Spend Time Alone - Res 14
The New Year had me thinking a lot about goals, values, ambitions, motivations, life, and how excited I was to wear my new fuzzy socks. With all the talk of “look how far you’ve come in a year” and “can you believe that was only 1 year ago” I found myself even more reflective and nearly bubbling over with blog ideas – two of which involved writing about goals and values.
At my old job, we had a list of working norms – kind of like guiding values – and each day at our morning huddle, we would say what working norm we were focusing on that day. I loved that idea. I mean, obviously, in theory, you were living into every positive attribute every day you walked into the office, but how nice it was to really put your heart and soul behind one guiding value each week.
For this reason, I’ve decided to dedicate a new series of “Res” posts to my own kind of working norms – my own mini-resolutions. You don’t have to buy into any of these. You don’t have to make your own. But maybe at some point, it’ll make you think about what it would look like to radically change your life one week at a time.
Res 14: - Spend Time Alone
I hit my head pretty hard a couple weeks ago and by the time I realized, I was almost too dizzy to get out of bed. I had ran for a week and those post-concussion syndrome symptoms. Nevertheless, I was determined to bounce back. The only trouble is bouncing back sometimes looks like drinking lots of fluids and resting. Resting. My eternal enemy.
Rest is weird for me because, while I recognize I need it, I struggle to follow through on the execution of getting it. My mom tells the stories of how little Liz always had to be reminded to go to the bathroom. Elementary school Liz was always having too much fun or working too hard on some ambitious craft project to waste time with such frivolous tasks like bathroom breaks. Even still now, I thrive off busyness. I love working myself to the bone. I have an acquired taste for biting off more than I can chew.
Well, the honest answer is that it isn’t always easy to be alone with myself. I think a few of you probably know what I’m talking about.
The moment you give yourself an ounce of free time and space to think or feel or whatever – you panic. You take that “think” thing a bit too far. You remember your shortcomings and your insecurities. You wonder if you’re really happy with who you are and what you’re doing. You do a lot of second guessing.
This tends to paralyze me in a downhill spiral. The paralyzing can last a couple hours and then – when I realize it’s getting late and I’ve “accomplished nothing,” I panic even more.
If it’s not written in my planner, there’s no space for it. Period.
I had accepted that I had to take a few days or even a couple weeks off from running, but eight days into this, I was antsy. The day before I hit my head, I ran a ½ marathon. Now, I wasn’t doing anything. That’s its own kind of shock to the system.
I was sitting in my room on Wednesday when the fear of thought crept in. I had to run. Prepared to numb my mind with catchy tunes and sweat and the knowledge that I’d be making a bad health choice, I stopped myself.
Okay. I’ll walk. It is “National Walking Day” after all.
My first thought was, who can I call?
You see, I love living in New York City and I love walking everywhere because it gives me time to multitask. But maybe I’ve taken it a bit too far. Anytime I walk anywhere, I call someone.
The three block walk from my office to the gym? On the phone. The three block walk back to the train? On the phone. It’s almost like I’ve conditioned myself to a point of believing that if I’m not doing at least four things at once, I’m wasting my time.
I glanced down at my 9% and charging phone. “No calls this walk,” I decided. I stepped into a pair of running pants and my Choose Happiness shirt.
To keep myself from running, I filled a small bag with a notebook and my keys. Now, I just had to walk.
And I did. No headphones. No music. No company. I just walked. I walked the same paths and sidewalks I’ve taken hundreds of times but this time felt different. I didn’t think about all the things I felt like I had to do. I thought about the birds. I thought about the blossoming trees and the puddle that had formed over the grass in the park. I saw two ducks who had crawled up from the Hudson to play in the calm water. I saw a couple with six kids having a picnic, all but the tiniest stroller-bound kid eating some kind of sandwich on whole wheat bread.
There were runners and bikers and children at play. The field was packed with two softball games and a rugby practice. I sat down at a picnic table overlooking the water and the beach volleyball courts and pulled my notebook from my bag to write this. I sat there for quite some time – for once not minding being alone to think.
As I was walking home, I saw a dog on a lower path that I desperately wanted to pet. For once, good judgment won – as I held myself back from barreling down the hill to pet the pup. Later, as I passed more and more happy dogs, the Eureka moment I had stepped aside to search for hit me.
Resolution #14: Spend Time Alone
I had no idea how I was going to wrap this post into anything tangible. I thought about how I could make a list of things I had learned from this soul cleansing walk. Then, I saw a pit bull snuggled against his owner on a park bench and I laughed. There’s my first one:
“There will never be enough time for all the dogs I want to pet.”
I laughed at this joking thought but then allowed it to cross my mind again.
No really, there will never be enough time for all the dogs I want to pet. Just like there will never be enough time for all the nonprofits I want to volunteer for or all the countries I want to travel to or all the bakeries I want to visit with all the friends I want to catch up with.
But there is right now. And right now – as I sit on the park bench, two down from the lovey pit bull, a gentle breeze blows through my hair. I don’t think of my to-do list or my planner or my bladder yelling at me for not going to the bathroom before the impromptu walk. Right now, I’m just thinking about me…about being here…about loving this moment – whatever that may mean. And right now, I’m just thinking about how I can simply be.