Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Individual Alone Time (Together)

The greatest struggle I've had since graduating, getting married, and moving to Iowa City has been the hit to my confidence. Since early childhood, I can remember a certain self assuredness that has guided me through school and friendships with ease. For the first time, I fear that I will never accomplish anything in my life, compounded by the greater fear that I will feel inadequate. I don't want to live my life always feeling that I'm not doing enough or accomplishing enough. 

So my struggle has been finding ways to advance myself while following Owen to Iowa City. I've taken a few classes, blogged, learned yoga, and continued to grow closer to Owen. All wonderful, great things that have improved my life.  Yet, on the day to day, week to week, living, thinking, feeling, doing level, all I have time for is working, making dinner, doing domestic work, taking care of Owen, and if we're lucky, spending a couple of enjoyable hours talking or relaxing together. 

This break down of life would be wonderful, if the work I am doing were the work I dream to do. Someday I hope to become a professor of writing at a private liberal arts college, like St. Olaf, involved in developing programs for ELL students. Yet I don't feel any closer to achieving that dream than I was a year and a half ago. I need to spend more time thinking and creating. I need focused alone time to work toward my goals.

Alone time has been a complicated issue for Owen and I. Neither of us really feel the need to separate from each other unnecessarily. We'd be happy to spend 24/7 in one another's company. Also, Owen, having a more anxious attachment style, has in the past felt nervous at the suggestion that I need time without his presence. Lately, as both of us have been learning to be more mindful of our needs, Owen has become more calm on this issue. So, I brought it up to him this week.

Owen in his natural state pre-marriage:
alone and learning abroad
Always understanding and supportive, Owen is ready to help me in my need for that focused time. His first suggestion: having individual alone time together by spending Sunday mornings walking to the coffee house nearby in silence, and then working in silence at the same table. Appreciative of his willingness to try new things, I accepted this proposal with the slight alteration that we would sit at different tables once we arrived. Owen didn't necessarily like this change, but he agreed. 

Sunday morning arrived rainy and cold, but we were dedicated. We arrived at Java House soaked through in forced silence, ordered some breakfast items and got to work. I found myself cold and agitated. Once alone I didn't know quite what to do with myself. This was the alone time that Owen had gifted me despite his own anxieties, and I couldn't do anything productive with it. 

I used to be an expert at alone time! I found it everywhere and enjoyed every minute of it, productive or not, and having it in my life made me a more confident person. Reflecting on how I used to be I surmise that alone time does not exist in the form of forced silence on a once a week excursion. It's a rhythm that underlies the daily tune; it's a way of life wherein you step back from everyone else's opinions and just think of what you yourself want to think about several times a day. When it's consistent it can then become productive and creative, and provide you with greater confidence in your opinions and feelings.

This is going to be a learning experience for both of us. I'm not just going to start taking myself to Java House and leaving Owen at home during those times that have routinely become moments for us to enjoy each other's company. Neither of us are ready for that yet. We are ready to admit that we each have a need for alone time that isn't being met, so we are going to start thinking of how we can bring it more into our lives.

We've determined that we want to have our alone time together, not that we're going to persist in forcing ourselves into silence, but that when we reunite we want to share what we have learned on our own with each other, so that we can continue to grow and change together. 

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