This week a new area of need has revealed itself, and it is not a small thing to change. It is something that is part of my very nature, but it will make training and doing the Ironman much more difficult for me if I don't address this weakness. My problem is that I honestly don't enjoy spending time by myself. I have friends that recharge by spending quality time mediating, taking quiet time for themselves to think about what is going on in their lives. But I get bored when I am alone. Sometimes I wonder why people even want to spend time with me, because I don't honestly find myself all that interesting.
Here is what I know about myself--do you know how people are gifted in the areas of math, language arts, music, sports, etc.? Well, I feel I am strong in the area of interpersonal skills. From the time I said my first words, I would talk to any and everyone who would listen to me. When my mother would take me trick-or-treating, I wanted to walk into each house we visited and spend time with them. When my family had guests at our house, I would walk out to their cars with them and try and climb in their cars to go home with them. I love people--always have, always will. So while some of my friends need time to themselves to decompress and recharge, I get that same feeling when I am surrounded by my friends and family.
I know this is sad, but I honestly cannot go to dinner, to a movie, go shopping, or do anything outside of my house if I must go by myself. I don't even like when Sean has a business trip that keeps him away overnight. I make one of the kids sleep with me so I don't have to be by myself. So why is this a problem? Training for Ironman is going to take some long hours of running, biking, and swimming, and while I will mostly be able to train with my buddies, things happen. Last week, my two Ironman buddies got stuck on the East Coast due to hurricane Sandy, which meant that I didn't have Karrie to swim with me on Wednesday. It was really hard pulling myself out of bed at 4:45am knowing she wouldn't be there with me. And while I did go alone, I was not happy about it. Another of my consistent partners is battling a knee injury, so on Tuesday I had to run 4 long miles all by my lonesome. Even that short amount of time had me thinking the whole time about how much more fun it would have been if I had running partners with me.
Besides my training partners sometimes not being available, there is another issue I am concerned about with my loathing of alone time. The Ironman will take me somewhere between fifteen and seventeen hours to complete, and I don't anticipate that I will be able to spend that entire time with Leslie and Karrie. They are better swimmers than me, so I think I might spend most of the biking and running legs by myself. That means a long stretch of alone time will be ahead of me, so I need to find a way to enjoy this time with myself. This race really demands that a racer be mentally tough as well as physically strong, so I need to think of this time as a gift instead of a punishment.
So today, I tried something new--I made myself run alone. In addition to a 1000m swim, I had nine miles of running I also had to complete. I could have called my friends to go with me, knowing somebody would have supported me, but I decided I needed to try this one by myself. I can't say I loved it, but 9.5 miles later I did not die of loneliness, nor did I give up on myself and quit because no one was there to push me. I am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for, and I need to remind myself of that on a regular basis. And while I will still choose to run, bike and swim with my friends on a consistent basis, I do need to build in some alone time as well so I can begin to get comfortable being with me. I think my friends feel I am worth spending time with--maybe I will eventually feel that way, too.
“In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount”
--Haruki Murakami, After Dark