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Self-Fulfillment Sushi - Chef's Choice OneI invite as many Spiritual Sisters (and Brothers) to participate directly in Lionel Fisher's column as would care to be a part of it. Rather than just another "Talking Head" pontificating in the first person, YOU will be the stars of "Living Well Enough Alone." At the end of each column, Lionel will pose a question of the month (you'll find the first one under his introductory piece below). I urge you to email him your thoughts and feelings on the themes and issues he presents for your consideration. Share with him your counsel, insights and advice so that he can pass them along to the rest of us. All he asks is that you participate with kindness and sincerity. Tell him the truth as YOU see it. He promises to use only your first name (or a first name of your choice) and your state (or country) with your quote. So please join us for the sake of your Spiritual Sisters and Brothers.

- Jane Mullikin, Editor

Have You Ever Been to YOU? It scares us more than anything except death.

Being alone.

Our fear of aloneness is so ingrained that given the choice of being by ourselves or being with others we opt for safety in numbers, even at the expense of lingering in painful, boring or totally unredeeming company.

And yet more of us than ever are alone.

While many Americans have their solo lifestyles thrust on them -- people die, people go away�a huge and growing population is choosing to be alone.

In 1955, one in 10 U.S. households consisted of one person. By 1999, the proportion was one in three. Single men and women accounted for 38.9 million of the nation�s 110.5 million households. Sixty percent of them were under the age of 65; roughly 60 percent of them were women.

�Never before in American history has living alone been the predominant lifestyle,� observes demographic trends analyst Cheryl Russell, who predicts that single-person households will become the most common household type in the United States by the year 2005.

Nonetheless, we persist in the conviction that a solitary existence is the harshest penalty life can mete out. We loathe being alone -- anytime, anywhere, for too long, for whatever reason.

From childhood we�re conditioned to accept that when alone we instinctively ache for company, that loners are outsiders yearning to get in rather than people who are content with their own company.

Alone, we squander life by rejecting its full potential and wasting its remaining promises. Alone, we accept that experiences unshared are barely worthwhile, that sunsets viewed singly are not as spectacular, that time spent apart is fallow and pointless.

And so we grow old believing we are nothing by ourselves, steadfastly shunning the opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth that solitude could bring us.

We�ve even coined a word for those who prefer to be by themselves: antisocial, as if they were enemies of society. They are viewed as friendless, suspect in a world that goes around in twos or more and is wary of solitary travelers.

People who need people are threatened by people who don�t. The idea of seeking contentment alone is heretical, for society steadfastly decrees that our completeness lies in others.

Instead, we cling to each other for solace, comfort, and safety, believing that we are nothing alone -- insignificant, unfulfilled, lost -- accepting solitude in the tiniest, most reluctant of slices, if at all, which is tragic, for it rejects God�s precious gift of life.

Ironically, most of us crave more intimacy and companionship than we can bear. We begrudge ourselves, our spouses and our partners sufficient physical and emotional breathing room -- and then bemoan the suffocation of our relationships.

To point out these facts is not to suggest we should abandon all our close ties. Medical surveys show that the majority of elderly people who live alone, yet maintain frequent contact with relatives and friends, rate their physical and emotional well-being as �excellent.� Just as an apple a day kept the doctor away when they were young, an active social calendar appears to serve the same purpose now.

But we need to befriend and enjoy ourselves as well.

How does that old song go? �I�ve been to paradise, but I�ve never been to me��

About time, don�t you think?

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Question of the Month: "Do you think people have to become semi-reclusive for a period of time to break the popular cultural-value system and build one of their own?"

Do you try to find yourself in solitude, to find out who YOU really are, what YOU really need? Why do you think you have to be by yourself at times to be better for those you love?

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Lionel Fisher is the author of Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude (Beyond Words Publishing, 2001). Reach him at beachauthor@hotmail.com to share your thoughts on magnificent aloneness.