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On Being Alone

The Journal

An artist + photographer's story blog. Nashville, TN.

On Being Alone

Amy Roberts

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I grew up in a quiet, sunny home.

As a kid, I would spend hours on end in my room, playing with my toys and stretching my imagination's muscles with no restraints. Because I was alone.

An only child, I spent a lot of my free time alone - but I wasn't lonely. Being alone felt as obvious as a fish being in water. I was comfortable there, able to stretch and build and think freely without distraction.

Of course, adult life eventually caught up with that, and distractions came bounding in from every direction. For a while, I didn't know how to structure my time to accommodate all those distractions, and I certainly didn't know how to say a polite "no."

You see, for some reason our culture pushes on us to be busy all the time. Something in society says that, in order to be a good, engaged, successful person, you must fill your time to the brim with stuff. Work, education, family, friends, community, home, food, hobbies... the list gets long pretty fast.

And all of those things are important, but there's one thing that is left out of that equation.

What about being alone?

There is something really valuable about spending time with yourself. After all, we live our lives in duplicity, viewing ourselves as us and someone else at the same time. Don't believe me? Answer this: When you ask yourself a question, who are you talking to?

Whoops. Sorry if I broke your brain, there.

But when we prioritize ourselves, society calls that "selfishness." I just don't buy it anymore.

But, don't you get lonely?

Not really. I tend to feel rejuvenated when I've had some time alone, where I give myself permission to do whatever I gravitate toward in that moment. It doesn't mean I don't like people or that I'm socially inept, but I find that I need time to myself, for no other purpose than to allow my thoughts to wander. Usually, my hands wander, too, and I do some creative project that I'd been putting off. Or I dance, or sing, or just sit.

Life wants me to be busy. Life wants me to say "yes" to every invitation. But if I curate my schedule and allow for some down time, then a few great things happen.

 

I actually get mental rest.

They say sleep is a mystery - we shouldn't really need it, but we have to have it to survive. I know it's the same for me with mental rest. Sleeping isn't enough - I need time to let my brain put on its fuzzy socks and veg.

 

I'm kinder to others.

"I can care for others better when I'm taken care of myself." We hear the words, but we feel the guilt and don't seem to follow through. It's hard, but it's also true. Weeks when I get time alone are the weeks I'm the most present with the people I love. Maybe it's because our brains get distracted with our own exhaustion and can't focus on the needs of others. I don't really know. But this works for me and my family, so there's got to be something there.

 

I get back in touch with who I am and what I want.

This one is interesting. I find it really easy to get swept up in the projects and interests of others and loose sight of my own goals. Being alone invites me to have a conversation with myself (not crazy) and check in with what I really want out of this season of my life. When I do this, I feel more authentic to who I am and more confident in the direction I'm going.

 

So, now, I schedule time to be alone. I literally block out time in my calendar so that I can be alone during that time.

It's not always the same time every week. It's not always consistent. But I find that, if I know that I have alone time guaranteed in the future, I can relax better during the busy parts of my schedule. I'm not afraid to spend all my energy because I know I'll get to replenish it later, so I live life more fully and with more dedication.

Give this to yourself. Value your own self, and allow time to remember who you are and what you want. Because giving it to yourself is also giving it to everyone in your life. I hope you get value from this post, and I would love to know any practices you might have for giving yourself space, so please feel free to comment below!

xo,