As an introvert, I need alone time. One of the best things about starting my own biz and working from home has been the big increase in time with me, myself, and I. I used to come home from the office utterly exhausted, and work-from-home days were a rare treat I relished.
I’ve always craved my own company, so this is nothing new. As a little girl at Nan and Pa’s farm, I would disappear alone for literally hours at a time. I’d wade through creeks (careful not to go above my gumboots), crawl through concrete drainage pipes, and clamber up fern-filled gullies. At the age of twelve, I fancied myself as quite the lone adventurer. Reflecting now, I feel so grateful that I had the luxury of this solo exploration. That I was allowed to roam truly free. In this day and age of helicopter parenting, I suspect many would say my solo adventures were dangerous. I could’ve drowned, been bitten by a snake, or got lost in the bush. And yet, I gained so very much from that time: independence and imagination and a strong sense of self. I had the space to just be and breathe and learn to trust my feet on the ground beneath me.
These days, I still need alone time to feel well and rejuvenated and whole. Probably more so than ever. For introverts, a little bit of disconnection is actually essential for connection. When I’ve had sufficient alone time, I’m so much more present and open when I am with people. Re-energised, I can really listen and engage, noticing the small intricacies in my interactions with loved ones and storing them away for safekeeping. Time alone makes time together more special.
Alone time is also essential for developing self-awareness and strength – for all of us, not just introverts. Sarah Wilson wrote a wonderful post about the practice of sitting on a bench with yourself. As the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Alone, we can come fully face-to-face with ourselves.
As an adult with adult responsibilities – the crazy chaos of making a living and running a house and somehow making time for the people and things I love – I often think of my Mum as a newly-single parent. I see her in my mind’s eye, and imagine how she felt when she found herself unexpectedly alone with two little girls in that old weatherboard house with the floral carpet and leadlight windows. How did she do it? What did she do and think and feel after we’d gone to sleep? I can’t begin to imagine the breadth and depth of her experience, and I certainly don’t want to gloss over it. No doubt the weight of responsibility was heavy and overwhelming, and I’m sure there were many moments when she felt lost and lonely and afraid.
And yet, she survived and thrived. By herself, she became herself. She mowed the lawn and cooked the dinner, paid the bills and helped with homework, thrived in her career, made smart decisions, emerged strong and formidable and free. And today, more than anyone I know, she is so beautifully, completely, unapologetically herself. I hope she knows how very proud my sister and I are of her. Even more than that though, I hope in quiet moments of reflection, she is proud of herself. Of what she did and who she became. On her own.
Suzi Quatro said, “The point of life is… the journey back to yourself.”
Time alone can be confronting, but it’s powerful. We need to be alone, to face our deepest, truest selves, in order to ask and answer life’s important questions. Who am I? What do I desire? And how will I bring that into being?
They say two’s company, three’s a crowd. And yes, company – even crowds – have their merits. Human connection is essential to our survival. But, one is peace. One is clarity. One is home.