I forgot it takes time to transition into the world of “by myself.” I don’t mean being alone. I’m frequently alone, working on tasks for my business or around the house. But getting away to be by myself is different. It’s something I yearn for (as do many of my clients). But we often have trouble making it happen.
So I took time right before Christmas, at a cabin in the woods in Sonoma County. I had two whole days for myself, before I was to rendezvous with my husband in San Francisco on Christmas Eve, where we would celebrate together by seeing “A Christmas Carol” at American Conservatory Theatre.
I looked forward to these two days, and congratulated myself for giving me this gift. It would have been so easy not to go, so many things I could have found to busy myself with at home, so many distractions. But I pulled myself away from the routine and the cycle of everyday life, the rush of the holidays. I gave myself two days to relax, reflect, write, and probably just sit around and do nothing.
I felt something shift inside during the trip, a lightening, an opening up. The welcome of the Sonoma hills, the expansiveness of an almost blue sky whipped with fluffy clouds, dark and light. I don’t think I even had to really drive the car because the landscape pulled me along, locking onto my front fender with a gentle, magnetized presence. And the closer I got the happier I became.
Arrival before sunset: good. Plenty of time to unload the car before the serious country darkness that means making my way down the hill with a flashlight. Getting a log on the fire: excellent. This tiny place will be warm in a jiffy. Unpacking and organizing the stuff I brought: nice. Everything in its place so I can concentrate on being instead of doing. A quick tuna melt for dinner: yummy. One of my favorite solo meals. Things are going great…the perfect way to usher in a mellow evening and start my two days.
But sometime around 8:30, after the dinner dishes were washed and I’d been up and down a number of times, I noticed, “I’m not mellow. I’m antsy. I’m pacing. I’m listening to talk radio, tweezing my eyebrows, making a list of things I want to get tomorrow.” And then I remembered this had happened before. Light bulb moment. I’m so unused to truly being by myself that I look for ways to fill the space, forgetting that the whole point of this is to just be in the space. So I must give myself time to ease into it. It helped to turn off the talk radio and load in an Al Jarreau CD.
As I pondered the evening I was reminded of something else, too. Almost every week I hear some version of, “I wish I could take a break, a sabbatical, time for myself.” The number of clients who have told me they enjoyed getting sick and being hospitalized for a relatively minor condition would surprise you (or maybe not). They enjoyed it because it meant they could have a time out. But when I ask them how often they bestow this upon themselves, they invariably reply, “never.” Apparently, it’s easier when you’re forced to do it.
When you take responsibility for it yourself, however, you have to face yourself, just yourself. That can be a bit uncomfortable at first, so you need to call on your reservoirs of optimism and trust, believing that you will sink into it and eventually get comfortable with being by yourself. Personally, past experience told me that I’d be used to being by myself by the next morning. And that’s exactly what happened.
So I encourage you to take at least a day for yourself sometime soon. Please don’t wait until you’re sick; give yourself this gift now. In fact, why not start now and make a plan?