In My Solitude
By Terri Catlin
I used to be someone people would describe as quite extroverted and reasonably successful. Gregarious, outgoing, and very busy. Despite physical warnings to slow down, I pushed on and pushed through, comfortable in the current virtue of perfectionism. Doing it all in a vain attempt to have it all and be liked (or at least admired) by all. I ignored my body’s gentle urgings to sleep more and stress less. Until I couldn’t ignore them anymore.
I got sick. And tired. Really tired. So tired I couldn’t work any more, never mind being social, and forget about being busy. Far from having it all, I almost lost it all for good – health, career, income, vitality and passion. Everything I thought I was. I was lethargic and unhappy, feeling like life was passing me by and unable to muster even the smallest amount of energy to do anything about it. I wanted someone to fix it. To fix me so that I could get back on the treadmill. I couldn’t see any value in my life unless I was contributing to others, creating big goals, and striving to be better. I got worse. Until I stopped resisting what was happening.
I began to slow down my racing mind, the mind that wanted to be anywhere but where I was. I began to calm my internal judgements about my lack of productivity. I began to uncover my self worth without having it tied to my accomplishments. Without all the non-stop stimulus in my life, I was actually able to notice and appreciate the smallest victories. Walking our country road, growing vegetables in my garden, fixing up my century home, playing with my dog and cat, spending time writing old-fashioned letter-quality correspondence by email, and allowing myself to be exactly where I was and who I was.
I became more introverted. Not shy or incapable of expressing myself, but introverted in the best ways. The ways Susan Cain reveals in her wonderful book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I no longer need so much external recognition of who I am. I am able to spend time by myself and really enjoy my solitude. I am aware that who I really am is my character, and not my persona.
Being extroverted was a shield I carried around to protect myself from revealing or even stopping to see my true self, afraid of what I might find if I slowed down long enough to look. But I have plumbed the depths of my psyche these past few years, and let me tell you, nothing is as frightening as what one imagines is there. In taking me out of this modern game of life, my mind-body gave me the gift of revealing myself. And I like me, I really like me! As I heal and gain strength and vitality, I am clear that I will never again mask the real me in order to play a game I did not design. I can’t say it better than Shakespeare, and I won’t mess with real perfection. This above all else, to thine own self be true.
Terri Catlin is an award-winning actor and director, and a freelance writer. She has proudly been the editor of alive&awake for the past 3 years, and has now launched her own blog – A Run In My Stocking: Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist.