Having the Courage to Live Alone

By Gwenn Voelckers

I was inspired to write this column on courage after receiving this email below from a reader:

Dear Gwenn,

You would appreciate this. I just have to share these two recent experiences I had as a single woman.

Last week, on the spur of the moment, I got up and off my couch and went to an outdoor concert at a cool, rustic music venue called Lincoln Hill Farms overlooking Canandaigua Lake. It’s the first live music I’ve heard since COVID turned me into a couch potato. 

A self-described old hippie, I thought this Woodstock-ish farm setting would be a safe bet for me. So, I mustered the courage to make a solo trip to the lake to listen to an acoustic duo play oldies, but goodies.

Easy, right? Well, not so much. After ordering a salad (delicious!) from the food truck, I took a seat at one of the picnic tables near the stage and tried to adopt the carefree posture of a single confident woman on her own. I faked it for a while, then retreated to the safety of my car, and ultimately to my couch at home. Still, I felt good I made the effort!    

Then this week, I went to meet a “match date” — only I went to the right place on the wrong day. I waited an hour, established rapport with the single-mom hostess, and then gave up. I moved inside to a high-top near the bar and ordered a glass of wine and an appetizer. I could tell the waitress thought it was odd I was alone. (I did not have the courage to eat outdoors where all of the other couples had seen me waiting for an hour). Last night, I met the guy at the right place on the right day.

Being single requires courage!

Erica (not her real name)

How right this reader is. Living alone does require courage. In fact, “Erica’s” email got me thinking about all the many and varied ways that living alone asks (demands) that we demonstrate courage, almost on a daily basis.

On my own, I’ve discovered it takes courage to:

• Sleep alone. That “bump in the night” can test even the strongest among us. Thank goodness for my white-noise maker.

• Get up alone. Where did all this anxiety come from? I just woke up for cripes sake! This is when I repeat my mantra: “All I need is within me now.” Then I set my intentions for my day.

• Show up alone. Early on, this was hard for me, especially if I suspected my ex might be at the event. I discovered that a little preparation goes a long way. I would visualize handling the encounter with grace and, importantly, brevity.

A few pleasantries and a “take care” helped me move past the encounter in a relatively quick and painless manner.   

• Throw a party. What was I thinking? Will anyone show up? The bathroom still needs cleaning! As a single host, I found that starting small was key. Having a few friends over for a “breakfast at Wimbledon” get-together got the ball rolling for me. And it was easier than I thought.

Since then, inviting friends and family into my home has been a tremendous source of joy.           

• Ask for help. It took me a while to overcome my fear of being seen as weak or vulnerable after my divorce. When I finally acknowledged that I did, indeed, need help from time to time, I was pleasantly surprised by the kindness of others and deeply touched by their willingness to pitch in and offer a helping hand. It’s okay to ask for help from others, especially house maintenance or repair. For example, a septic tank pumping expert to ensure that your tank is properly maintained.

• Set a mousetrap. Or worse, dispose of one that’s “occupied.” Mice, spiders, pet accidents, a plugged toilet: you name it, I’ve dealt with it. And so can you. All it takes is a little resolve and a heavy-duty pair of rubber gloves. One exception: I found a bat in my living room a few years ago and needed to call in reinforcements.    

• Say “yes” to a welcome invitation. He’s kinda cute. But then what? At my age? I say give it whirl! One of the advantages of being a little older is increased self-awareness and the confidence to be who you truly are “as is.” Pretending to be otherwise will only compromise your chances of meeting someone who loves you just the way you are.

• Say “no” to an unwelcome advance. The ring on his finger is a real turn-off! Depending on the situation, and with a clear unapologetic voice, consider one of these responses: I don’t welcome this kind of attention; No, I’m not interested; This makes me uncomfortable, please leave me alone.

• Travel alone. Traveling alone, just like living alone requires the right frame of mind to be successful and enjoyable. When people hear about my solo travels, many exclaim, “Oh, you are so brave!” I want to respond, “Well, not really.”

With thoughtful planning and precautions, travelling alone can be empowering and exhilarating. And if you’re travelling abroad, you can get an international sim card iphone so you can still keep in touch with your friends and family. When was the last time you experienced the freedom to do whatever you wanted to do on your terms, your budget, your time table?      

• Make a major purchase. I knew I should be practical, but what I really wanted was that sporty, little red sedan. What to do? I bought it! All on my own.

In my teens, I relied on my father’s advice when making major purchases. When I got married, I relied on husband’s. Now, I rely on myself. And that’s major.   

When we demonstrate courage, when we take risks, we grow. We become stronger, more resilient, more independent, and more able to live the life of our dreams.

We become better at living alone.

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite Voelckers to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com