“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed”
– Luke 5:16
Happy 2017 everybody!
Have you got any New Years Resolutions? I always used to try and set one and (just as everyone else seems to do) give up on them almost immediately and wonder why I bothered in the first place. Instead of setting myself an impossible target this year to try and live up to the impossible standard of “new year new me” – I’ve decided* to do something that will help me come to terms with the current me, in the current year.
*or rather, I feel like Jesus has told me…
If I’m really honest with you, I’m absolutely rubbish at being alone – like, really dreadful at it. I’m one of those really irritating extroverts, who isn’t just loud and comfortable around other people, but also thrives off being around others and even relaxes in the company of others, too. I’ve never really got my head around that whole ‘taking some time to be alone’ idea when I need to relax – my perfect evening in is getting a Chinese takeaway and watching a movie with another human being (obviously not just anyone, that would be ridiculous). We don’t have to talk – even though I’m always talking – we don’t even have to acknowledge each other. I just have this real need to be with other people, most of – if not all – of the time.
On the surface, there isn’t really much wrong with this. Some people I know hate spending more time with others than they really need to, and if they don’t have to spend time with anyone else then they just won’t. The issue is – and prepare yourself for some serious honesty – being alone is one of my biggest weaknesses. I don’t mean the ‘alone’ in the sense of being single – you can read all of my other thoughts about that here – but I mean alone in the sense of having to spend time on my own, without anyone else for company. The issue grows when I start to feel myself sinking a little. If Annie was a boat, having no crew whatsoever nearby makes me feel a little seasick. If I find myself in an unforeseen situation and – heaven forbid* – all of the important people in my life actually do have a life without me and suddenly aren’t free when I’d like a Chinese and a film, or our diaries clash, or I actually have to sit by myself for an evening, I feel a bit out of place – and I feel alone.
*just joking, you are of course allowed a life. Sort of. 😉
As if this couldn’t get any sadder, the problem grows just that little bit more when situations arise and problems appear and I keep putting God off to try and find someone else to talk to. If you read my blog at all, you’ve probably read that I suffer from depression and the best advice I ever received was to pray, and to keep on praying. If I’m honest though – as I just appear to be by writing these reams of sad rambles – I don’t always pray straight away. If anything, I don’t pray until it’s basically pointless (which it obviously isn’t, JC is sovereign woohoooo). But you get the point.
ANYWAY. Those words at the top seemed to resonate with me a LOT over this festive season, either because they were my verse of the day, or I was just reminded by them doing my mundane everyday things. The Gospels tell us so many things about Jesus, but one thing I forget – or hey, maybe even choose to ignore – is the fact that Jesus really appreciated some down time, and even deliberately took Himself out of situations to be by himself, which sounds torturous to me at this point, but that’s okay (and more on that in a minute).
“After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray”
– Matthew 14:23
The turning point for me was when I decided it would be a good idea (turns out it was totally terrifying) to spice up my commute to work and take the Emirates Air Line towards the O2 arena where I was meeting some people. Here I am in the cable cars, which despite being attached by a thick cable that looks super sturdy, they do still swing in the wind –
I did this on my own. It was a total spur of the moment thing and despite feeling like I was going to throw up from the heights and the deathly swinging motion of it all, I still did it on my own. It was when I was looking at the lovely sunny London skyline that I felt the stir of a small, soft voice telling me that it’s okay to be doing this on my own. I felt like Jesus was even proud of me for doing it, and for giving it a go. I felt His presence in a more tangible way than I have done for a very long time, so I felt like it was time to keep pursuing that.
In my last blog post before Christmas, I said that I wanted to be like the woman of Proverbs 31 – you know the one – the one all the Hebrews drooled over apparently – who laughed in the face of the future and had some serious confidence in herself. I feel like in order to laugh at the days to come, and to smile in the face of trouble, I need to do this. I know, and am so fortunate enough, to have so many people around me to support me and love me – and I will still 110% need you in the coming weeks and months I’m sure. What I mean is, there will be times when I am physically on my own and I need to deal with some stuff. There’ll be more Friday nights when I’m in my pjs by 8.30pm (did I tell you I’m only 22?!), or I have to take a journey somewhere by myself. I need to learn to enjoy those times, enjoy Annie and most importantly enjoy Jesus – because as far as I’m aware, He always said He would be there with us and for us, wherever we ended up –
“I will be with you, to the end of the age”
– Matthew 28:20
So here it is. My new series for 2017, nicely titled “one’s company, one’s a crowd”. I’ve set myself a challenge – to put myself in as many “lonely” situations as possible and put myself through it deliberately, all leading up to a nice weekend retreat sometime later this year (I don’t think anyone has ever said I do things by halves, ha).
But, as with all of these things, there are some ground rules:
- PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. For as much as possible or is reasonable, during the “activity” (gosh I love that word), try to have as least amount of contact with the world as possible. It sort of defeats the point of being alone otherwise, right?
- The “activity” has to last at least an hour. I can go to the loo by myself, so I feel like I need to something fairly substantial in order to get it to qualify.
- I need to blog about it after. Sorry guys, but you’ll have the opportunity to read as much or as little as you like (hopefully all of it, thanks).
- I need to take a photo of myself doing said thing. Otherwise where’s the evidence? I mean, I went to the moon by myself once…
- It has to be slightly controversial. As I said, I can go to the bathroom by myself – that’s fairly expected. But a cheeky Nandos AS JUST ONE LAD seems a bit much, right?!
- I have to pray at least once. I won’t blog about that bit, but I felt like if I publish it here it makes me more accountable (gotta love a bit of Christian jargon, eh).
- I’ll rate the experience on a scale. Just because, really.
So today I completed my first challenge: THE CINEMA TRIP
I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them today – by MYSELF. I’ve written loads already and I don’t really want to bore you with it, so I’ll spare you the super boring details and get to the interesting bits.
Quite a few people before (and after) I did this said things to me like:
“Oh gosh, Annie – I couldn’t do that” //
“You’re brave” //
“That’s really sad”
I suppose in a way, all of these are in some way true. But I’d like to take this opportunity (I’m nearly done, promise) to debunk a few myths or assumptions around the whole solo-cinema trip thing – some of which were definitely all mine.
The bit I was dreading most was actually getting my ticket. I felt so nervous walking into the cinema alone that I was looking for other people who might be on their own as well – but alas, to no avail. They were either paired off or with a group. I felt a bit like I stood out and they were all looking at me, but to be honest they probably weren’t. (Or maybe they were, I mean, dayummmm).
Anyway. I got so nervous I went for a panic wee before I went to the tickets bit and had to talk myself into not just going home. I walked up to the counter, and the lady who gave me my ticket asked me if the ticket was just for one. This was it: the big moment of embarrassment and obvious loneliness. What would she think of me? Would she offer to sit with me? Panicked, I just replied with yes, and asked for a cup of tea (I have a sore throat, don’t judge). And guess what? It was OVER. Asking for a ticket for one is not embarrassing, or weird.
The next hurdle was getting my ticket torn by the other steward who lets you in. Again, I felt like I was going to vomit as I passed her my ticket, she looked at it, said “enjoy your film” and then let me pass. NO BIG DEAL.
The biggie, though, was walking into a potentially packed cinema screen and everyone noticing that I was alone. There was a group of 4 boys, some older people and a group of friends who had come in to also watch the film. It took me a little while to realise they weren’t all looking at me and wondering why I hadn’t been joined by anyone yet, and as the trailers started and then the opening scene of the film came along, no one really cared at all.
It was a much bigger issue in my head than it actually played out to be, and as I said, I didn’t need to feel alone because good old JC was there when I felt a bit panicked. And guess what, I did it. So I’m feeling pretty darn proud of myself anyway.
So here is my official verdict:
Loneliness: 4/10 (I mean it was a bit weird just being on my own. It is my first go at this, after all)
Enjoyment: 9/10 (this film is great, definitely go and see that. Besides, I had all the leg room too)
Would I do this again? Absolutely. Nowhere near as scary as I thought.
I’m not sure what I’ll do next, but I’ll keep you posted. Hope you enjoy taking this journey with me!
Peace and blessings x