I’m a firm believer in alone time.
During the final week of my 28-day-road trip back in June, I had the patience of an angry bee. My poor husband got the brunt of it, but nobody was safe. Not my friends. Not strangers in Target. Not even our best man.
Sure, I apologized after I snapped at my brother when we were in his apartment in NYC and he was talking too much during The Bachelorette (so embarrassing, I need to calm down), and thanked Aaron’s BFF profusely for cooking us dinner, but nobody was fooled. I was a ticking time bomb in need of a lot of room to explode.
Luckily, Aaron knows the deactivation code, so things never escalated to the point of him needing a tranquilizer, or even a restraining order. But as soon as we got home to Virginia Beach, he sat me down in front of the T.V. with a bottle of Prosecco, turned on MTV’s The Challenge, and waited. When I paused the television after drinking the whole bottle and asked him if he would date a stripper if I died, he wisely remained quiet and let me put myself to bed.
The next morning, I refused to get up for church, and instead insisted that I was a horrible human with no redeeming qualities. Aaron stifled a laugh, threw me in the shower, and greased up our bicycle chains. If Prosecco wouldn’t do the trick, surely some Vitamin D and endorphins would help.
What did I ever do to deserve such a perfect human?
The good news is that after 48 hours of Aaron pulling out every move in the Shannon Deactivation Handbook, I reverted back to my normal self. It just took a few days of no plans, lots of alone time, and some fresh vegetables we bought at the local farmer’s market. Fuel your body, fuel your soul, people.
In case you were thinking that this doesn’t sound like I got much alone time to recover, I should point out that I consider much of the time I spend with my husband “alone time,” because I’m still able to fully relax and not wear pants when he’s around. But he did give me some legitimate alone time, as well.
From what I understand, not everyone requires as much alone time as I do. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m an extroverted introvert, which means I gain my energy from being alone, but am also quite outgoing when properly fueled. This is different from being an extrovert, i.e. someone who gains his or her energy from being around other people.
I knew a full month of staying on foreign couches and beds would be a struggle before I left on my journey. Mental preparations had been made. Obviously, I love everyone I stayed with, and still had ample time to myself when I’d write at Starbucks each morning, but having to engage with humans every night was tasking. Coupled with not fully knowing my surroundings for a few weeks and being a horrible sleeper in unfamiliar places (I’m an actual infant), I finally reached my tipping point sometime during the New York City leg.
So what, exactly, makes alone time so vital to our ability to exist happily?
I use “our” to speak for any form of introverts, but come to think of it, extroverts I know need a certain extent of alone time, as well. So, really, “our” really encompasses everyone. #allgodschildren
What happens when we’re alone? Well, first of all, we’re authentically ourselves. We physically position ourselves however our little hearts desire. We let our minds wander to wherever they want to explore. Or we turn them off completely. We only have to deal with our own actions, not any reactions. We are reminded that no matter the level of intimacy we share with others, the only person experiencing life as we know it is ourself. Sometimes that realization is scary if we let it sink in…but usually, it’s not a conscious thought. Being alone generally reminds us of our overarching solitude in a subconscious manner. At least I hope it’s usually subconscious, because it’d be exhausting to look around and think “Even when I’m with people, I’m alone in my perspectives and unique experiences” every time you drive by yourself to work or come home to an empty house.
This is precisely why someone experiencing loss or a severe personal struggle shouldn’t be left alone. Being overly aware of our distinct separation from anyone but ourselves can lead to a dangerous, fearful place. But for those of us who experience life with a general level of mental clarity and optimism, that subconscious recognition of true independence reenergizes us. It gives us time to relax, then after awhile, re-sparks the urge to continue feeding our senses by seeking outside stimulation (i.e. other people).
When I ride my bike to Starbucks or watch TV in my familiar, personalized space, I feel calm. By the end of that quiet indulgence, I’m invigorated and willing to invite other people into my little world, or join theirs. As much as I love and need time with friends and family, and enjoy meeting new people, any form of interaction requires sharing the energy in that space. Like I said, some people feed off the energy of others. Me, on the other hand? Combining energy spaces slowly drains me of my own stash. So I need to be truly prepared for those engagements, which requires plugging into “me time.”
Learning to be comfortable in your aloneness is key in feeling refreshed and content in life. I really believe that. If you don’t give yourself time to reload and accept the reclusive nature of being an individual soul, you’ll feel restless, impatient, and worst of all– anxious. But when you know that little ole you is living a life unique to yourself, everything else feels far less overwhelming. You can be patient with the other individual, independent souls. You can appreciate the souls that make yours happy. You can happily share your energy for as long as you personally can sustain.
Alone time is great. Without it, how would we feel deep joy in community? Well, at least for me, I wouldn’t. I forced myself to be engaged and happy around people during that fourth week of my road trip, but truly loving the company of others is only achieved by first loving the company of yourself. I don’t think it’s selfish– I think it’s necessary.
I feel like I should end with my favorite toast. So, everyone, CHEERS TO ME!! (My immediate friend group will get it. The rest of you, just know that it’s 75% a joke.)