Last weekend I passed up a date for a cozy afternoon alone.
This isn't rare. It's my life as I've built it over the past two or three years. Weekends are no longer spent running around feverishly trying to make up for what I wasn't able to tackle during the week. I'm not booked solid with commitments, personal or professional. I don't run errands in a panic. I'm not keeping up with the Jones' social calendar. I don't even know anyone named Jones.
After years of filling my calendar in a misguided attempt to fill some void, I stopped.
I get it. Life is busy. There is a lot to do. I know this because it's been only me doing all the things for as long as I can remember, including the years I spent living with people. Having roommates helped a bit with sharing chores but we often had different priorities. I remember when one roommate wanted me to mop the floors from the muddy mess her two large dogs made. For me, that was a "no". And even being partnered for a time didn't mean we were a happy couple seamlessly moving from thing to thing. We sometimes handled the basics ok but often bickered about dinner or cleaning the bathroom right. From what I hear, this happens more than not.
After years of roommates of all kinds, living alone again meant adjusting to solitude which I managed by booking myself solid with commitments, some fun, some obligatory, some unconscious attempts to escape the loneliness. I see this in a lot of people who run from thing to thing and book themselves on the regular. Sometimes it's pure motivation in action. Completing grad school while running a business required me to be fiercely motivated around the clock. Sometimes people want busy lives because they want to see and do a lot with the time they have.
And sometimes, perhaps more often than people care to admit, it's also an attempt to outrun something. Maybe it's a fear of failure. Or maybe moving around can help them avoid the lack of love or connection to something that feels right and good. Or a mistake they made that they regret. They drink another thing or eat another thing or do something or go somewhere, anywhere but here--because here is something to fear. I don't think many people stop to think about this. I sure didn't, until I chose to.
I chose to think about it because living alone means I need to do everything: do the laundry, earn the money to pay the bills, do the shopping and the cooking and the dishes and the cleaning, and of late the wood stacking and ash bucket dumping. I can't say I'm really bummed about that last one, haha. Or any of them, really. And because I value living my life like this, I need to make time to make it all happen, otherwise, it doesn't.
But living alone also means I've been able to cultivate cozy and content on a regular basis. It means I'm able to carve out time, wherever and however I need to, for rest and relaxation. Living alone means I intentionally sit with what and why and how I spend every moment of my time and, by extension, my life.
Mindfulness like this helps create a life of intention and meaning. When life is so busy, it's even more important for us to nurture the Skill of Stopping. All of the doing with none of the down time does get us to a point of burnout which serves no one, not us or anyone around us. We end up fatigued, not fantastic. We can end up resentment and miserable and it's no way to live. We can also end up running from thing to thing and not really seeing what we're in fact running from and why we're doing it and how it's not really serving us.
On the flip side, sloth doesn't serve us, either. Avoiding responsibility because you just can't, even, is another way to hide out from life. Being so busy that you literally don't have the time or energy for adulting.
Finding the middle way to make it all work is the goal.
Last weekend was an especially wonderful weekend of comfort for me. I live in a renovated barn and my woodstove has become a near and dear friend. I packed it full of wood and sat beside it looking out the big picture window at the two feet of new snow. I'd already been snowshoeing that morning and I could see my tracks. Winter fitness, check.
I had just received a small shipment from Amazon Prime containing three items: a book on spirituality that I started to read in the library before I moved out of Boston last year, a brand-new journal to write in and the novel, The Revenant, which was made into a movie starring one of my favorite actors, Leonardo DiCaprio. I bought those three things with a gift card that I've kept close for over six years of different dwellings. Turns out that shit really doesn't expire.
I laid myself down on the couch, opened the book and turned on the soundtrack which I bought last year on iTunes after I saw the film (twice). I played it over my Bose mini speaker which I recently got on sale with another gift card.
PS all the frugality is foreshadowing for something to come, stay tuned.
I said to myself, "this is a slice of heaven right here."
After a few hours, I worked on my taxes. Then I went right back to the couch. I read that book cover to cover in 48 hours, something I haven't done for over ten years. The required reading I did for graduate school doesn't count, of course.
There were a few moments where I felt that familiar pull to be cleaning something or doing something for my business. My brain and body, both so habituated to momentum, struggled to settle. But I sat with the urge and let it pass. I intentionally cultivated cozy and content on my terms in my own way.
Cultivating cozy takes work. After childhood passes, we have to be more vigilant to make it happen in meaningful ways. But it's worth the effort. I entered the week feeling vibrant and fulfilled despite the bleak winter and shared the story of my cozy weekend with my clients who ooohed and ahhhed and started thinking of ways they'd create a similar experience for themselves.
For the first few retellings, I said, "listen to what a dork I am, this is what I did," and then I stopped giving that disclaimer. I changed my story to, "listen to the incredible experience I created for myself this weekend."
Unlike the protagonist in the story and my former self who strived and struggled for days on end to run from something or fill my time to look busy or cool or God knows what other reason, cozy and content is the new me.