Ever since I was a small child, I have thrived on having time to myself. I would always rather read a book by myself than go to a party with all my friends. This is a trait that I’ve had to learn to embrace throughout the years and that I’ve also had to learn to overcome in order to create lasting friendships.
The thing is, alone time is great when you set aside that time on your own. It’s not so great when it is thrust upon you because of something outside of your control.
I remember being a kid, and getting so frustrated with my mom when she would get on my case about cleaning my room. Every chore to clean up my space felt like it took an hour and I grumbled and whined through the whole ordeal. However, when I would get it in my mind that I wanted a clean and organized room, everything seemed like so much fun. I’d be whistling around my room, pulling things out of drawers to clean and regroup. I’d actually spend hours cleaning my room to make sure everything was perfect.
Alone time is exactly like cleaning your room as a kid.
When you choose it for yourself, it feels like a dream. You just can’t get enough of it.
But when the alone time is forced because of a deployment, duty station change or other military decided circumstance, it doesn’t feel as fun or empowering.
I have had to learn how to love my alone time, even when I haven’t chosen it for myself. There are some very specific things that I do to ease myself into forced alone time. Here are 4 things to help you learn to enjoy and treasure the time you have alone.
Take Deep Breaths
When my wife went away for her first underway (mini-deployment), I got a little panicked. It wasn’t in my control anymore! What about when I want her back and can’t have her? What if I encounter a crisis while she’s away and I can’t get a hold of her? But when I started to calm down and just relax about the situation, I felt like I could enjoy myself so much more.
Take Back Control
Half of the reason why extended separations are so hard is because of the lack of control we feel when they begin. WE didn’t decide to cook dinner, alone. WE didn’t decide to tuck our kids into bed at night, alone. WE didn’t decide to have to take care of ourselves when we are sick, alone. We. Didn’t. Decide.
But the most important part of enjoying your alone time is claiming what you DO decide. We DO decide to start taking that pottery class we always wanted to but never had the time for. We DO decide to make friends who can help us out when we’re in a crisis. We DO decide to soak in the bathtub at night when everyone is asleep, in order to get our mind back in the right place. This, we DO decide.
It is so important to find a good support network for when you are forced into alone time. It is extremely difficult to tread on through a deployment or period of separation without people who can relate to what you are going through. Positive support and friendships can be the factor that turns your deployment that is dragging on into a chore that you can whistle through.
Don’t Focus on the End Date
There is nothing more sabotaging to enjoyable alone time than constantly checking the time to see when it’s over. Imagine laying down for an hour long massage, only to constantly interrupt the masseuse to go check your phone and see how much longer you have. Not very relaxing or enjoyable, is it? Extended periods of being away from your spouse can be very similar. If you are constantly counting down the days, hours and minutes until your spouse gets home, time will drag on. You have then put yourself in a losing situation. There is no possible way to enjoy your time alone if you are only focused on when it is going to be over. Live in the present, not the future.
Being alone is still something that can be really difficult for me. And I’m a person who generally enjoys being alone. I see other military spouses crumble under the pressure of their family being separated for a period of time. I see others who appear fine until you dig deeper and see the pain that they carry. There are yet others who actually are OK and try to love and enjoy the time that they have for themselves.
Some days, I am the strong woman that I want to be. I trod through an underway easily and love my time that I have to watch my guilty pleasure shows without getting made fun of by my wife.
Other days, I really struggle and cry a lot from loneliness and misery. I still am working on reaching a stable zen to combat being away from my wife and am hoping I can get a better grasp of what my attitude needs to be like for the upcoming deployment my wife will be going on. If you have any tips for me, and others like me, please share your tips in the comments section below.