I want to be alone: Ditching the guilt

by Kristin on January 6, 2009

in Love, family & community

Over the past few days I’ve been struggling to accept that I might be more introverted than I ever imagined. Or at least I’m more bound to routine than I’ve ever wanted to admit.

I find it interesting that it’s sort of a big deal for me to say this. It’s even more interesting that I somehow feel bad about it, or bad about myself because of it. Why is that?

That other long arm: Guilt

Mean Old Guilt is always a good one to point the first finger at. When I get tired of being around my kids day in and day out, I secretly worry that I must not be a good mom, or that my attitude will permanently scar them. Growing weary of the girls feels wrong, especially in light of how often I so desperately miss them, as I’ve written about before (in this post and this one). Why can’t I just be grateful for every single moment I have with them? (Insert self-kicking here.)

Guilt doesn’t limit itself to nuclear families, of course. The extended family provides an ideal environment for guilt to take root and grow. Of course I was relieved on Saturday when the last of our visiting family had finally packed up and gone home, and I could restore the dining room table back to its usual size and be more successful at estimating how many eggs we’d go through in a morning. (“What? We’re out of eggs again?”)

And, of course I felt guilty about feeling so relieved that all those people we love were gone. The fact that Jason and I have extra wonderful families that we genuinely enjoy spending time with multiplies the guilt somehow—like I have no right to grow weary of having extra people who love me around the house. (Insert more self-ridicule here.)

Self-image and reality don’t always line up

But I don’t think I can blame it all on guilt. I think there’s another infamous culprit at work: Self-image. I like to think of myself as a certain kind of person, and I don’t like having that image thrown off. For instance, I pride myself in being a people-person who’s always up for fun and interaction, conversation and house guests. Ultimately, I think I still am that person, by nature. I just need more refueling time than I used to, so I need to recognize and take care of that.

The other part of how I want to see myself—as a free-wheeling, spontaneous, up-for-anything kind of gal—is probably not something I can really claim. In fact, when my routines get thrown too far out of whack for too many days in a row, I’m a lot like a grouchy toddler whose meal and nap schedule has been thrown off. I need to admit it and round up some coping strategies.

Whatever it is that makes me feel bad about needing a routine and some alone time, I’m working on coming to terms with it. Because there’s no denying: After I sent the girls out the door to school yesterday, I was a super happy freelance writer in a quiet house, sitting at the dining room table in sweats, drinking coffee and diving back into my work routine. And being happy about that is perfectly fine.

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  • http://www.jungleoflife.com Lance

    Hi Kristin,
    I think that some quiet time, in general, is good for everyone. A little time to reconnect with self is important. And, hey, I hear you about house guests. As nice as it is to have visitors, it can also sure be relaxing when they leave… So, I say – enjoy those moments of solitude!

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Lance, thanks for your comment. It’s good to know I’m not alone in how I feel (even when I want to be alone!).

  • http://www.conversiondiary.com Jennifer (Conversion Diary)

    I can totally relate to this! One of the most life-changing things I ever did was have this fancy personality test thing done (a Birkman inventory) where they combine the results of your test with individualized counseling to help you meet your goals (most people use this for career-related stuff, e.g. to decide whether to go into sales or engineering). I only did it because the school where my husband teaches was offering it for free, but it turned out to be amazing.

    It showed that I was an extreme introvert, and I’ll never forget the counselor lady looking me in the eye and saying, “Look. You need alone time like other people need air. Your life will run a lot more smoothly when you factor that into your routines.”

    Ever since then my husband and I made it a big priority to make sure that I get regular “introvert” time, and it has made SUCH a difference! Of course there are sometimes when it’s not possible and my duties as mom of lots of little ones prevent that, but simply recognizing it as a very high priority (and not just something that would be “nice to have” like some of my extroverted friends) has made a lot of things fall into place.

    Sorry for the long comment. Just wanted to say that I can totally relate!

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Jennifer, how wonderful that you discovered this aspect about your personality when you did, and that you had someone tell you clearly and firmly what to do with that information. Having the support of your husband along the way is key, I think. As someone who has been through a divorce, I feel very strongly that half the struggle of marriage would fade if couples simply took the time to really understand and accept the other person’s individual quirks and needs. As humans, we spend far too much time trying to change ourselves and others.

    Thanks for reading–I’m a fan of your blog!

  • http://www.changeforge.com ChangeForge | Ken Stewart

    Kristin, I can really identify with the last section of this article. I spend my time interacting with people all day, every day, and carrying on 3 or 4 conversations at once, with someone in my office, someone on the phone, an e-mail chiming in, an IM popping up, and maybe even a cell phone caller wanting attention.

    And then I close my eyes, breath, and recall why I do all of these things. A Saturday to relax and recuperate, time to spend with my family, and I might just feel recharged to face the daunting work week again.

    Life is most certainly a roller coaster, of which I have learned to enjoy. Like a good wine or a bitter blend of coffee never tasted before, life has flavors that I enjoy sipping at times. However, I do not relish being a drunk or drinking coffee all the time ;-) Once cannot substantiate a life by over-indulging.

    And so I withdraw from the public and enjoy curling up to a great movie or wonderful book; I enjoy tickling my daughter or getting a tight hug from my loving wife. Those help me to recharge, as I’m sure you have found as well.

    Now my challenge is to not allow myself to get stuck in a rut – it is time to take up the challenge of being a life-long learner and live my life just a little differently. Not so much that I react like a cranky toddler ;-) but just enough to know that change is still good for me, that embracing life’s challenges can be wonderful.

    I am glad to see that you can make peace with who you are. That is a sign of a strong mind and connected spirit. In the end I try to remember that life is going to happen, but how I react towards those happenings is my choice to make!

    Warmest Regards,
    Ken Stewart