My bucket list, handwritten in 1998.
Back in 1998, a friend and I decided we would make bucket lists; 100 things we wanted to do in our lifetime. My list was entitled, My Ultimate To-Do List! Oh my, was I young…
Anyway, I keep this list in my nightstand drawer and look at it from time to time. It’s interesting to note I never came up with 100 things I wanted. In fact, I got stuck at 61. Of those, I’ve now done 29. I don’t consciously work my way through the list. I just come back to it from time to time and happily discover I’ve completed a few more items.
Last week, I was able to scratch off item number 23: Take a trip by myself.
While most people shy away from being alone, I seem to revel in it. It’s not that I am a loner; in fact I’m quite social. But being alone recharges me. It is in the quiet that I find peace and renewal. So when my husband gave me the go-ahead to go away for a few days to work on my next book, I jumped. Days before my trip, I began to get cold feet.
What if I’m lonely?
What if I get bored?
What if I can’t get myself to work?
What if an Uber driver abducts me?
I’m happy to report none of these things happened. In fact, I had an AMAZING trip! I not only got work done, but I also rested, road my bike and took long walks. And most important, I gained insight into myself and the way I work. Here’s a bit about what I learned.
6 THINGS I LEARNED FROM BEING ALONE
1-THERE IS VALUE IN DOING NOTHING. I’ve heard this before but the idea is so counter-intuitive to the US culture. On this trip, I really allowed myself to indulge in doing absolutely nothing for a few minutes every morning. I did not think, pray or plan my day. It was just a cup of tea, the beautiful view and me. This practice not only relaxed my body, but also relaxed my brain. Ultimately I believe I was more productive over the day for having started it in this way.
2-I TALK TO MYSELF. I’ve always talked to myself, but I never really noticed how much I do it until I was surrounded by silence. Or standing in the produce aisle of the grocery by myself (embarrassing!). But as it turns out talking to yourself isn’t so strange after all. A lot of people do so and in fact experts believe there are benefits to those of us who chatter solo. More on this here: http://www.today.com/health/talk-yourself-out-loud-here-s-why-experts-say-s-t76531
3-THE NOISE OF LIFE ZAPS MY CREATIVITY. By nature, I’m a do-er, a list-maker, a get-things-done kind of girl. I like having a rhythm to my day. I enjoy hearing the hum of the dishwasher and washer in the background as I work in my home office. I like to take a break from work to check Facebook or to get a handle on the endless email. But writing is so mental. It takes getting out of your head to get in the creative zone. Thus my constant, internal struggle… I’ve learned when I step away from the list, the housework, the junk of life, my mind is free to wander. It allows me to look at my writing in a different way, to think more out of the box. I hope I can find ways to continue to do more of this now that I’m home (I’m a work in progress people).
4-THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS IN THIS WORLD I COULD LIVE WITHOUT. Let’s just name a few: reality TV, junk food, make up, many forms of social media and about 85% of what is being calling news these days.
5-THERE ARE SOME THINGS I CAN’T. Chocolate, books, tea and comfy pajamas are high on that list.
6-I REALLY LOVE MY FAMILY. While I loved being alone, I equally loved coming back home to my family and friends. I’m so grateful that my hubby and kids understood my need to get away and that they loved me enough to allow me that time.
Have you ever traveled alone or thought about doing so?
After having this on my Bucket List for 18 years, I can now say I wish I’d done it sooner. I imagine it’s like that for most things we put off. Perhaps that is the biggest lesson learned.
I, too, love my quiet time. Always have. It restores me. For the last three years, I went to Martha’s Vineyard on a retreat in September. There were a few other women there but I spent a lot of alone time. It fueled me for several months. I think we need the “rinse the brain” as Anne Lamott says, to make way for new ideas.
Wow, how fun Joyce and I am sure that is a nice time to be at Martha’s Vineyard. I am glad to know others feel the way I do. I sincerely think we all benefit from quite time alone, whether we are writers or not. Lamott’s phrase rinse the brain is a great way to put it. She is such a great writer!
I love the article and agree about the value in doing nothing and the quietness in crucial for creativity. Great post 🙂
I feel like it takes a while to trust in the value of doing nothing. We are a busy society and fight this concept. But when you can embrace it, it makes all the difference. Not only in your creativity, but in how you feel. Thanks for stopping by!