Alone Time vs Social Time - I need BOTH!

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

"I am...what would probably be
described as an extroverted introvert."
- Louise Penny, author

How social I am has varied all through my life. I am not an introvert or extrovert. I am both. They walk hand in hand and take turns leading. In the end, which one is in the lead depends mostly on what my daily life is like in that moment.  

When I was young, single, and in my early 20's, I loved going out dancing in clubs 4 nights a week - 2 days during the week and then Friday and Saturday nights.  I actually preferred going out alone with no ties so I could just stand by the dance floor moving to the music until a brave soul asked me to dance - or I asked him. I came home in the wee hours and always struggled at work the next day. But when I was home I nested fully, barely answering the phone.

In my mid-twenties I moved to the Pacific Northwest. I didn't know anyone my age, so I tried the same tactic without much success. The scene was just very different there.  I ended up learning how to do a dance called West Coast Swing, which created a group of people to hang with that loved to dance. That led to ballroom dancing, a dance partner, competitions and even performances locally.  Away from dance I had my work and serious amounts of alone time to recharge.

Where I struggled was after I married and started a family. I ended up staying at home with the kids as daycare was too expensive for 3 tots under 4. I craved silence and empty spaces, but they just weren't there. During the day I had the kids underfoot. At night after they went to bed, Glen was there. It was a hard adjustment. When the last child started kindergarten, I was more than ready for my own quiet space. I reveled in the silence. The first 2 weeks of summer vacation were always a hard adjustment, although I did adapt. I never regretted that time spent at home with the kids and would absolutely it again, but it did challenge me. 

I turned around one day and my kids had become teens with driver's licenses, then university students, then adults who moved out to embrace their own lives. My husband was still working, so I had all day to myself.  First I squandered it. Then I began to figure out how to use it. I dove into writing and became co-owner of a local magazine. I was out 3-4 nights a week at events.  I was a person again. I dressed up. I had adult conversations. And when someone asked what I did, I had an answer I was proud of. I absorbed energy from crowd - a total adrenalin rush.  I loved it and totally threw myself into that role. 

Like all things, after a few years of being at events constantly, the chaos lost its shine. I found myself drained more than charged.  I craved a better balance between social time and alone time.  Each were an important part of my self-care.  I became more selective in how many events I said yes to.  It was very hard to start saying no, but it was important. I drew a line in the sand and honoured it. Balance was restored

When my husband retired, I ended up back at square one. Suddenly I didn't have predictable times to myself. I loved private moments and found it weird someone knew how I spent every minute of every day.  He eventually took up curling and golf, and as his mum faded, weekly visits to see her up the valley. This brought back times where I was again unsupervised. It was lovely, but it wouldn't last. An unexpected tsunami was coming my way that would again require me to adapt - a pandemic.

Suddenly we were thrown together from morning to night with no place to go but a daily walk. While I missed my friends and the stimulation of travel, what I felt the loss of most were those quiet moments where I was totally alone in the house. It's good that Glen and I are solid and seriously like each other. We survived intact and adapted, but in the process we both had to breath, learn how to give each other space and have patience. 

Thank goodness things are starting to open up again, but there are still challenges. The cool spring has quashed my husband's fishing trip 3 times so far - my guaranteed dose of time alone. And after so much time not going anywhere, I do struggle to dress and get out the door, although I am always super happy once I am out and about.  Slowly a new normal is appearing. I am getting out with friends, we are having company stay with us, and I have already been on 2 trips with 2 more in the works. 

We all have different needs. Finding that balance between alone time (down time where you are not busy or socializing), work time, and social time isn't easy.  The boundaries can become blurred easily and one area of your life suffer.  How much do you need of each? Only you can answer that question, and that requires a quiet space where you can hear your heart speak.  Don't forget, change is the norm. What works one time in your life, might not in another

Spend a little time each day in silence listening for your your heart to whisper in your ear. It will offer guidance on when you need to connect with others, as well as when it's time to be alone and recharge. Connecting to your inner voice is a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly. Over time it becomes easier. 

A final note is simply once you know what you need, be firm. Take care of yourself without apology. You don't need to explain yourself.  People that love you will stand behind you. A side benefit? Being diligent about your own self-care gives your friends permission to do the same.