Feb 20- Shut Down

Meditation: Calm, Sleep Rhythm: Rising and Falling
Length: 40 minutes
Where: In my bed, Los Angeles
How It Felt: Relaxing

I am leaning fully into my introvert days this weekend, and it has been sublime.

It took me a long time to learn exactly what I needed to balance my busy, ever changing life with my introverted nature. I think I’ve nearly perfected the practice now.

(Check back with me in ten years, though, and I’m sure I’ll tell you I have an even better system. Always tweaking, adjusting, making small changes to make it even more effective!)

I struggled with this stuff even as a kid. I loved to spend long stretches of time alone, reading books, dreaming, building worlds with my Barbies and Littlest Pet Shop characters. I also loved my friends, had a huge family, and was involved in about a million activities, so those alone periods didn’t happen as often as I would have liked.

When I went off to college I noticed that, while I was always happy to be invited to anything, I usually didn’t actually want to go. When my classes ended for the day, I would often dodge my classmates on the subway home if I spotted them first. I just wanted to be alone with my Walkman (remember those??) and let my mind wander. I never, ever got a full day to myself, since I went to school full time and worked two to three jobs at any given moment. I had boyfriends, roommates, co-workers, friends, and family to keep up with.

I was a bit of a nut sometimes. Those precious moments when I came home before my roommates did, or stayed back during the holidays….those were gold.

Later on in adulthood, I would sometimes find myself crying for no reason, anxious without explanation. Sometimes I would dream about just getting in my car and driving to Mexico without telling anyone where I went! I’m serious. I had fantasies of being alone in the wilderness (which, if you know me, is insane- but most of the time a long weekend at the Four Seasons wasn’t exactly in my budget). I would suddenly feel claustrophobic and push away whoever was in the closest proximity, usually a partner. I would start fights and think I should end my relationship, but not really know why.

I remember telling my boyfriend of five years once that if we were going to get married, I wanted to live alone for at least a year before we did so. (We were roommates before we started dating, so we always lived together!) I also remember being incredibly inspired by a single friend in Chicago who was describing her weekend to me. She lived alone, and was detailing how she went to the gym, came home and made herself dinner, watched whatever on TV, etc…. and I was transfixed. I remember saying, “So you can just do whatever you want all day, then?” I couldn’t imagine a life where I didn’t have to take another human (or several) into account every minute of every day.

It sounded magical.

Now, I’m married. I have three step-kids. I have a busy career, a husband who is my favorite person to do everything with, friends and hobbies, classes and HOA meetings, all kinds of things that you would think might burn me out quickly. It’s more important than ever that I carve out time to be alone, alone, alone. When I go more than a few weeks without at least a day or two to “shut down,” I’m just not as happy. I’m less patient, more anxious, and I can’t think clearly.

In this way, being in a long-distance marriage is a positive thing. I miss Steve all the time, and I can’t wait for us to live together fully once and for all (after the kids are off on their own), but I really take the blessings of alone time. He has learned to enjoy it, too, even though he’s a textbook extrovert. We’ve actually talked about our plan to keep carving that time out for ourselves after we consolidate our homes into one.

It’s important!

Now, I’ve learned the different types of alone time I need. Sometimes it’s more a social break, sometimes a mental break. Sometimes it’s a break from having to constantly do things. Sometimes it’s time to cry and eat cheese and nurture myself.

Sometimes it’s all of the above at once!

Basically, as someone once told me, I’m a cat. I stop fully for periods of time, then, when I’m ready to go, I go full speed until I run out of energy. That’s about the best explanation, I think! I’m fully on, or fully off, and when I try to be in between, I’m just sort of….there.

All I know is if I take the time I need, rest, take breaks, turn off my phone, etc, I’m a much better, happier person for it. Period.

Sometimes this means missing things. Sometimes this means doing a few sleep meditations in a row because you don’t stop during the day to do a “proper” meditation. Sometimes this means letting my normal routines run off the rails a bit while I rest my little brain.

It’s all worth it. It’s all self-care, and it comes from an ability I’ve finally cultivated to care for myself, and therefore care better for others. It adds so much to my life, I’ll trade a little “missing out” for the benefits.

We all need different things to stay balanced. Learn what you need and don’t let anyone make you feel selfish for doing what you have to do! My husband knows if something is important to him, I’ll be there. I know if I say I really need alone time, he’ll respect it. Find people who support what you need and respect your boundaries. I can’t recommend this enough.

I could be crazy and high-strung, or I can say “no” more often, and be present and pleasant when I do show up.

I choose that one.