I didn't know what to do with myself at first. I made dinner plans with friends ahead of time, so that was good. Kept me busy Friday night. Saturday morning rolled around though and I thought I would sleep in a little but the new puppy had other ideas. So there I was....6AM....awake....in my house....alone.
I went about my business, you know, the standard. Did some yoga. Ate some leftovers while watching House Hunters Renovation on Netflix. Fed the chickens. Fed the puppy. I tried to soak up my alone time. I felt so lucky and free. But then 8AM came and I started to panic. Only a few hours left. Am I using my time wisely? What should I do? What do people do?
Now I know what some of you are thinking. Chick, you are free. Just go do something. Be happy. And I am with you! I was so happy! I'd been waiting for this moment for months! But where does one begin? How does someone who's constantly surrounded by people learn to feel comfortable alone? And if you're like me, how does someone who struggles with anxiety deal with running around public places all by her big-girl self without her cloak of kids? How do I dodge the infamous "Netflix series all day!" black hole that definitely has its place but won't help me grow like I wanna while I have this precious free time?
I'll tell you how I did it. And how I'll do it again. And how you can do it too.
Outside is your best friend. I mean it. You are never alone when you are outside because the outdoors will surround you and swallow you whole. I don't care if you live in the city and are surrounded by steel and people or if you're in the country and are engulfed by fields and flies, the minute you leave the house something visceral just happens to your mind and your body. You notice insects, birds, cars, noises, smells, and even the air as it moves around you. You are not alone when you are outside. You are part of it all.
Saturday morning I packed up the doggy and headed on over to my very favorite nature preserve. We walked the trails all by ourselves. It was glorious. I walked whatever way I wanted. No one needed to use the bathroom or complained about the weather or the bugs. I even stood in one spot and just listened without hearing a single voice. It's good for the soul, walking. Give it a try.
2. Sit still
Sometimes sitting and doing absolutely nothing is the best use of time. I took time on Saturday morning to just sit in my backyard and listen to the birds. I tried to relax and lean my head back and not let my mind wander. I watched the leaves and flowers blow around, I watched my chickens peck at the ground, I watched the light shift slowly from one area of the yard to the next. It was supremely relaxing and gave me time to just wipe my mind clean of the various things I stress over. Kinda like meditating without closing my eyes.
You can do this in town too - more like people-watching than nature-watching but the concept still applies. Allow yourself to think your thoughts but then let them go and immerse yourself in your surroundings. Breath it in and give yourself permission to be still. It's incredibly hard to do at first...almost annoying....but I've heard with practice it gets better and better.
3. Sip at a coffee shop one town over
Everyone has their favorite coffee shop. I don't even drink coffee and I have a preferred place to sit and sip. When you're not meeting someone and you have nobody else's preferences to worry about other than your own, take a risk and head out of town. Allow yourself to learn a new menu, try something for the first time, and don't forget to ask the person behind the counter about the local favorites. Coffee shops are perfect for anxiously-alone-type-people like myself because nobody looks at you. Everyone is either talking or working, so you're the farthest thing from their minds. It's glorious. And delicious.
4. Visit animal shelters
Almost every animal shelter has a need for attention. If you can't contribute your money, see if the shelters in your area need help with animal interaction. Offer to take the dogs for a walk or to play with the cats or clean out the kitten pens. Animals provide an instant jolt of energy and life, one that is unmatched by human interaction. When you've earned their trust they love you for life; it's reflected in every move they make. Therapy-via-animal is a real thing!
5. Explore other libraries
They have this cool library network in my area - if you hold a library card, you're welcome to borrow from any of the surrounding libraries in the area. All libraries, whether you're a cardholder or not, will allow you inside, however. Try checking out a library you've never been to before. Figure out where the best seating areas are. See which giant nonfiction art books they have. Visit the children's section and try and find a favorite book you loved to read as a kid. Libraries are intricate and welcoming and they smell good. A definite must-do if you're alone, it's raining, and you don't need to worry about rushing.
6. Test drive cars
I have yet to do this but it's on my list. Car dealerships are intimidating so this might take some guts, but the payoff is your booty behind the wheel of a 2017 Camaro ZL1. That, my dear readers, is called "rewarded risk." Go in with a plan, a story, and stick with it. I'm checking out cars for my teenage daughter, sir. I just got married and my husband is flying back from business in LA so he told me to come decide what I wanted, sir. I know nothing about cars but really like that red one, sir. I mean really play it up. No car seats to move. No husbands or passengers to scream "oh shit!" Just you, a new car, possibly a creepy car dealer, and the open road.
7. Go on a photo shoot
I love taking pictures. One of my favorite classes in high school was photography. My teacher was the best. He showed me how just shooting something off-center completely changes the way the image makes you feel. Light, angles, perspective - each one invokes a different reaction from the person viewing the photo and I am obsessed with how 10 pictures of the same flower could create 10 different emotions in the same person. So grab yo camera, grab yo phone, and go take some still-life shots. Nature, again, is perfect for this....but so is architecture. You can photograph a mailbox from 3 different angles and end up with a completely different shot. Go nuts!
8. Try your hand a new, time-honored skill
I want to make cheese so bad, it's stupid. I'm always afraid to get started, though, when my kids are running around. I can never find the time. Same thing with soap making. Soap making chemicals are no joke and I don't want to bust those things out around little fingers when I don't know what I'm doing. Alone time is the perfect time to try something for the first time. Nobody is around to laugh at you or scream when you mess up and you have nothing to distract you from the job at hand. Old-school skills like chopping wood, canning food, and even sewing a dress can be incredible learning opportunities.
9. Browse a farmers market
If I had a million dollars it would all be gone after visiting a farmers market. I love buying produce and supporting local vendors. What I don't love is how broke I am afterward. So instead of heading to the market with my usual wad of cash, I like to go empty handed and just check it out. I make mental notes in my head of which booths I like the most and how I could effectively stop using the grocery store and make all my meals from items purchased from the farmers market, instead. It's challenging but fun, especially when you're alone and you can take all the time you want to really figure out what you can cook and spend.
10. Visit 5 National Historic Landmarks
Did you know that every state has a slew of National Historic Landmarks? These places are, according to the National Park Service, "nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States." My state alone has 88 places delegated as a National Historic Landmark. Some of them may be boring, some may be awesome, some may be far, others close, but who cares? You have nobody to answer to but yourself.
Time alone doesn't need to be anxious, or rushed, or filled with chores and visiting others. Time alone can and should be used as just that....time alone. It's time to reconnect with yourself and your surroundings, time to expand your realm of possibilities and interact with the world as an independent individual free of outside influence. Time alone doesn't need be scary, or expensive, or even productive. It just needs to be.
How do you reconnect with yourself, dear readers? Any of you feel anxiety at being alone or are you in your happy place when you get some privacy? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)