Have you ever missed alone time so much you went a little bonkers?

Virginia Woolf reminds us in A Room of One’s Own of the critical nature of solitary time — to write, meditate or do whatever will support us in being happy, productive and better people in the world. Unlike Virginia’s thesis, however, which stipulates that it always takes money to get that room, we’ll look at a couple of ways to make that happen without it breaking the bank.

Before we look at the “how,” let’s remind ourselves about the “why.”

Time alone means different things to different people. If you live in a bustling household, time alone most definitely means no conversations and probably not sharing a bathroom or the remote for an extended period of time. If you already live alone, however, it may mean just a change of scenery … trading your four walls for some different ones, or replacing them with sky and trees.

In either case, peace and quiet gives us much-needed downtime. Solitude can help us trade multi-tasking for mono-tasking like reading, just staring into space, admiring things in nature, or other calming activities. Many of us aren’t able to do our best problem-solving unless we can spend quality time alone laying out all of our options and evaluating them thoroughly.

Quiet time plays a role in our health by reducing stress and relaxing our brains and bodily systems. It’s the pause that refreshes. It’s peaceful time that reminds us to slow down and be grateful for the bounty of our lives, to appreciate all that is right before us and to cease comparing ourselves or our lives with that of others.

Finally, in solitude we can see that the urgency of communication is over-blown. We’re texting, tweeting, and checking in by phone – constantly, anytime and anywhere. Is that necessary? All the time? Stop. Be willing to risk the feelings associated with being alone for a little while, especially if you can do so in the comfort of a space you call your own.

Then and now solutions

For many women, getting space used to be a matter of shooing little ones out of the house, closing the blinds and ignoring the phone. And that’s still true for some. For me it’s always meant marking days on my calendar with big X’s and just saying, “Sorry, I can’t that day.”

But here’s another idea:  You’ve heard of “man caves”?  Well now women are creating places of refuge — “she sheds” — where they can do whatever they want … alone, no men allowed, no kids allowed, (no one allowed if that’s what you want). Having a she shed means having either enough land and resources to build a new structure or enough patience to refurbish an existing outbuilding. The fun lies in making it your way whether shabby chic or pristine and modern. The point is, you get to decide. Check out these fabulous examples.

While building a she shed may represent the upper end of making time and space for yourself, you can also create a retreat in the basement, attic or even in your garage.

Sometimes identifying a physical place to call your own just isn’t possible. That’s when you look within your community and see what might work.  Perhaps it’s the park, away from the playground. It might be the library in the history section where there isn’t a lot of traffic. It might be as simple as fancying up the back porch with a comfortable chair, side table, planter of flowers, nice wall art and a rug. None of this has to be expensive.

I know you can use your creativity to identify possibilities that work for you.

Alone time for me is serious business.

Despite not having any little kids running around my house, I seriously could not function without alone time. Unfortunately, it took my new husband a long time to embrace my dire need for time away from it all, including him. Even some of my friends struggled with my need. It’s always been hard for me to say “no” without a valid excuse. I can just hear them now: “Say what? You’d rather be alone than with me?!”

For me, alone time means sequestering myself in my office in our home. Because I’m a writer, I’m in there every day for at least two hours and often spend up to twelve hours. I am fortunate to have a comfortable place to work where my cat, Kali, is never excluded, and where I can shut the door if I’m having a particularly challenging day. My husband, bless his heart, finally gets it. He goes out of his way to pass my office door with nary a glance inward. 

Every two to three months or so, I pack up and check into a hotel for a few days. I order in for most my meals and, although I have brought work projects, I’ve never done any work. I watch crap TV or read cheap novels and soak in the tub. I love it. I luxuriate in it.
At the very least I create outstanding quiet time by having one of my “no tech” days. These days mean no computer, iPhone, iPad, TV, car, microwave or anything else electronic. On these days I spend time in nature, reading or visiting with friends. I’m not always alone on these days, but they surely are quiet and serene, filled with lots of downtime activities.

What is your way?

While I don’t have a fancy she-shed, I am able to create great alone time, which is vital to my well-being and for which I am grateful. Is the need for alone or quiet time true for you as well? If so, what is your way of getting it?

Contact Antonia at Antonia@TheJoyofAgingGratefully.com