Hyla is happy playing on her own…

Posted: May 26, 2010 in Notes from the Daddy Front
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Hyla is quite happy playing by herself.

Hyla is an only child and, as such, she spends a lot of time on her own. Sure, she has lots of friends but when she comes home at the end of a very long school day (7am – 3pm) she can sometimes be alone for a few hours.

As would be the case with many 10 year-olds, Hyla has developed a rich and fully featured fantasy world. Sometimes she is Witch Hyla, her mischievous alter ego. Sometimes she is Good Hyla and, of course, sometimes she is Bad Hyla. But whoever she is on any given day, it’s all her and it’s all in her mind.

I love to watch her play by herself, immersed in a world of make-believe and oblivious to the fact the she is playing on her own. Blocks, dolls, beads, you name it, they all become characters in her narrative and she just loves to bring them out to play.

At first I used to feel guilty that she was playing on her own and I used to jump in every chance I got. But that’s me projecting my own biases on to her. Every time I check in with her as to whether she’s ok, she always looks up with a bemused smile on her face and says, “Of course, Daddy. Why wouldn’t I be?”

I grew up in a house with 2 sisters and 2 parents which meant that I was never alone for long. As I grew up I noticed that I was much happier in the company of others than by myself and tried to limit the amount of time I spent on my own. That’s because it’s what I knew, what I was used to.

As an adult I became a serial monogamist, moving from one relationship to another. As soon as someone was no longer to be a presence in my life I would go out and meet someone new because the alternative, being alone, felt uncomfortable to me. And these relationships would last anywhere from months to years but I always felt as though that I needed that other person to complete me, to make me whole.

About 10 years ago I had occasion to meet someone who told me that until I spent a significant amount of time on my own – which she defined as 2-3 years – I would never be able to have a whole and healthy relationship. I told her that I couldn’t imagine spending that much time by myself and wondered why anybody would ever want to do that willingly.

I then proceeded to jump into a relationship that lasted 6 years and when it ended a funny thing happened. I didn’t jump in with someone new. I just started to hang out with myself. Over the past 4 years I have had one relationship that lasted about 6 months but that’s been it and I began to notice that a wonderful thing was happening. I was starting to become comfortable with my own company and I was starting to get to know who I actually was.

For so very long I would make my choices based on me being the person that I wanted to be. I would do this or that because it suited my self-image. But when you spend a lot of time on your own you start to notice things, like what you like and don’t like. Your good qualities shine a little more brightly because they’re not diffused by another’s energy and the bad ones also stood out more because there was no one there to dilute their effects.

Suddenly, I was being true to myself. I was no longer making choices based on who I wanted to be but, rather, based on who I actually was. And it was exhilarating. Last year when I met the person that I ended up dating for about 6 months I couldn’t help but notice that I was a different man in this relationship than I had ever previously experienced. Because I knew who I was, I knew what I had to offer and I knew whether it would be a good fit for me. I knew what I was willing to change and what I wasn’t. I kept catching myself saying things to her that I had never said to anyone ever before because it was all coming from a place of self-knowledge.

Now, I never chose willingly to be alone for those 3 years. It just worked out that way. But when I started to date this new person I remembered what that person had told me all those years back about being on your own. I couldn’t see it at the time but it certainly turned out to be both prophetic and true.

Did I not want to be alone because that’s what I was used to growing up? I don’t know. But I do know that Hyla has no trouble at all being by herself and for that I admire her greatly. I think that all the time she spend playing on her own will serve her well and it is my hope that in the coming years that very same quality will help her to know herself better – and thus, to know what she really wants.

Today I both know myself and like myself and that has been an immeasurable gift. How freeing it is to be able to make choices based on self-knowledge and how comforting it is to be true to one’s self. I used to look for my next relationship with a kind of hunger, never really feeling whole with one. Now I’m ok either way. Today I enjoy my own company and have come to really like the various traits that comprise my character.

Hyla may spend a lot of time playing by herself but I’m feeling pretty sure that this will serve her well in life. By spending time with yourself you get to know yourself and once that happens, there’s pretty much nothing that you can’t do.

Stand tall, be true, and be honest with yourself about what makes you tick and playing alone will never seem quite so empty again…


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