The Blessings of Alone Time

By: Lorraine Iverson

My husband left on a road trip with his son who is home from college. They are really cute together, the best of buds. They went off to visit my children and grandchildren and left me home. My choice. Do you know how much I love to be alone? Not for always and not for long but just for little spurts, now and again. The alone"ness" is blissful. It’s not like I don’t have a lot of time on my own. My husband, Doug, still works full time and I’m newly retired. So I have my days to myself. But there is something about not being accountable to anyone for anything. At least for a few days. It’s feels a bit wicked - a guilty pleasure. 

I believe “guilt” is the operative word here. As women, we are prone to feelings of guilt if we “desert” the family (their word, not mine). We have our jobs and social obligations that are on-going but have finite start and stop times. Family has no start and stop times. And we feel we must always be there and be vigilant. God forbid the father of the family have to get up, fix breakfast, pack lunches and drop off before he hits the office. But that is my generational issues showing. I think young fathers now do a lot more but I wonder if young moms still would feel ok to take time off just to be alone? If they don’t, then we, as the senior stateswomen, should give them permission to do it. Everyone needs that alone time, especially mommies. 

I shall step down from my soap box and continue...

So what have I done with all this alone time? Not anything different from what I usually do. I write. I paint. I go to lunch and meetings. Visit friends and family. In fact, I've been far too busy to truly enjoy my sense of freedom this week. But there’s just something so naughty about having ice cream and wine for dinner at 8 pm in my bed. My housekeeper was here four days ago and the place is still immaculate. Will wonders never cease. I haven’t been to the grocery store since the guys left. Eating left-overs is my own unique way of cleaning out the fridge. Sometimes that gets a little dicey but so far no gastro intestinal issues have showed up. Is this what it’s like to be single? It’s been a really long time since I was and even then I still had kids. Maybe that’s the big attraction of alone time. I’ve never really had much experience with it. Not in over 47 years. So this really is a unique situation for me. I never appreciated being by myself as much before I retired because I was still accountable to be somewhere for some period of time. I could get used to this. But I wouldn’t want to live like this for long. I actually have a good time with Doug and like being married to him. The secret is to carve out these little retreats with myself without hurting his feelings. 

I could just kick him out periodically, send him off to visit friends or family. Too harsh. Or I could create my own retreats. I used to drive from San Diego to the Bay Area to see my kids. It’s at least an eight hour drive. Sometimes much longer. So I would break it up into two days. Driving up the coast of California is a nice trip, the landscape becoming more verdant and dramatic the further north you go. I would drive half way to a little town called Pismo Beach. I’d stay in a beach motel, have a nice dinner and cocktails and never talk to anyone other than the waitress. I’d walk on the beach at daylight pretending I was running away from home. Then I’d drive through the magnificent Big Sur and Carmel and eventually get to the kid’s house and all the craziness of the grandkids. It was always a great trip for me. I would zip home fast on Highway 5, anxious to get back to my real world. Seeing the kids and grandkids always delighted me and the long drive gave me my time to reflect. 

Occasionally I go on a spiritual retreat or painting workshops. I always request my own room. I don’t share well with others - especially if they are strangers. There is just something very sacred about working on a new artistic technique or studying that makes one want to end their day quietly in reflection on all they have learned. 

Often a mini retreat of just a walk on the beach or a day in the park or museum will fill that craving for “me” time. Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, makes the “artist’s date” part of her regimen for developing your creativity and I am in total agreement. Artist’s date are always taken by oneself. You go do something to feed your soul, thus your creativity. It can be an art exhibit or a hike in the woods. It’s just time to connect to your higher consciousness and feed it good stuff.

Time seems to slow down when you are by yourself. Without interaction with another person you notice your surroundings more acutely. The greens of the trees seem more distinct from one tree to the next. It’s like the brightness switch has been flipped up a couple notches. And, because you don’t have to comment to another person, you internalize the beauty around you and feel it at a deeper level. It’s that deeper connection between you and your world that makes alone time feel so special. It’s why we all need it - to reconnect to ourselves.

Whether you live with others or by yourself I recommend alone days or artist’s dates to feed your soul and remind you of the beauty in the simplest things and give yourself the gift of joy and solitude.  Even if it’s only for wine and ice cream in bed. It’s the best therapy I know.

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Rain Iverson has traveled many paths and is always recreating herself. As a business woman, she co-founded and managed a technology public relations firm and one of the first computer conferencing software companies. She has served on non-profit boards, retired at 50 to become an artist and then 10 years later came out of retirement to become CFO of her son's company. Rain is the matriarch of a large, blended family with a great husband, children, grandchildren and lots of extended/blended family members.