Saturday, April 23, 2016

52 Weeks to a Simpler Life – Tip # 31 – Simply Solitude . . . You Time

Audio Version available - see player below

Do you ever feel so exhausted and drained at the end of a day you simply want to curl up in a little ball and hide in a hole or closet or anyplace away from the world?

If you do, you're certainly not alone. We live in a complicated world, a nonstop world of work, demands, pressures, stress, chores, text messages, emails, phone calls, appointments, family requirements, traffic, job responsibilities and it's endless.

Remember when we were kids and our parents had all that pressure and took care of most things for us? A big deal back then might have been homework, a class project, athletic team practice, asking someone to the prom, hoping to be asked to the prom, what to wear to the prom and chomping at the bit until you could get that drivers license.

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We just couldn't wait to grow up and become adults so we'd be “free” to do whatever we wanted to do whenever we chose to do it. Well, surprise! You're grown up. You're an adult. And now, you have all the pressures and stresses and demands your parents were under, except for one thing . . .

Our society is exponentially more complicated and demanding than it was when we were kids. The world has changed dramatically. In many ways, for the better. But, in other ways, not so much.

The Simplicity of Solitude

I'm going to make this easy . . . and simple, as it should be. You need to find some “you time.” You often hear it said that “no man (or woman) is an island unto themselves,” the reality is too much people time is, well, too much. Humans, and possibly other animals, too, need some time to themselves. Time to focus on what's going on in your own mind and heart. Yes, I said heart.

I've been down this road. I grew up in a family of two parents and three siblings. My father worked two jobs to make sure we had everything he wanted his family to have. My mother was a busy homemaker keeping a nice home and making sure the three children and all their demands were met.

At that time, I wasn't able to really discern it, but my parents were always busy, busy, busy. We kids were demanding, although, I don't think we realized it. My parents really never had much of what I'd call “them time,” time they could just do things together as a couple. And, certainly, they didn't have much that I could call “individual time” or time they could just do exactly what they wanted without interruption.

Perhaps, my mother may have actually garnered a little alone time when my father was at work and the three of us rugrats were at school. But, even as a stay at home mom, she still had a long list of responsibilities. I'm certainly not going to suggest she sat around and ate “bonbons” all day while the rest of us were gone. It may have just been a little quieter around the house.

Solitude is simple. It is simply time when you, as an individual human being, has some time when there are no demands on you or your time. The people normally around you are not, because you can't have solitude if any of them are. You can do anything you want to do during this time.

Perhaps. a simple walk in the woods on a trail would fill the bill. Maybe, sitting in the park on a bench and feeding the birds – or not. How about throwing a fishing line out at the old fishing hole – bait optional. How about strolling through a museum or finding a comfortable chair in a quiet corner of the library to scan through some books. What would a massage feel like or being pampered in a spa for a day.

Whatever the activity or method you choose to embrace a day of solitude, it must be YOUR day without spouse, children, parents, siblings or even friends. This time is about YOU. Anyone who knows you is going to interact with you and tell you about their issues, your issues, everyone's issues, the local gossip, etc. You don't want them around for your solitude or it won't be solitude.

You will turn off the ringer on your smartphone. You will look at it twice during the day to make sure there are no 911 texts – and you will educate everyone what defines a REAL 911 – like someone is dead or dying, involved in a serious accident and that's about it. The first person who breaks that definition will result in you turning your phone off on your day of solitude from that time forward. Essentially, you do not expect any calls or texts for anything other than a true life or death situation – PERIOD!

By the way, this day of solitude applies equally to your spouse or significant other and any children, if you have any of those, as soon as they are old enough to understand what it means and the importance of this time. You will schedule the time each month. Everyone with a need to know will be notified well in advance. Each person will do the same thing for their day of solitude. Once that date is on the calendar NOTHING changes it, again, except a bona fide life or death emergency.

Peace of Mind

On the surface, you're going to look at this idea with certain glee. Gee! Your own time. Uninterrupted! No trivial questions of problems like I need this button sewed on my shirt or my bike chain broke or I need help with my homework. It will be like walking in a vacuum with no one demanding anything from you. There are no pressing requirements or responsibilities because you've either taken care of them already or scheduled them after your day of solitude.

However, I'll warn you in advance. The entire concept of a day of solitude can initially be extremely stressful. You may have anxious feelings the world cannot survive without your immediate attention and involvement. You may feel guilty because you're “shirking” your responsibilities and obligations. You may feel like you're abandoning your kids and your spouse and placing undue stress on them.

The reality is, if you set this time aside, take care of everything that needs to be taken care of prior to your day or have it nicely planned for after your day, the world will NOT come to an end. Yes, the others in your life may initially feel a bit of anxiety because you're not there at the phone, keyboard or with the minivan or SUV keys at ready to solve their imaginary emergencies. But, since they are going to get their own day of solitude to do whatever they want with that day, everything is fair.

Once this has become a monthly ritual, it will be as acceptable and respected as getting up and having breakfast or any of the other day to day responsibilities. And there's no reason you shouldn't begin your day of solitude as soon as you open your eyes that day and close them when you climb back into bed that night. Everyone else will have to fend for themselves that one day. Everyone WILL survive.

Here's one additional thing to note. Everything I just said applies equally if not more so to your job or business, you religious and social associations, friends, extended family and any other affiliations, obligations and responsibilities to anyone or any organization living or dead. In other words, this applies across the board.

It may take a few months to fully accept the reality of your day and that everything will go on without you, so don't expect miracles. But, as each month goes by, you'll come to accept it, as will everyone else. This is when the peace of mind will settle into place - “the peace that passes all understanding,” if you will.

You'll look forward to your day with anticipation. You'll have a plan for your day, whatever it is you may wish to do including nothing. Every time a major demand, requirement, pressure, stress is dropped on your shoulders, you'll relish the thought that this too shall pass and in a few short days you'll be releasing your mind and body from all of this.

I dare say, if you and all of your family, if you have a family, will adopt this practice of taking at least one day of solitude for yourself every month, before long, I'll wager, you'll see life in a simpler, clearer manner.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line with Tip #31 in the 52 Weeks to a Simpler Life series is to adopt a practice of taking one day each month and making it your simple day of solitude or “you time.” This will be a very new concept for most people. On the surface, it sounds easy. Believe me, it will require some changes in mindset, some persistence and some patience before you'll fully adopt this idea.

Once you get it started and get past a few hurdles, you'll wonder how you ever survived without it. The best part is, you don't even have to pay a therapist to prescribe it. Don't think about this. Do it! Schedule your first day of solitude right now and start planning how you're going to enjoy it.

Live free and be happy. EH 


Richard Rosen said...

Superb Ed! O the value of stillness, time to commune with oneself.

Each morning I meditate during my pre-dawn walk. No traffic or people, just me, nature, and my spirit. And afterwards, I spend time reading and reflecting on deeply important things that impact my personal growth and state.

And during the day, I take short breaks to commune with myself, my spirit. It keeps me from being on automatic pilot for long stretches. Perhaps a course correction is needed.

I no longer travel much, but when I do drive for a longer time, I reflect keenly on things important. I also listen deeply to enlightening talks.

I find being retired now that I don’t need a full day by myself each week, especially with the times noted above. Nonetheless, I make Sunday a day to quiet my pace and relax.

That’s how I chased the rats out of the race, stopped the treadmill, and slowed down the pace to one of harmony.

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Sounds like a pretty idyllic lifestyle, Richard. Everyone needs to find their own version of "You Time." But, in whatever form it takes, it must include some solitude, that time when you get in touch with your inner self. No one knows you nor understands you better than yourself, even those closest to you. I find that time when I've driving through the highways and byways, camped in a national or state forest with few people around the area or on those walks you described. But, I actually enjoy a day or sometimes days of solitude just to work through my thoughts and ideas. And, meditating takes the form of just clearing my mind of as much clutter as possible. That takes some effort - which is contrary to what meditation is supposed to be about.