A few years ago, I was seeing a therapist, and one of the themes we discussed often is my struggle to find connections without having close friendships nearby. This has been a challenge most of my adult life, and while I have a few close friends, they’re often hard to connect with on a deeper level because we live hours apart and only see each other a few times a year. I’m a pretty strong introvert, so I do much better with conversations that go beyond small talk, but most of my interactions weren’t getting that far. In response to this, my therapist suggested I take the opposite approach and focus on finding more fulfillment in spending time alone. This was definitely not a challenge – I’ve always loved going on long drives, wandering around bookstores and Target on my own, and had even started going to dinner on my own during work trips to get a break from the constant “on”-ness of my job. My therapist, however, challenged me further and told me to take a trip away on my own, for fun.
The challenge here was not only to travel on my own, but to overcome all of the internal barriers I immediately put up to the idea. Self care has become such a frequent topic of conversation it’s almost satirical now, but the crux of why it continues to be so hard even though we all know it’s necessary, is usually because we as women and mothers just naturally put ourselves last and feel guilty if we don’t. Frankly, I loved the idea of going away by myself, but it felt selfish to spend money just on myself. It felt like I would be judged for prioritizing myself. I felt like I would need to reciprocate to make sure that my husband then has equal time for himself. It just felt wrong to have something just for me.
Thankfully I’m married to a man who supports me in everything that I do, and my therapist told me, as a way to address my deep resistance to doing things for myself, to challenge him to plan this solo trip for me, to allow someone else to take care of me for a chance. He was giddy with excitement at the prospect, and a few weeks later, I was on a plane to Maine for a 3 day weekend, all on my own. I stayed at a beautiful B&B that had pie for an evening snack. I had a rental car that allowed me to traverse most of the state, including going on a gorgeous drive to and through Acadia National Park while listening to the Hamilton soundtrack with a closeness I had never gotten to listen with before. I walked around small bookstores (one of my all time favorite things to do), read while enjoying dinner and drinks, walked around small towns, and watched mindless TV before going to sleep. I spent a lot of time thinking – something I thrive on, especially in times of emotional stress. Being on my own, setting my own pace, it all allowed me to turn inward to myself, and to have the freedom to think about what matters to me. It was one of the most energizing and restorative experiences I’d ever had, both physically and mentally.