The Importance of Being Alone

I’ve been thinking about this idea for many months. It first came to me while I was cutting the grass on our new-to-us ride-on mower. It continues to come to me every time I take the time to be alone, and I think it’s something we don’t talk about enough.

Being alone is incredibly important.

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2007: When 3am then felt like 7pm now.

It was important to me when I was living alone, and I loved it then. I was very selfish and it was all about me. I was beginning to really explore painting and art more seriously, and I could stay up until 3am and still be o
kay to go into school and teach at 8am, somehow. I lived alone, so it didn’t matter: I could come home an nap for a couple of hours and repeat the cycle.

 

 

20130727 - PatSteph - 668Then, my wife (then “fiancee”) moved in. I was still
able to do this, but I stopped doing it as much. Still, I took lots of time for myself. Fortunately, I was a night owl and she was an early bird, so when she would fall asleep, I still had a solid five hours for me. Rarely did I spend that time watching TV. I usually wrote, read, and made art. Really bad art, and really bad books. But I was learning and it was good.
IMG_6534Then, we found out that Kingsley was coming. I felt ready. I was no longer such a night owl, but I still had a few hours to myself and enjoyed them each night. In fact, we had agreed that it was important for me to take two nights a week and one afternoon a weekend to devote to my craft, because I was becoming better through practice. Not perfect, not great, but better than before. I was finally identifying as a Writer and as an Artist. My ME Time was crucial.

So many people said: “Forget about it, it’s all over now. You’ll never have time for writing or art.” I thought then: wow, you’re a bunch of @########’s. And you know what? I still think that. They were so wrong. SO wrong.

Do I have all of the time I used to have? No. That would be ridiculous. But, I knew that when I made the decision to father a child. I knew that my selfishness would have to become redirected. I know that the amount of books I could read would depend on how late I was willing to stay up, how much more quickly I could read, or if I started listening to books on tape. I knew that my writing time would shift and so would my art time. But, I also knew that I would never give it up because a child became a part of my life.

That sounds selfish, but it’s not.

It would be selfish to raise a child in a house of stress, with someone unhappy about their life. It would be selfish to not show a child all of the beautiful creative things they could accomplish if they preserved, like I have been doing for years. It would be selfish to give every second to a child and forget about myself, because in the end, I would resent the child.

Well, I don’t resent my child. I love him bigger than I ever imagined love could possibly feel.

I organize my time differently now. I regularly re-organize my time based on his needs. Today, he was able to play on his own for a while. He really didn’t want me there. So, I took out my book and I read.

I also “resolved” to stop feeling guilty when I felt the need to be alone. My wife whole-heartedly supports it, yet I struggle to accept that she is okay with me disappearing into my studio for hours some nights after Kingsley goes to sleep. The truth is, I think, she probably wants to be alone, too. We give so much of ourselves, and we make a very big effort to still date each other, so alone time is perfectly fine.

At times, I include him for a portion of my work. He may sit on me for a few minutes, or be in the room, or listen to me tell a story aloud as I work through some kinks. He’s part of my process, not a road block.

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And then, there’s the non-creative time that I take alone. There’s the grass cutting, the snow blowing, the menial tasks that need to be done, where I can clear my head and be alone and think. I usually come out of those necessary jobs with more inspiration and ideas and creative energy, or a solution to a problem in a manuscript or a painting, or a new book idea or something amazing that I just have to share with my wife.

Alone time isn’t about being selfish. It’s about making an investment in yourself, so that your child can see the real you, and can see what real life is about.

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