The Importance of Alone Time

Sometimes I get nervous thinking about just how much alone time I require.

I need a lot of time to reflect, meditate and relax, more than anyone I know.

IMG_4888I’ve recently moved back to Queen Anne, my original Seattle neighborhood. I’m living 1 block away from the apartment I first moved into before real paychecks, before cats, before boyfriends. At that point in my life, I spent all my time absolutely alone. I walked to work alone, I sat mostly alone at work, I went home and cooked alone and watched TV alone, sat in parks alone and explored new places alone.

Some of my memories in that apartment are the most vivid of my entire life. Because I was alone, I was forced to be more aware, to be more present, to take in every detail. I sometimes envy those days of quiet, the girl who could do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted.

My most vivid memory is actually a bad one really. It was a day in January or February and I decided I wanted to go on a run. (I NEVER run). As I was running, it began to hail. And then it began to snow. My lungs were on fire and my legs felt like jelly, and I had to stop, I was in so much pain and so mad at the crazy weather. When I did, I realized just how quiet it was. No one was around me and my hoarse breathing was the loudest sound for blocks. I realized I had never felt so alone. I could’ve been the only person in the world at that moment.

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Though I miss those quiet days of my past, I also have to remember just how lonely I was. So lonely that I picked up two cats to add to the mix. That I called my best friend and my mom every. single. day. That sometimes I’d sit in coffee shops, reading or writing, just hoping someone would speak to me. I also have to remember that during these lonely times, just after the snow running day, I decided to try online dating. Though my life was the most calm it has ever been, I was alone and I didn’t like being alone.

As much as I love the people in my life, I don’t want to be around them all the time. In fact, I resent spending a lot of time with someone. In this way, my solitude seems selfish. I wouldn’t disagree that it is. But I also know that being alone and wanting alone time isn’t all that uncommon.

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In 2013:

-19% of households consisted of a married couple with kids

-27% of the American population lived alone

-105 million people 18 and older had never been married

As I entered my first relationship, my overwhelming love for another person made me want to spend as much time as possible with that person. He wanted the same thing. For months, we spent almost every waking moment together. I’m not even kidding. It was unhealthy, and we both kind of knew it, but we didn’t want to hurt the other person and we weren’t quite sure what to do with ourselves anyway. We slowly made time for ourselves, and for other people, but it was a painful process and a tough lesson to learn.

It will always be a balance for me, and I may never be able to manage a sweet spot for very long, but I’m always searching for that perfect balance. I know my alone time hurts other people, and it puts large gaps between friend-dates, but I think at the end of the day, they can understand. I love my alone time, but I also need my friend and family and love time in there too!

Pull it Together

If you’ve seen me lately, you know. I’ve let myself go.

I never do my hair, most of my clothes are wrinkled, I hardly wear any makeup and even if I start the morning off with the best intentions and a carefully applied swipe of lipstick, it’s gone by lunchtime. I’ve just stopped caring as much.

In May, I chopped 6 inches off of my hair and no one noticed. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have a curtain of long brown hair to flip around and everyone around me couldn’t care less. In some ways, I felt sad and missed my long hair because I thought my mid-length hair made me look plainer. But really, I just didn’t care all that much either.

Summer came early this year, right around my big hair cut. Suddenly, I didn’t see the need in drying my hair, because no one noticed that I painstakingly dried and curled my hair every day. While I was at it, I’m sure no one noticed my skin care routine. Or how filled in my eyebrows are.  Or that my nails were painted. For the most part, I had become completely laid back about my appearance, but not more comfortable in my own skin necessarily. I haven’t felt more beautiful with this new minimal approach, just more lazy.

While I’d love to get to the point where I find myself to be ravishing sans makeup, I’m not quite there. (Though John keeps trying to convince me, I should probably just believe him already) I’m getting closer, but I’m not quite there. The thing is, I love lipstick. I love pretty dresses. I love fashion. These are materialistic things, but they are things I am passionate about. Now that things will be cooling down for the fall, I hope I can get to a place where I am comfortable applying my fashionable sensibilities to a much more toned down morning routine.

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All this to say that I recently saw a movie, A Man From U.N.C.L.E. and it was amazing. Funny, smart, fast paced, witty, sexy, and glamorous. I would highly recommend the movie to everyone, but I think the one thing that really stuck with me was the incredible fashion. The film was set in Europe in the 60’s, so everything is vibrant and quirky and sleek. It made me want to step my fashion game up a bit. It also made me want to become a spy… but I’ll work on the fashion thing first!

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My Status

IMG_4624 If I’m being honest, I considered writing a blog post about John & I getting back together several times but I stopped myself each time. Because:

  1. It’s not an easy thing to explain. It’s messy and complicated and flawed.
  2. It’s my life and I get to choose what I share and what I don’t share.
  3. The people who care about me already know.

It was brought to my attention yesterday that people have been talking about my life/relationship when I’m not there, which always has and always will make me uncomfortable. The argument is that I shared all the details on my blog, which I really didn’t. They also said that I painted John as a jerk in the blog post, which I really didn’t, but my sentiment might’ve come across all the same. Right after we broke up, I naturally blamed him for a lot of our problems, without looking inwardly. In our actual time apart (almost 2 months) I was able to really take a look at my actions and when I did, I was embarrassed. There was a lot of issues that stemmed from MY behavior. Have I resolved all of them? God no! But, I’m aware of them. And I’m working on them. He’s working on his too. We’ve both made an incredible amount of improvement. Do I hate that we were apart? Yes. But it made us better people.

So writing things like, “Do you think you’ll get back together? Honestly, yes, part of me really hopes so” and “He loved me an incredible lot. He made me feel beautiful without makeup and loved pieces of me that I hated. He was patient with my anxiety and neurosis and learned to deal with my jealousy like a champ. In some ways, we were a great team, a perfect pairing and anyone who saw us together just got that. We were on the same wavelength, worked at the same cadence, and that’s so rare for me to find. Even in the middle of a fight, we were able to make each other laugh” should’ve made it clear to all readers that I was not 100% done with our relationship and that I really, truly loved him.

We live together now, in a small house. We are imperfect, we are happy, we are flawed, we are partners, we are complicated, we are in love.

How To Get Rid of a Bunch of Stuff That You Don’t Need

IMG_4381I’m a minimalist.

I don’t hold a lot of personal attachment to things and I only buy a few things that I absolutely LOVE. 

This may stem from a few things: I’ve moved a lot, I grew up in a house with a LOT of things, I get anxious in messy cluttered spaces, my personal aesthetic is very simple with clean lines, and oh the list goes on.

Last month I moved again (11 times in 8 years if you’re counting) and it was absolutely HELL. We decided to do the “slow move”, rather than shelling out money for movers and we pinched ourselves over and over about this over 2.5 weeks. At first we moved a few things over at a time, which was painful. Then towards the end we realized that we still needed to moved a LOT of stuff and didn’t have much time to do so.

At the end of the move, we plopped down in our new space (much bigger than our two previous places) surrounded by so much STUFF. How did we accumulate it all? How many bruises and scratches and bumps did that one useless thing cause? I was starting to realized that what looked like minimalism really wasn’t.

It inspired me to go out and buy a book that I’d heard so much about and had been meaning to read: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

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After reading the book, I purged. Big time. I’m talking about 20 trash bags of useless stuff to Goodwill. The donate list included books I hadn’t finished, dresses that I never wore, scarves that were a gift that I never used and even more than half of my childhood memory box. Trash items included old photos that I didn’t like or never looked at and hotel shampoos I kept just in case.

Her major emphasis is purging from our live things that don’t spark joy. I surprised myself by just how quickly I was able to siphon through all my belongings with this in mind. A jacket I hadn’t worn since 2009, a book that I never liked, a old knick knack that was just taking up space.

I love my books, they are very important to me and very personal to me, but I tore through them in seconds, cutting almost 1/3 of my collection within 10 minutes. I owned so many that I didn’t truly love. Maybe they were just bad purchases, maybe they were bad gifts, maybe they were just a silly book from childhood. So many didn’t fill me with joy.

My closet was another big area for purging. I tossed about 1/8th of the summer wardrobe, but almost 1/2 of my winter wardrobe. It just doesn’t get all that cold in Washington and I don’t need a puffy coat or 3 pairs of ear muffs. The clothes we don’t wear all that often tend to be the things we don’t like or need anyway, so why keep them around?

There was a lot of no-brainer advice that I’d always needed to hear:

-Why keep hotel shampoos? You will literally never use them and IF you do, they probably have already expired.

-You have had that mysterious cord for 4 years now. If you don’t know what it goes to now, you will NEVER know what it goes to.

-Furniture counts too. I’ve had some pieces given to me that I wasn’t a huge fan of in the first place. They were placed on Craigslist and I got a little extra cash!

-No one needs a copy of their bank statement from 8 years ago. Shred it. Forget about it.

-Boxes. I have saved so many boxes and bags, thinking that one day I will use them. Of course I never do. No one does!

-Holding onto old memories just isn’t healthy. Keeping the photos I truly loved, and the objects that really transported me back to childhood is so much more rewarding. Plus is really lightens your “memory box” load.

When you are organized, other people around you want to be organized too. If we’re being honest, my boyfriend has a lot more stuff than I do. He has a lot of hobbies and a lot of passions and they all require more stuff in the house. But as I was purging, I started to notice his things in my purging piles. I tried to return a couple pairs of pants and he told me that he hadn’t liked the way they fit, so he thought now was a good time to donate them. Even his books (he may love books even more than I do) went in with my books. Though it was a much smaller percentage of his total collection (maybe 1/12th) it was a start! Organization is contagious, seriously. 

Twenty-Five

I can be a bit obsessive about my birthday and I set a lot of ridiculous expectations for myself and the people I love to have the “perfect” day. It’s bogus, and I know that, but it’s almost as if I can’t help myself. My birthday last year was not “perfect” and so I tried to do everything different this year.

Step 1: Take the day off. Don’t work. Don’t pretend that you want to be at work. I preferred being alone, over going to work. I realize not everyone is like me in this, they want to have a normal day. My dad LOVES going into work on his birthday. IMG_3942Step 2: Take it easy. I slept in, woke up to natural morning light, took my sweet time getting ready and straightened my house up.IMG_3940Step 3: Only do the things you love. My happy place is bookstores, so I meandered over to my favorite one and splurged on some magazines that I love and a book. I peeked inside a couple adorable stores with no rush. IMG_3953IMG_3943Step 4: Meet people where they are. I’m at a point in my life where my friends don’t really know one another, or know much about each other. I just have friends from very different places in my life. Eventually, someday, I’d love to have a big party (preferably prom themed) where everyone I know celebrates in the same place! It was a Thursday, so I spent lunch with my mom for lunch and coffee and met John for a chocolate factory tour and dinner. IMG_3956 (I was getting really into dinosaurs in preparation for Step 7)IMG_3962IMG_3963IMG_3957No one told us that it was going to be 90 degrees in the factory. How I felt: IMG_3967IMG_3969

Step 5: Make plans. There have been times where I’ve been disappointed simply because I wanted a “surprise” and plans fell through. In order for me to guarantee that I’ll be happy (and give everyone else a break) I should just do what I love: PLAN!

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Step 6: Eat really good food. I’ve been wanting to eat at Joule for YEARS! It’s been rated one of the best restaurants in America and I finally went!

(My very first experience eating fish roe… I was so impressed!)

IMG_3978Step 7: If you like dinosaurs, you should probably watch a movie about dinosaurs. Let me be clear: I LOVE the Jurassic Park movies. So, as soon as the Jurassic World opening credits began and the score began to play, I started crying. I don’t know if anyone loves these movies just as much as I do. I thought it was amazing. I didn’t get home until 1:30am, which is 4 hours past my bedtime, and I was still energetic and stimulated by the movie. It was SO AMAZING, GO SEE IT.

IMG_3989 Step 8: Prolong the festivities. John treated me to Jurassic World on Friday, my dad and stepmom came into town and treated us to dinner and pedicures and my mom and sister baked me a cake on Sunday and took me to the Ballard Farmers Market.  It was a perfect, relaxing weekend. And even though it wasn’t, I felt like it was all for me :)

IMG_4007IMG_4005IMG_3997Even though in some ways I controlled my celebrations more than ever before, in other ways I was more laid back then I normally ever am! This birthday did feel perfect, in a more subdued way. Maybe this is what getting older feels like!