Ever go to a restaurant alone? How about a movie, museum or other activity? Do you make time for yourself to just be? What about quality time with your partner or a valued friend, just you and him/her?
Often life can consist of a series of to-dos, one after the other and without a moment for anything else.
I saw this great quote used in a Psychology Today article by author and critic Mary Mannes: “The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space free from outside pressure which is the incubator of the spirit.”
Think about what happens to your spirit when you don’t allow it free space. Does it slowly whittle away? I think so.
My husband and I live an adventurous and fast paced life. We travel for work (he often on weekends), have both common and independent social lives, and are lucky enough to spend time in three dwellings: our home in NYC, a cottage by the beach and rental shared with friends in the mountains. You can definitely say we are constantly on the go and it is not a lifestyle for the weary!
We both typically get sufficient solo time, but we can go weeks without quality together time.
When that happens, the disconnect is palpable. Usually it manifests itself as crankiness until one of us recognizes the signs and insists we clear the calendar and just hang together. That is not always the popular decision, especially when others feel left out or neglected. But it is necessary to keep a thriving and strong relationship.
When we take that moment, the snarkiness subsides like the clearing of a thick fog and we look at each other as if to literally say “Oh yeah, I know you. I really like spending time with you. Yeah, uh, let’s do that more”. That’s likely why so many experts recommend a regular “date night”!
The same is true when I spend time in solitude. When constantly “on”, one can lose the ability to let his/her creativity flag fly. The down time to unwind and “reboot our brain” is lost, and thus so are the opportunities to improve concentration (resulting in increased productivity), and work through problems (all benefits of solitude as cited in a Psychology Today article).
You may say that going to a meal or movie solo is sad, lonely and scary. I find it glorious -- no one to make fun of my picky way of ordering food, or take the aisle seat! Instead just an opportunity to totally be myself and do whatever I want.
I have met some amazing people, now life long friends while out and about by myself. For example:
- My friend R while day-trip hiking
- My friends O and C while watching the sunset at a favorite haunt during the great blackout of 2003
- A boyfriend at a professional baseball game
- People from all over the world during a 3-month sabbatical that took me to the Pacific Northwest, Thailand and New Zealand
Did you find yourself judging me, saying “What, you did ______ on your own ?” You’re not alone! But, get this: I don’t care, and you shouldn’t either. The issue often comes in when we worry about how others perceive us, but in reality getting comfortable with spending time alone is a confidence booster.
So answer these questions:
- When is the last time I did an activity by myself?
- When did I last take an hour to just be?
- When is the last time my partner and I had “date night”?
Reflect on how this “quiz” made you feel, and the answers. If the response to any of these questions is more than a week ago, I suggest you get scheduling! Try it. Just one short date with yourself could lead to doors bursting open and a whole new understanding of you and what makes you thrive.
Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™