Real Life: On Alone Time

essay on alone time

Twice in the last two weeks, there’ve been rogue mosquitos that have made their way into our bedroom through an open window during the night. They’ve been aggressive little things, usually waking me after my shoulders, chest, and arms have been roundly bitten, and they’ve completed a few requisite dive bombs at the face (if the itching doesn’t wake me, it’s the buzzing right in my ear). Mosquitos in cool-weather San Francisco: whoda thunk?

But I bring it up because this very morning, on the heels of another attack — and two lights-on attempts to kill the f*!$er were unsuccessful — I got up from bed and wandered into my office. It was just after 4 in the morning. Not being able to sleep, I had no real agenda, but thought I might write, or put a post together. Nothing really came.

So I sat some more, and after a while, it struck me how peaceful it was. My little desk lamp, the only one glowing from the many apartment windows I could see. How quiet it was outside. It was nice to sit with no distractions, no real urgency, no where to be, nothing to do. Just me and my thoughts, casually bouncing from one to the next. Alone.

This past weekend, Joe spent most all of Saturday out and about playing golf and hanging with his buddies. It had been a while since he’d been out for the entire day doing his own thing, and on the flip side, a while since I’d had the house to myself during non-work hours, with no other plans on the books. I watched three movies, made myself something delicious for lunch, and didn’t even change out of my pajamas until dinner time. It was amazing. Don’t you love days like that?

All this to illustrate, I think I often forget how valuable and necessary alone time is. Even if solitude is spent doing something mindless — like watching three movies you’ve already seen a bagillion times, just because they make you feel good — it’s still such a gift. Somewhere between all the work commitments, relationship commitments, and friend commitments, it’s pretty easy to leave out the you commitment. That part where you take time to do nothing and/or something that makes you feel great, just because you need it and you want to. Do you forget to do this too? It’s one of those things that’s often on the back burner in my mind (like, “Oh, I really want to just take a bath and read a book and do nothing”), but rarely gets moved to the front burner.

What’s your favorite way to unwind when you have true alone time? I have two, and well, one is the version that actually happens and the other is the one that I always say I want to do and it never seems to happen. The first was basically this last Saturday. I have a not-so-secret love of watching the same movies over and over again, but can really only indulge in this on my own (Joe draws the line after annual holiday movie watchings). I also use the time to make carb-heavy delights that result in leftovers. Pasta. Casseroles. It’s amazing, y’all.

The second is the daydream in which I eat lunch by myself in some cute little restaurant I’ve never been to, then spend the afternoon browsing boutiques and shops that I’ve walked by but never actually gone into. You know that daydream. It’s a good one, isn’t it?

You will notice that the Alone Time principle is a close relative to the Secret Single Behavior. But they’re not quite the same. Because with Alone Time, I think to do it regularly you kinda have to plan for it and give into the self-indulgence, if that makes any sense. It’s something that should be intentionally carbed carved out (I really did accidentally type that) of your schedule for your own sanity and well-being.

Joe is taking a last minute trip to see family this coming weekend. We didn’t have any major plans for the Fourth anyway, but when he told me about the trip, I was sad about not spending the long weekend together for about a minute, then realized it was a great opportunity to indulge in some much needed alone time. Work’s been busy and since coming back to SF, we’ve kept a full social calendar as we “make up for lost time” with friends we’d missed. So yes, alone time: I see you on the horizon, and I’m coming for ya. I’m already scheming about the casserole I’m going to make. And I just might actually do that solo lunch and shopping excursion, finally. Now I have you guys to help keep me accountable.

Do you get in enough time for yourself to just do nothing, or things that revitalize you? And I’m not talking about your regular/habitual tasks that you happen to be alone for (like going for a run/working out, or running errands or something). How do you know when you need one of those days off from everyone and everything, and what do you then like to do?

Further reading: should-less days.

Image: via my Instagram

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18 Comments

  1. 6.29.15
    Sam said:

    I miss the days of movie marathons and sitting in PJs all day! We have a 16 month old and a dog, and alone time is a rare visitor, for either of us. We have to actively plan and/or force ourselves to take a short breather, and even that seems like too much work sometimes!

  2. 6.29.15

    I couldn’t agree more, I am move introverted so alone time is something that is necessary to my creative process an overall well-being. Love spending even an afternoon wandering the city, it is good for the soul!

  3. 6.29.15

    This post is so spot on for me right now! I just moved in with my boyfriend and he could spend all day every day with people, whereas I love alone time. So I’ve been trying to find a balance. My favorite thing to do alone is, like you said, take myself out to lunch! I love going and sitting outside and people watching, or reading a book.

    xx
    Catherine

  4. 6.29.15
    Tia said:

    I can relate to this so much! I feel like I always need alone time to recharge after a busy few days that sometimes turn into weeks…
    xx Tia | http://www.bigcitytyro.com

  5. 6.29.15

    I really love pouring a good glass of wine, putting on my favorite radio station, (lately it’s Ryn Weaver on Spotify) and getting lost in my art. It’s one thing that I really need to be alone to do and focus on. :D
    This is a beautifully insightful blog post.
    xx
    Lauren Jade
    Lauren Jade Lately
    ‘Simplify Life, Maximize Happiness’

  6. 6.29.15
    Jenn said:

    Agreed! Alone time is something I have to have in order to take care of myself. I’m good at being “alone” in a sea of people, something a lot of others don’t understand. In college my favorite days were spent eating lunch in our student union building alone, surrounded by others, while I studied listened to music or just people watched. Being an introvert that easily takes on other people’s “stuff”, I try to make time for “me” time often. Like today, I took a “me” day. It was a beautiful day here in VA, and I’ve been needing a work break. Not a break from the actual work but a break from people. I did some things around the house, watched Kathie Lee and Hoda (which I love) and sat outside in the sun with the pups, a glass of wine and some magazines. It. Was. Perfect.

  7. 6.29.15
    Cathleen said:

    Alone time is really important. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love my spouse or want to be with him, but I sometimes just need some time alone without interacting with anyone. I usually get some chores done, eat something I wouldn’t normally, and try to relax.

  8. 6.29.15
    Elle said:

    i love my alone time and i tend to use it to cook as well, usually something sweet or carb laden. I also love to just curl up on the porch and catch up on blogs/reading while the sun slips down. it’s so peaceful and restorative.

  9. 6.29.15
    jes said:

    One of my favorites combines all of the above – a staycation at a local hotel. I like checking in early, with enough time to use the pool, then having a glass of wine at a nearby bar or restaurant, before heading back to my room where an evening of room service, wine, and reading in the bathtub await. (And if I’m being honest – I’ll probably binge watch a movie or two.) The next morning, I like to have a good workout, then breakfast in bed (yes, I go back to bed after a shower), and then wander the shops before heading back home. It is the most luxurious way to spend an evening….Sunday’s are the best – they’re cheaper and shops are still open on Monday.

    Enjoy your relaxing weekend!

  10. 6.30.15
    Shirsha said:

    I can’t function without alone time. That’s the only way for me to really function in this crazy busy world, full of interactions and communication. I could have had a perfectly great day with family / friends, but not having a few minutes to myself can easily push me into the “don’t-mess-with-me” mood. What can I say, I’m an introvert if there ever was one!
    I usually grab a lunch for one and eat something which I know the husband does not enjoy, or wander around shops. I love visiting bookstores as well, and shopping by myself. At least you don’t have to deal with your companion(s) getting grumpy about you trying on an outfit for the n-th time.

  11. 6.30.15
    Erica said:

    I need some good alone time too. Lately my favorite has been middle of the night feedings with my baby (he’s almost 3 months old). The rest of the house is quiet and it’s just the two of us. He’s calm and usually half asleep too. I use the time to read a book, catch up on blogs or just think. Now that he’s started to sleep through the night (don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful), I need to find another time to spend alone. Luckily I always have my monthly manicure and pedicure to look forward to!

  12. 6.30.15
    Rose said:

    I found that article on NY Mag you linked to in the comments really interesting. According to Meyers-Briggs, I am an ENFP, however I don’t consider myself an extrovert—tests just classify me as such because I am aggressive/assertive/can be very opinionated and loud, but when it comes to social situations I am much more an introvert when I’m around anyone aside from very close friends. I enjoy socializing with small groups, not large ones (social introvert!), and love alone time more than just about anything else. I intentionally schedule it and frequently say no to things when I know I’d rather just hang at home. That being said, I’m a very antsy person who likes to be on the go all the time so when I’m just at home for too long I feel unaccomplished and can’t sit still or focus, so I make plans to go out or just go do things on my own—something I’m very comfortable with.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing—your posts always get me thinking about new things or re-evaluating in the best of ways!

  13. 6.30.15
    Jen said:

    I love alone time. My husband and I both work from home. The days when he’s out playing golf are heaven. I enjoy being in our home with a good book and loud music. My other favorite is to take myself to lunch. I always return refreshed.

  14. 7.1.15
    Amy said:

    I am one of those people who absolutely needs alone time to recharge and energise. I love being around people, but find that without time by myself I get cranky and anxious – a classic introvert. Your ideal alone day sounds exactly like mine – there’s no treat like whipping yourself up an amazing meal, full of carbs, while you catch up on your favourite trashy TV.

  15. 7.1.15

    Amen! I think most people need alone time, and these days, most probably don’t get it because our lives have become so over-scheduled. I used to be the “yes” person who never turns down a social invite, and in the process I became super frazzled and stressed out without having a second to breathe. Now I make a conscious effort to say “no,” and I actually schedule downtime. With a day job, freelance gig, and blog to keep up, the best thing I do for myself is zone out. No music, no screen, no nothing. Staring off into space does wonderful things for my brain! That, or cooking by myself :)

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