Growing up in a small house with a big family, there was always someone trying to claim a right to a chunk of space to call their own. As the youngest, I had to settle for what I could. I shared a bedroom, so the only space left for just me was my bed, or to be more precise, the top bunk of a 1980s pine bunkbed. But it was mine. In a house filled with loud people with a lack of awareness of personal space, this was my oasis. I went there to read, study, or watch tv on our tiny little black and white box, head craning over the top of the bunk to get a better view.
Fast forward a few years and my bed is still where I go for some time out from the world. It’s where I’m writing this piece. My family have always found my love of my bed a bit odd. I’m often accused of being asleep or being lazy. Actually, no, it’s probably where I’m my most creative. I can carve out my little domain, surround myself with comforts, and get on with whatever I need to do. My bed has taught me the importance of having space and time to myself.
With many places still in some form of lockdown and families and friends being forced to spend time together under one roof, the need for alone time has never been so great. Many conversations I have end with people saying, “I love my family, but I’d need some time on my own right now.” You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice that they really need space, but many feel guilty about saying that and never act on their desires.
There’s also the association that spending time on your own is a bit of an odd thing to do, or that you must be lonely. I love going out on my own, eating at my favourite restaurants, drinking at my local wine bar, but when I tell people they often say, “Oh, you should have called, I’d have joined you.” Thanks for the offer, but nope, nope and nope. I’m not lonely when I’m on my own, I’m having the best time. I can do what I want, go where I want and my brain can switch off or have some time wandering around the world on its own, undisturbed by other people’s needs and conversations. It is possibly the most relaxing activity I do. And that’s why I’d love everyone to have some time on their own this week. If needs be, put it in your calendar, so your family and friends know that you’re busy.
But what should I do, I hear you cry! That’s entirely up to you. How about going for a walk on your own. Or cooking yourself the meal that you love and no one else in the family likes – you could even light candles and open your favourite bottle of wine. It’s up to you, the time is yours and no one else’s. And if your family don’t understand why you need solitude, just explain the benefits to them. For example; by going for a walk on my own I’ll feel more energised and able to spend more quality time with you afterwards. You might find that they take your lead and start carving out time to make their own.
As for me, well, except for the cats, I’m going to spend a few more hours locked away in my duvet-clad fort. So, if you don’t mind, it’s time for you to leave me in peace, I need some alone time.