Alone sweet home

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I was sitting with a group of women, chatting about our plans for the weekend. One woman had made plans to look after her young grandchildren for the day on Saturday. Her daughter had then called to asked if she would also take the kids for Friday evening. The answer was  a firm no. “But,” protested the daughter, “You never do anything on Friday evening.”

Which, my friend informed us, was exactly the point. Friday was her night to do, or not do, what she wanted.

Verbiage about differences between introverts and extroverts occupies almost as much internet real estate as the cute cat pictures. It is therefore commonly  understood that some people get their energy from being around other people, while the rest of us need to retreat from the world to recharge.

In spite of this, I’ve noticed that we all– introverts and extroverts alike– tend to refer in conversation to time spent home alone as “doing nothing.”  “Doing something,” on the other hand tends to have the default meaning of “engaging in some sort of activity away from home, and probably involving other people.”

On my “About” page I describe myself as, “A big-time introvert who makes a living with people, and comes home to people.” Now don’t get me wrong, I love the people — well, person– to whom I come home. But the truth is that when she heads off for summer camp my own introvert’s soul relishes its own kind of vacation. I look forward to coming home  from my people-filled office to a quiet space and filling my evenings with my own thoughts. With reading and writing and long walks. With strange little meals eaten at odd times. With no one but me caring when I do the laundry and whether the milk is getting low.

When I know I’m going to have some extended time alone, I plan all sorts of delicious solitary pursuits. But when the world gets wind of the fact that I’m on my own for a stretch of time, invariably this thing happens: well meaning people (of whom I am also very fond) start inviting me for dinner because I am alone. Sometimes I say no.

Here’s where it gets awkward. Because of our apparent cultural bias toward “doing things,” part of me feels guilty for saying no (really, it’s not you–it’s me). And then I feel like I should feel guilty for feeling guilty. And then I end up trying to explain myself to the universe in a guilt-laden blog post, when really the whole point was that I just wanted to guard my time alone for doing things like, say, writing blog posts.

Sometimes I say yes to the invitations. And I have a lovely time, and enjoy the people I’m with. But if I happen to have said no to you, then please know that it doesn’t mean I don’t want to spend the time with you. Rather, it means I need to spend the time with me.

I don’t really feel that guilty. But I do wish we could all stop referring to home-alone time as “doing nothing.” Because you should see the list of things I’ve got planned for these few, precious days of solitude! The list that, truthfully, I’ve been making for months in anticipation of this time. On the one hand, I don’t want to feel compelled to share with you everything that’s on the list. On the other hand, if I don’t guard the time I’ve set aside to do these things, then when I (inevitably) find myself back in the middle of other peoples lives, the things I didn’t do with my time alone will haunt and frustrate me.

I will, in other words, be happier when we do spend time together if I also spend some time alone. Doing something.








13 thoughts on “Alone sweet home

  1. This is a great post and I am very happy you brought this up! When I stopped working outside home because I am a mother of three I was happy. I loved to be there for my kids, care and make a nest for all of us! But there was this driving voice inside of me that forced me to prove others that I am more than a “housewife”. Listening and following that voice obviously showed that I myself thought, it was not enough and I tried to make everything 150% perfect and also did so much more only to show how much I am able to achieve. It was my self-esteem that told me not to be good enough. It took me almost 20 years to finally back up myself and don’t care if others might think whether I am doing enough or not. I changed my priorities and do what I love and not what I think others expect me to do to be accepted as a full member of society. And when you go into my website you will see, that with this changed attitude I achieved much more. I developed deep satisfaction and nevertheless much more me time as well. Thanks for this post!

  2. We must learn to love being alone with ourselves. If we feel like we need to be with other people constantly, there is probably something wrong with our self esteem. Thanks for the thoughts.

  3. I need that alone time too, and I also feel like I shouldn’t be expected to have to account for it to anyone. If someone asks what I’ve been doing or plan to do, I occasionally use my mother’s old “sit on the couch and eat bon-bons and watch soap operas” comment, but I don’t wish to come off as too flippant, so not often. Thanks for the excellent read.

  4. I refer to it as “me time” and when I need time from people I simply tell them so, if they care about me they will understand. There is no guilt in saying no to an invitation and simply saying, I need quiet time with myself. If your friends/family take offense to that it’s on them. In my “me time” I may simply sit by myself and listen to nothing…to my thoughts…to my feelings…to nature, whatever, sometimes “doing nothing” is exactly what I need.

    The idea of wasting time is what bothers me. It’s my time, if I just want to sit and do nothing then I will do that and it will be not be a waste because it will re-charge me and ground me. Nobody can define what is a waste of my time but me.

    I hope you enjoy your time to yourself and don’t feel the need to qualify your time to others.

  5. Gloria

    Excellent! Even though you say that it is commonly understood that some of us need time away from people to recharge, there are still too many who think that there is something wrong with that, and they need to help us ‘get out more’. We’ve still got a long way to go before our need for solitude is recognized and respected. Blogs like this help tremendously. I just hope it isn’t only introverts who are reading it. Thank you!

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