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Alone Things and the United States of Distraction

Here in about four days, I will have officially been in Switzerland for a whole month. I’m torn between feeling like I’ve been here for ages and feeling like I just got here. To make it all even more surreal, my time here is a third of the way over. That just blows my mind. I feel like I now have ties here that would just break my heart to leave even though the majority of this month, I have spent alone. Let me explain…

The first week or so, I felt weird about spending so much time alone and I didn’t know what to do with it or myself. To be honest, I felt a little pathetic for not having anyone to hang out with either. Back home when I would get bored, I would call up a friend to grab Starbucks, I would walk around Target, I would take a drive, I would go pick up some fast food for myself, whatever. Here, I don’t have a car, friends, or fast food. No fast food. Like really…what am I supposed to do with myself? I also have a phone plan that requires Wifi for the majority of my communication with anyone or anything so I can’t hide away in Twitter or Instagram when I feel awkward on the train. Yes, I know that I could always go exploring (believe me, I’ve probably explored too much already) but it’s a good fifteen American dollars to ride the train into town and back so even though I have gone into town and run around a bit, I can’t afford to do it everyday. I also live in a village of 1,700 people so there’s only so much space to explore here as well. As an instantly gratified American, it’s similar to what I would assume being a cavewoman is like

There came a point where I was sitting in my little Swiss-apartment-cave and realized that I’ve spent a large portion of the last three years distracting myself from real life with people and things. When the going got tough in college, I would go out to a party or drink with friends and ignore the tough. When I was at home and the going got tough, I would pick up extra shifts at work, blow some more gas on driving around jamming, or find a new show to binge on Netflix. I’ve started referring to home as the United States of Distraction. We’ve made it such an unconcious goal to not focus on the bad things or any thing, really. We have endless streams of fantasy and other peoples lives at our fingertips. We have twenty different places to eat, all five minutes from us, so it makes us feel like we’re making the hard decisions every day. We have social media and thousands of games in the palm of our hand so we can tune out whenever we want. Here, I can’t ignore real life and it started out being the worst thing and ended up being the best thing that has ever happened to me. I equate it to withdrawal actually, because learning to be alone is totally like the five stages of grief.

Denial: Skype, Text, FaceTime, Google Hangout every single friend I’ve ever made until three in the morning for a week straight so I don’t feel alone.

Anger: Lay in bed in the middle of the day for multiple days wondering why I’m such a hermit and why I can’t make friends and ugh why am I so aloneeee?!?

Bargaining: If I take my chances, pay the $15 and walk around in the twenty-five degree weather in St. Gallen for a few hours, God will magically give me a friend.

*Depression: Buy everything in the closet-sized grocery store in your village and teach yourself to cook things for hours until you’re laying in the middle of your kitchen floor with two homemade pizzas, a bowl of tuna fish salad, and pasta sitting on your counter and you’re still lonely.

Acceptance (finally): Start with an overly dramatic, exasperated sigh then sit down and make a list of things (with the help of Pinterest and Google of course) you can do all on your own to occupy your time and actually do them.

In the past three weeks I’ve come up with a beautifully unorganized schedule of Alone Things. On certain days I use my dining room/kitchen space to follow thirty minute to an hour workout videos (you can ask anyone I know, I have never willingly exercised for that amount of time for fun ever in my life) and lengthy yoga instructional videos (go ahead and say “I told you so”, Dad. I’m waiting for it.) In the mornings, I have some carved out time to write in my…wait for it…prayer journal! I started it begrudgingly but now I can barely go a day without filling up a page. I make myself work on lesson plans for school, whether I’m caught up or not, for at least a half hour a day. Normally it’s longer but I’ve had this crazy realization that the more committed I am in my prep time to what I teach these kids, the more they’ll be able to see that committment in our time together. How new and revolutionary, right? I also read every day. This isn’t a new one necessarily but I’ve made a concious decision to change my reading material to things that I’ll get more out of than just entertainment. For example, I’m currently reading Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I cook way more than I ever used to. It’s all pretty simple stuff, but I’m hyper concious of what I eat during the day and how much of it I eat. I also walk. I walk everywhere in the village I can just to get to know my surroundings better.

Because of this shambly list of Alone Things, my physical health is awesome right now. Being hyper aware of the food I’m eating and actively exercising and stretching my old lady body makes my bones smile. My relationship with God is out of this world because I sit down and have uninterrupted, candid conversations with Him almost every day. My brain is working on over-time because I’m feeding it something it can truly chew on instead of junk. Being alone is the best thing that’s ever happened to me!

These are the ties I’m talking about; Now that I’m taken out of the fast-paced, fast food, paved world of consumption, I have made relationships with myself and with knowledge and with nature around me that I am so distracted from when I’m in America. I’m not saying that you can’t be this way in America. Not at all. I’m also not saying that Switzerland doesn’t also have the option to live in a world of distractions, they do. But I am saying that, for me, it’s much easier when you’re completely removed from all of your normal distractions. I’m feeling so full and fantastic right now and part of me is scared of leaving this beautiful place in two months and casually, but quickly, falling back into my United States of Distraction.

I’ve learned a lot about the Swiss culture, the food, the people, and how much five seconds counts when you’re trying to catch a train home. But, in a very Eat Pray Love fashion, I’ve learned way more about myself.

*Through this process I became aware that you should never over-indulge in spring rolls while drinking red wine. Caution.

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