Expanding Your Experience of Choice: A Self-Mastery Skill

A man thinking about choice that will keep him stuck or free him.

The holidays are done. Christmas and New Year’s Day having followed Thanksgiving less than a month before. Times to be with family and those you’re close to. But for me, I’ll dined alone. I’ve had folks tell me how sorry they were that I was alone. Others would invite me to dinner with their families. But me and my introverted self typically said, “Thanks, but no thanks; I’ll be okay.” Alone does not mean lonely.

Actually, I was much more than okay. I had presents to open, and I feasted well. For Thanksgiving, I fixed myself a duck breast with a cherry gastrique and a mix of winter vegetable roasted with garlic and ginger. Plus, a nice pinot noir to savor along with it. For Christmas, I did a filet mignon with foie gras and truffle butter. Now that was over the top! Had a marvelous cabernet sauvignon with that. For New Year’s, I sautéed jumbo lump crab and country ham! Do I wish I had a girlfriend or wife to share these events with? Sure, that would have been lovely, but that doesn’t mean I was unhappy about their absence. I’m really good company for myself.

When My Ego Is in Charge

That wasn’t always true. There have been periods during which I beat myself up if I didn’t have a mate, particularly for the holidays. It was clear to me at those times that I wasn’t whole by myself, that I needn’t someone else to be complete, to not be lonely. I have a close friend who wanted to know how I made that shift, as I’m sure others do. The concept of making the shift is simple, though simple need not imply easy. 

The fact is that we are whole unto ourselves! Growing up, society repeatedly taught us we’re not old enough, big enough, and don’t know enough. And we were surely dependent on our caregivers for food and shelter, hence our very survival. Then, starting in our early teens, society taught us that we must be paired with someone to be okay. 

The Brainwashed Ego

So, we all have been socialized, albeit brainwashed, to believe the story that says, “To be okay, you must be paired with someone and if you’re not, you’re not okay, particularly during holidays.” But that story, regardless of how deeply it has been embedded into our ego, is just a story that only holds water when we believe in it, like we believe in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. The trick is to notice when that story plays in your mind. The story that has you thinking, “I’m so terribly lonely.” Notice the sadness that comes with that thought. Be with it for a while and watch it shift to whatever it shifts to, then watch that shift. At some point you’ll may notice that you’re no longer sad and that your sad story is just that: a sad story that you have believed in. 

Putting Your Ego Back in Its Place

If you think it would be helpful, make a list of your accomplishments. Your professional accomplishments and your social accomplishments from over your years. What story does that tell you? But notice that that is just a story too. Both stories are about the past.

If you let go of your stories, what’s going on with you right now? Are you hungry? Are you tired? Energized? Curious? Angry? Is sad back? Then call a friend that you care about and cares about you. Share with them the exercise you just went through and talk with them about being okay, even if you don’t have a mate for the holidays. Include a bit of sadness if you want to. Sadness is just part of being a whole person.

Remember, you are in charge of your ego. It needn’t be in charge of you. That’s why alone does not mean lonely.

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