Finding peace in the space of solitude

Photo by Simon Launay on Unsplash

It’s taken a few months, but I’m finally getting used to not having any plans for the day.

At the beginning of the week, it felt quite empty. I had a few social activities but also a lot of space. Honestly, it was pretty intimidating to comprehend what to do with all that time.

I’m a planner at heart, so to not have anything set in stone is disorienting. When I saw a completely empty agenda, I felt the lurch of panic at the uneasiness of nothing to do.

This week has been about learning to be at ease without having a plan.

It’s perhaps evident if you’ve been reading these articles that I’ve been off work for a while. I’m taking time to rest and recuperate, though that is an ongoing work in progress.

I’ve been scheduling certain social activities to ensure that I get out of the house. I can easily turn very reclusive if I’m not careful. But in the midst of this, I found myself almost desperately wanting things to do. Getting outside is good, but filling my calendar with social activities for the sake of it defeats the point in getting rest.

So this week I’ve been spending a lot of time in my room just lounging around. I let my mind wonder and the time pass by. I don’t get a whole lot ‘useful’ done – scrolling social media and playing phone games is not quite the gold star standard of capitalistic productivity.

But actually, it’s been pretty nice. There is a freedom in being able to relax at home alone. It’s easy, and simple. I don’t need to plan it, and I don’t need to arrange it with someone else either.

I’ve felt more comfortable with life, as I’m no longer needing to drag my tired body around to social engagements I signed up to out of anxious boredom.

This anxious boredom has been a real bane for me over the last few months. A lack of stimulation has felt a real challenge, but the underlying behaviour is the discomfort around solitude. The more I get comfortable without having anything to do, the more the anxiety recedes.

This has allowed me to be a lot more selective on what I actually am choosing to do. Whereas in the past I would throw myself at pretty much any social interaction I could go to because ‘why not?’, I’m now far more discerning as to what I actually want to do.

Part of this is a forced change, simply because I currently have far lower energy than before. But I also don’t really feel a calling to go back to the older version of me either. Now when I look at it, it feels like I put in a lot of directionless effort.

I don’t deny that it can be difficult to make this shift. I live in an environment where everyone seems to be doing cool and exciting things all the time. Whilst the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ was a very 2000s term, it’s become painfully obvious how much it’s influenced my life the last year.

But when I’m comfortable being alone, it gives me the freedom to choose solitude as a viable option. I see how much better I feel when I’m clear of what I will and won’t do.

Here’s my invitation to you to rebel against our capitalistic system – it’s okay to take time doing nothing. In fact, it’s pretty vital for our existence.

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