured. It won't always be easy, to experience the intensity, but it can be less and less threatening each time.

 My little boy Johni. I'm glad that I can spend more time with my dogs this month!

My little boy Johni. I'm glad that I can spend more time with my dogs this month!

The other side of being alone with yourself contains more simple perks and fun times, including being silly. I like spending my morning trying to write the book I'm currently preparing. I enjoy my hot morning coffee and my midday iced latte. I would sing my favorite songs, out-of-tune, pretending I'm Cher. I can lay half-naked on my undies and crawl inside the blanket, Netflix-ready, romantic-movies only. I can eat those unhealthy snacks on the bed, unapologetically, without having to worry about how it looks visually. I'd lay on the floor next to my dogs and talk in a doggos language I create for us exclusively. I will pick my embroidery loop I buy last time and go full-knitting-grandma mode for the whole evening. I embrace my tied, unwashed hair that I wear inside my bedroom. I forgive my bare face, no matter how pale I look. Sometimes Gempa will open our bedroom door and find me sleeping on the floor, Jonah's toy as my pillow, Frankie magazine in my hands, cereal crumbles scattered around the surface of my shirt —and my alone time ends. But most of the case he will be the sweet husband that he already is, where he'd pretend I wasn't there and grab his laptop case, quickly left the room before I even say a word. In our little word, individual quality time with ourselves is an equal necessity for both, and we've made a pretty great team so far.

Thank you, May. ★