PSA: You need solo time. Alone time. Time by yourself.
Last night, when preparing for my long training run today, up way too late hydrating in front of the fireplace, (don’t worry, with water 😉) I realized I need to make sure I do at least some of my Boston Marathon training runs solo. Aside from this new found space of writing, running alone is one place where I can disconnect, and be truly present. Present with JUST ME. It is time to think. Be quiet. Listen. Process. Connect with myself. Connect with nature. This is may be why I almost always subconsciously choose to not run without music or podcasts, and rather use the time to deal with the jazz in my head. Or, if running with friends, process life in conversation with them.
As you may know, I am a social runner 98% of the time, but training with #TeamAFSP is not just about running. It is about connecting with myself, my beliefs, my enoughness. It is about processing my emotions, my guilt, my sadness. It is about the joy and gratitude that I strive for daily.
It's been just in the last few years that I recognized the power of solo time, and the need for it regulary.
I was constantly wrapped up in dozens of work projects, social groups, family responsibilities, volunteer opportunities and the list goes on. I was on the go constantly. Challenging myself to get from one class to the next, one appointment to the next, some days failing to shower, most days eating while in transit, often in such a state of high anxiety and stress that I was absolutely NOT showing up as my best self, or even kind self, towards the people who I care about most – my family.
I used to feel lonely when I wasn’t surrounded by people and activities, busy with #allthethings. Keeping busy kept me away from loneliness. I was constantly shifting my schedule to meet the needs of others. I’d put my work and other’s priorities ahead of my own needs. In fact, I was so busy, I didn’t even know what my own needs were.
I lasted 35 years doing this and thank goodness with the help of some friends, recognized I couldn’t sustain this any longer. I needed to take time to process the jumble, stress, anxiety in my body, and the only way to do that was to slow down and take time to be just with me. Being a person who likes a schedule and agenda, the only feasible way to make this happen at the start was to block out time to see a therapist each week, ensuring time would not get lost to JUST WORK ON ME. (Yes, I recognize therapy is not 100% solo time, but for those not familiar with the therapy space, the conversation and work continues to be 100% about me and my needs.)
These past few years I have worked really hard to learn how to gift myself alone time and learn how to embrace it.
Embrace the slow down. It then took me another two years from this first therapy appointment to take the next step – booking my first solo trip with no other purpose than to travel somewhere JUST WITH ME. I had no agenda. No one to report to. It was really weird and very quiet the first few hours. The following 72 hours were life-changing. Now I crave the solo time and am working to consistently schedule it into my life.
8 miles. 8 years gone. I started my run solo today.
As I ran my first two miles by myself today, I reflected on a thought that came to me last night while hydrating by the fire — 8 miles. It’s been 8 years since Chris has left. In my head, one year at a time, I started reviewing what has happened in those 8 years. I know a lot has happened. A lot he has missed out on. So much we have not been able to share with him. I also recognized so much of these past 8 years has been such a blur.
I kept myself busy so I did not have to face the emotions going on inside my body. I kept myself busy as I was striving to continue to be my “perfect” self, that I assumed others expected of me. I did not allow any time or space to process Chris’ death.
My reflection of these 8 years on my run went something like this
· 2013 – An almost unbelievable year with all things falling into place. Business bought. First house bought. Baby Cameron born. Then Chris died.
· 2014 – 2018 An absolute blur. Managing the transition to a family of four and a new business. Then a transition to a family of five. We moved to a new house. I worked around the clock and earned Top 3 FIT4MOM franchisee of the year. I remember that despite my success, I often felt lonely, and later learned, I was depressed.
· 2019 – My tipping point. I needed help. I originally sought out a therapist to work through my grief and a new transition of helping my mom move to a nearby retirement community. It turns out, turning inward, working on myself, led me to first prioritizing my relationship with my husband and second facing the fact I was no longer happy in the work I was doing. I sold 1/2 of my franchise at the end of the year and felt a breath of fresh air.
· Early 2020 – I was ready to sell the other half of my business or just collapse it. Covid hit. I felt a calling to serve the moms whose lives had also been turned upside down. I need movement and connection just as much as, if not more, than the moms and families I served.
· Later 2020 – I often thought of Chris and how he would being doing during such times – possibly still single and our world needed so much repair.
I imagined his loneliness had he been quarantined solo during the pandemic,
more solo time than anyone could ever need or want.
I learned two big lessons being home with my family for so long, it almost pains to say that Covid helped me realize: 1) I actually really enjoy my kids and husband (something I was often too busy to acknowledge) and 2) I needed to create time for ME.
· 2021 – I took my first solo trip to Vashon Island for my birthday. I visited a westward facing beach at sunset my first night, and thought of Chris, missing him terribly. I spent the next few days reflecting, writing and just BE-ing. 2021 led me to a new space, my kids were in school full time – more about this transition in my debut blog. For the first time in 11 years I had time just for me. After a year and a half break, I went back to seeing my therapist, to help me in yet another business transition, and it was also time to begin working through my grief.
I spent the next few days reflecting, writing and just BE-ing.
The last two years have been a blessing, allowing me to slow down. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to spend quarantine and covid surrounded by the three most amazing kids and a husband who supported my need to have solo time too.
The last two years have also brought more reflecting on how Chris would have done during this time. When he left us in 2013 he was single and so, so lonely. Chris had supportive friends and family, but not the partner he had always hoped for. I assume his depression sunk him into a place of such loneliness, that he could not go on. Chris loved nature and that is where he ultimately returned to.
I am so glad I took the first two miles this morning solo. Being in nature connects me to Chris, every single time. The trees. The birds chirping. The air. The sense of calm. The quiet. I will be making an effort to ensure even as a social runner, I take at least some of my long runs to
Thank you Forest Park for the beautiful run today. Thank you ME for taking the 2 miles of solo time to process. Thank you to my run buddies for supporting me the next 6.
Thank you to all that have donated, left comments and connected with me as I share my story. If you’d like to make a donation, support my journey and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). I’m working my way towards my goal of $15,000 and training to run injury free for the 126th Boston Marathon in April, running both in memory of my brother Chris, as well as for me.
I challenge you to take a moment to reflect:
- When and how do you take time to connect with YOU?
- What are your strategies for slowing down to be truly present?
- How does it feel to truly slow down?