Years ago my best friend introduced me to the concept of “restorative rest.” She told me that simply resting, or doing nothing wasn’t necessarily helping me recover from exhaustion; I needed to seek out activities, or practices that truly felt healing, and powerful for my mind, body, and soul.
That resonated: hard. I tend to be a person that is always busy, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. Even if I’m parked on the couch, my butt groove cradling my body in a safe cocoon of comfort, I’m doing something: often something for other people.
I have a creative soul. I have hobbies. I have passions. I am restless. I am exhausted. I am in need of true restorative rest.
I am a corked bottle of carbonated resentment that is ready to rupture. My emotional, and mental baggage is more cumbersome than juggling 12 high powered buzzing chainsaws in a dark room. I exist in a state of existing to please others, never truly meeting my emotional, physical, or mental health needs.
What would restorative rest look like for me? Ideally, time ALONE in my house. Time to listen to my music in my space without having to use earbuds. Time to soak in a hot bubble bath without intrusive noise from the rest of the family. Time to read, or sleep, or create without interruptions, or having to justify MY time.
This seems like an easily achievable situation, but it’s not. The people with whom I share my space see me as not only their caregiver, but the sacrificial lamb forced to relinquish any personal needs, or wants in order to meet their every whim. Dare I ask for time alone and suddenly I’m seen as the most selfish person in existence. Clearly, if they wish to be taken out, it doesn’t matter what, or where, I must be at their disposal, however, when I need them out for my own basic need of solitude, I’m asking too much of them. I’m dismissing them. I’m kicking them out and not thinking about THEIR rights to be home, or THEIR rights to not want to go out.
On the rare occasion when my wishes are granted, I’m often pressured to be productive. I am expected to conquer chores, meet deadlines, prepare grand meals, or do things for the others in my house to PROVE that I DESERVED my time alone. I have to be accountable to others and demonstrate that their sacrifices were greatly appreciated. My alone time is still roughly puppet mastered by my people.
Why do I crave this time alone? Why am I so drawn to solitude when I complain so desperately of being isolated? There is a vast difference between solitude, and isolation.
Solitude allows me to be alone with my thoughts, my feelings, my space. I am able to embrace my emotions and check in with how I truly feel. I’m able to get to know myself, see how I’ve changed, or grown over time. I can make choices that reflect my personal needs in a moment without having to consider everyone around me.
My music can be loud, or quiet…either way, it fills a space grater than my little ears.
I can choose to have a phone conversation without interruptions, or having to censor my thoughts because of the people around me.
I can cook, and eat foods that no one else cares for, or eat something without feeling obligated to share.
I can soak in a tub full of bubbles, surrounded by my own soundtrack of music, or silence.
I can take initiatives with my body: try new makeup, workout loudly, stand naked in the kitchen drinking a glass of water, without having to explain myself to anyone.
I can be as quiet, or as loud as I need to be in my own moments. I can breathe. I can, for however long my peace lasts, exist in my own world without having to meet anyone else’s needs, or expectations. It’s bliss. Bliss of course if I ignore the expectations of productivity, or if I get that shit out of the way and then prioritize my needs…
It’s a constant struggle. I live in a world that holds great demands, and expectations of my time. My career has me constantly surrounded by people and noise. I am always thinking about other people’s needs. My time is always dedicated to serving others. I am constantly at the bottom of my own care list.
It’s interesting that the people I live with see my life in reverse. They perceive my career as my passion, which it is, but they don’t recognize the tole it takes on my energy, and my psyche. I’m not “allowed” to be tired, or overwhelmed by work if it means taking away from my productivity and servitude at home. I’m not “allowed” to need downtime if it means taking away from their multitude of needs, and demands. My time is THEIR time. My existence is THEIRS.
There is a tremendous level of guilt that tags along with every stolen moment of peace. On the rare days when I am gifted precious alone time, I often worry that my people will be unhappy, or unsafe. I worry that they feel rejected, or displaced. I worry that I am putting my needs above their comforts, and I feel guilty. I question whether I truly need alone time, or if I’m being selfish. I’m told that I’m selfish. I’m told that I’m demanding. I’m told that I’m inconsiderate. I’m told that I’m crazy for needing solitude.
I know what I need though. I know that my solitude brings me joy. My solitude is restorative rest. My solitude is different than isolation. Isolation removes my freedom. Isolation devours my choices in life. Isolation feeds my need for solitude because I live in a constant state of being on the run. I have to drive instead of walk to meet my needs. I am always surrounded by people, but rarely surrounded by my friends, or people that contribute to my joy.
I guess there is truth in everything. I am selfish, but my my needs are no less worthy than the those of the people around me.