Given all the social distancing that’s happening right now, and that we don’t get to hug our friends and family (unless they live with us) this may seem like a weird question. We hardly spend time with anyone except the people we live with.
But there is a big difference between social distance and isolating, and actually getting time to spend alone. And regardless of our personality type, so many of us are secretly wanting to get away from … well whoever we are with.
Yet often there is a feeling of guilt.
“We’re supposed to be pulling together.”
“There are so many people who are alone, enjoy your family”
“We can’t see so many people, we should enjoy the ones we’re with”
“I’m so lucky not to be alone, I should be grateful”
These thoughts can make us feel that it’s wrong to want to be alone.
Alone time is important
Yet some of us just don’t function without time alone. Like if we don’t get time really alone, our brains just overload, we get grumpy, and we. can’t. even. (I hope I’m not just describing me – some of you are like this too, right?)
Some of us just need the space right now, even though we don’t usually crave it. There is just something about our current situation has us wanting alone time.
Maybe you recognise this:
- you love to be with others, but then need to be by yourself for a bit afterwards
- you recharge when you are alone i.e. you have more energy after being on your own
- you can happily be by yourself, just doing your own thing
- you don’t even need background noise, silence is your friend
- but right now? oh my god, can you all go away?
I am one of those people, and I know I’m not alone (pun not intended).
But maybe you recognise this:
- you like to be around other people, it gives you energy
- you love to talk and figure things out together with others
- you believe “the more the merrier”
- collaboration and group work is the best way
- but right now? oh my god, can you all go away?
Either way, I bet an awful lot of you have recently thought that you need some alone time.
In fact, the phrase “I need some time alone” is actually up 110% in the last month in google search.
Let’s get real
I’m going to confess, recently, when I would leave the house to go do the shopping or such, I would get an overwhelming sense of “I don’t want to” on my way back home.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, warts and all. I enjoy my time with them and think they are wonderful. But wow, I just didn’t want to be around people anymore.
And by people, I mean people who are in my space, that I actually have a relationship with, and care about. (Somehow, being surrounded by people in a supermarket doesn’t feel the same – I don’t know them, I don’t have to think about them beyond general courtesy and politeness to fellow humans).
I told my husband how I felt. And he said “you should go away for the weekend”.
Can I just take a moment to say how awesome he is? He knew what I needed and didn’t hesitate to give it to me AND he was practical and planned it for the weekend when it would be least disruptive to our lives. Thoughtful and practical. Now that’s what I like.
I immediately said yes.
Now I’m going to take a moment to celebrate myself – I was offered something I desperately needed and wanted, and I claimed it. No more “oh but…I couldn’t…would it be ok?…” waffling that us pleasers would normally do. Just grabbed it and ran.
It took me a couple of days to get my head around where I was going to go, then I booked the trip.
(if you want to know, I went to Wolfheze, near Arnhem. A Fletcher hotel situated in the woods. You can join a nature trail right from the carport. Perfect).
My plan? Go to hotel. Go for walks in the woods. No more plans, just decide along the way.
And that’s what I did.
I walked in the woods, on natural paths that were soft beneath my feet. As I walked further and further into the woods, I did have a fleeting thought that this is where they find the bodies in Criminal Minds – I’ve clearly watched too many programs about criminology.
However, my primary experience was of being able to breathe.
Just breathe and be.
Breathe more deeply than I had done for months.
And as I walked and breathed, and let myself absorb being among the trees, I had moments of feeling that I was coming back to myself.
Like wisps of my spirit were returning and re-entering my body.
I was becoming myself again.
Silence is a friend
I discovered that I need to be really in amongst the trees. For me, it’s transcendent. I have since found similar places closer to home so that I can get more of this – without having to take a whole weekend for it.
But maybe trees aren’t the answer for you. Maybe it’s a beach, a country lane, a park. But I highly recommend somewhere in nature. It’s taken me 44 years to find my place but I’ve enjoyed the journey and trying things along the way. If you don’t know your place yet, try some things out.
What I’m getting at here is this: whether you know where you need to go or not, you know that you need some time alone.
So claim it. Take control. Don’t wish they would all go away, take yourself away and give yourself what you need: silence and alone time.
I know that silence can be daunting. When we are in silence, alone with ourselves, we are also alone with our thoughts. And sometimes we are not kind to ourselves in our thoughts.
But within alone time and silence there is a great gift: the ability to be with ourselves. And the space to return to ourselves.
And considering that we are with ourselves for every ever loving minute of the day, it would be nice if we could do it with ease and pleasure.
The last 6 months have turned our lives upside down. We are all trying to find the new normal. Along the way, we’ve been losing a bit of ourselves.
So is it wrong to want to be alone? Hell no. It’s natural and I’ll dare to say that it’s the best gift you can give yourself right now.
So go be alone.
And come back more yourself.
This is part of my Thought Piece Series where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward. Want to talk more? Get in touch.