This rare guest post is by LIONEL FISHER author of Celebrating Time Alone.
Well, I like to be alone at times. It’s not about you really. It’s just that sometimes it feels better not to talk at all, about anything, to anyone. ~ Walter White, Breaking Bad
If you’re still looking for that one person who can change your life, take a look in the mirror. ~ Ritu Ghatourey
Don’t chase people. Be you, do your own thing and work hard. The right people who belong in your life will come to you, and stay. ~ Unknown
“So you don’t buy Barbra Streisand’s lyrical assertion that people who need people are the luckiest people in the world?” I asked Alberto Terego.
“Nope,” Terego replied. “I think people who need people just need help–from a talking doctor, as we used to call shrinks in the Marine Corps.”
Hoo, boy, we were off again, and barely out the starting gate of our daily conversation. The discussion this crisp autumn morning was “people dependency” for lack of a better phrase.
“I think people who need people are just needy people,” Terego continued. “How anyone can make a compelling case for emotional neediness as Streisand does in her sappy song is beyond me,” Terego went on, barely pausing.
“Shrinks, in fact, define a generalized dependence on others as an incredibly painful psychological addiction characterized by feelings of helplessness and fears of isolation and abandonment.”
“Yes, I’m aware of DPD,” I said, groping for something, anything, to stanch Terego’s grandiloquent momentum, which he always seems to gain early in our conversations. “Dependent Personality Disorder, they call it, typified by a pervasive psychological dependence on others to meet their emotional and physical needs.”
“People, on the other hand, who want people are a different matter altogether,” Terego said. “For them, people are a gift, not a need.
“People are a gift that people who want people instead of need people give themselves.” I repeated dully.
“Yes!” exclaimed Terego. “People are a gift they give themselves because they want people. They don’t pursue them out of a compulsive yearning for companionship and self-validation through others.”
“And that’s how you explain society’s dogged determination never to feel disconnected or alone, never to experience disconcerting moments of silence, stillness and introspection?” I said.
“Precisely,“ Terego said, pounding the word home like a nail.
“It’s the perpetuation of the age-old conviction that a solitary existence is the harshest penalty life can mete us, exacerbated in these modern times by technology’s digital assurance that the dread feeling of disconnect and isolation–of being (gasp!) alone, if only briefly–can never threaten us again.”
He paused, then plunged on when I didn’t answer. “From childhood we’re conditioned to accept that alone we’re instantly vulnerable, which was certainly the case in the days of cavemen and the Western frontier when safety and survival hinged on banding tightly together. But the days of marauding dinosaurs and war-painted Native American Indians are long gone. Yet we persist in believing we’re nothing by ourselves–or at best incomplete–steadfastly shunning the opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth that time spent alone can bring us.”
“So you’re saying we should sever all our close ties,” I said, “abandon those nearest and dearest to us to wallow in our solitude.”
“No, of course not,” Terego said. “But we need to befriend and enjoy ourselves as well. We need to understand that to know and love and be of value to others, we first must know and love and value ourselves, that to find our way in the world we have to start by finding ourselves. Before we can surrender to others, we have to become who we are, because no one can give up what he doesn’t own.”
Terego grew quiet again, waiting for my reply. But what he’d said about believing we’re at best incomplete alone had me thinking about another lyric from that Barbra Streisand song, something about a feeling deep in your soul that says you’re half, now you’re whole–no more hunger and thirst. “What hunger and thirst?” I asked myself, waiting for Terego to barrel ahead in his usual breathless manner. But he remained silent.
For long moments Terego regarded the gray-blue ocean, deep in thought, eyes fixed on the tapering whiteness of the denim sky as it plunged into the sea. When he finally spoke, it was as if he’d read my last thoughts.
“Want a lyric about finding yourself in others?” he asked. “Here’s one. It’s a line from a 1980s ballad that says it all: ‘I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me….’”