I’m not trying to be a Valentine’s Day Grinch, and the timing of this post is not really intentional. I was actually hoping to do this post last week, from the pool of this amazing house in the Hollywood Hills I found that rents out a room or two every now and then to wandering artists. Except the rooms happened to be full the week I needed to take off to work on the next draft of Sex, Life, & Hannah, so I pouted, ordered a pair of custom-made boots instead and blew half the budget I had for my alone time.
I’ve been craving proper alone time for a couple years now; not in the form of my trip to Toronto a couple summers back where my parents wanted me to check up on my sister, or my trip to Las Vegas last January where they wanted me to house hunt for their second home, but time away from everything and everyone. Time to turn off the internet and my phone and all the expectations to be somewhere and do something with someone. Time to reflect and be creative and just do what I want to do.
A lot of us, especially when we’re in relationships where we live with people; friends, family, boyfriends, husbands, children, feel guilt requesting alone time, or feel like wanting alone time is a sign of something worse: the end of a relationship. “I’m not cut out for marriage, I don’t enjoy being a mom, I never want to see my family again” you start to think, tugging at your hair. I know I felt that way initially a couple years ago when I started thinking and talking to hubbie about taking a private sabbatical. Of course it was peppered in with discussions of not feeling sexually satisfied as well, which I’m sure didn’t help either one of us properly evaluate what I was really trying to say.
Looking back I have had a lot of quality alone time in my life. I was fortunate. I’ve mostly lived without roommates and gotten to travel for work and usually extend those business trips to include a few days just for me. Even as a child I remember my parents allowing me to take a day off from school sometimes because I wanted to be alone in my room and do what I wanted to do. When me and hubbie got married and I got out of the corporate world and into independent contracting, I didn’t realize how abruptly it was going to change my lifestyle. And while on the one hand I was looking forward to living with him and not having to pack a suitcase every other week, I realize now I miss my alone time, and need to find a better balance in my life than our current status quo. Not necessarily a job where I travel 50% of the year, and not necessarily my own studio apartment, but maybe a week, or two, or more that I spend alone.
I just started doing some research into this, and am finding I am really not alone. This Psychology Today article is kind of long, but definitely worth the read. Here are my favorite excerpts out of it:
Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives. It can teach us fortitude and the ability to satisfy our own needs. A restorer of energy, the stillness of alone experiences provides us with much-needed rest. It brings forth our longing to explore, our curiosity about the unknown, our will to be an individual, our hopes for freedom. Alonetime is fuel for life.
Throughout history, we see individuals who have tired of the confines of civilization and voiced a longing for free space. Tidal pools, empty fields, mountains, trees, and oceans evoke peace and contentment. Something sacred fills these open spaces. I believe we long for “places with no roads…but plenty of space” from the time we are children.
Romantic love and a stable relationship were once seen as antithetical to each other. Now, according to one study on couples, “The two are supposed to exist in harmony. Partners are supposed to be able to switch from lawn-mowing and diapers to torrid sex at the drop of a hat; from long hours at work to sweet moments in the sun.” The strain on couples to be all things to each other is no less than the general strain on people in all areas of society. Can all this be accomplished without one of the partners calling for time out? Obviously not, for it seems that as the push grows for greater and greater intimacy between people, so has the number of couples seeking separations and divorce.
At some point most idealized lovers become ordinary human beings. With the reappearance of this reality, a restlessness born from too little alone time also becomes apparent. Now each partner has to return to their individual concerns in life. Couples who successfully handle this impasse do so usually through a renegotiation of the amount and condition of time spent together.
As individuals in a relationship evolve, so does the couple itself. People constantly transform one another. Sex may sometimes be hit-and-run, at other times a union so deep it feels biological. Commitment can be a joyous sacrament or a chain around one’s neck. Alone time allows us to reflect and sort things out. It is not necessarily a way to escape from bonding, for often we find our way back to someone else during alone contemplation, and forge stronger commitments.
…the artist in all of us must risk disconnection, for forging a happy and worthwhile life—and navigating through that life fully and gracefully—is itself a creative act.
Life’s creative solutions require alone time. Solitude is required for the unconscious to process and unravel problems. Others inspire us, information feeds us, practice improves our performance, but we need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers.