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Self Care Sunday: the transformative power of being alone

It’s no secret that I’m all about self-care—especially on the weekends. I try as much as possible to use the weekend to rest and recharge for the week ahead, but it doesn’t always happen the way I intend. Sometimes my plan to lounge in bed all day reading a book is derailed by a last minute invite to a party or someone wanting to go to brunch. It all seems innocuous enough at the time; why shouldn’t I do those things? I like hanging out with friends and it’s not as if I have anything else to do! But I realized recently that sometimes having a day 100% to myself is exactly what I need to recharge—even away from the people I love the most. I also realized that I don’t have to stay in bed in order to do that.

A few weeks ago my BFF/roomie was out of town and I discovered that I had no plans at all and no built-in buddy to spend the day with. I almost always have something on my calendar every single day so I rarely have full days of unstructured time. It’s easy to get in the habit of running from thing to thing—especially in New York: working long hours, going to events, hanging out with friends, trying to get in a workout, or simply getting stuck on the subway forever until you die. It can be hard to make time to just be. I do sometimes schedule some down time when I know I have an otherwise packed week, but that particular weekend I just happened to wake up in the morning with no place to be.

I decided that instead of staying in all day, I would go into the city and basically do whatever I felt like doing in the moment. I wasn’t expecting to be anything special, but by the end of the day I felt like myself again in a way that I hadn’t in years. I reconnected with some of the small joys that I’d forgotten and got back in touch with the things I like to do when no one else is around. Here’s how it went:

Lazy morning

I’m just going to say it: I’m not a morning person. I’ve read all the articles about how successful people get up at 5AM, but my natural circadian rhythms don’t want me to be successful at 5AM so I don’t try. Instead I follow my natural night-owl tendencies and feel #blessed that my job has enough flexibility that I can sleep a little later (but I try not to push it). On the weekend, though, sleeping in until my body feels rested is one of my favorite indulgences. It makes me feel like a lady of leisure.

Yoga

I can’t believe I’m writing this because honestly yoga used to be the bane of my existence. Even a few months ago I’m pretty sure I would rather die than be forced to take a yoga class. But as a mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently come around to the idea that stretching is an important part of recovery—especially after a week of high intensity workouts—so I’ve been trying it out. I found a class at Yogamaya called Yoga for Athletes, which I like because it’s not for “yoga people.” It’s definitely not breezy or comfortable, but I’ve noticed a difference in my strength, mobility, and balance during my other workouts so that’s enough to get me to go back. Plus, the early afternoon time slot fits with my late-sleeping lifestyle. On that particular day, I left class feeling light and calm, so I decided to follow that feeling wherever it led me instead of heading back home.

Brunch date, party of one

The next place the feeling led me was to brunch because it was 2PM and I had yet to eat anything. (That’s what I get for staying in bed all morning!). I figured I would just grab something quick on the go, but since I actually had no where to be, I decided to dine-in instead. I wandered into Chanson because I’d walked by dozens of times and the menu lured me inside with the promise pancakes. Their tea service was unexpectedly cute and made me happy, but in the end the pancakes were just ok. The quality of pancakes is not the point, though. Some people have this idea that going out to eat alone is sad, but it’s actually quite nice. I get to treat myself and not worry about anyone judging me for not eating kale. Plus, it soothes the introvert in me because I don’t have to make conversation. I can just chill and eat some food that I didn’t have to cook.

Getting lost in the stacks

My next stop was Rizzoli Bookstore in NoMad. I had walked by it a few times, but, as usual, I was always on the way to the some event I didn’t have time to look around. I love bookstores (and books) in general, but something about this particular one really lent itself to aimless browsing. Unlike Strand—which I love deeply, don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t swamped with ten thousand people. It also wasn’t packed to the brim with every single book ever written. Because their main focus is books on art, architecture, design, fashion, and other applied arts there is no shortage of beautiful books and space is designed to accommodate them. Since I had no agenda, I paged though huge monographs and lifestyle books for quite a while before finally picking up a novel to read later on the train home. It reminded me of my teenage weekends walking around my hometown, browsing record stores and book shops looking for nothing in particular. Back then the town felt so small, but the future felt big.

Cozy up in a coffee shop

When I was in high school I used to love going to a cafe or the public library to get a cup of coffee and then finding a table to just sit and do my homework. I think it made me feel grown up because it’s what the college students in town always seemed to be doing. Plus coffee makes everyone feel grown up I think. So after the book store I found a cafe, ordered myself a tea, and just sat down and started writing. I think I managed to achieve that oft-illusive state of flow because when I looked up, two hours had passed. It was the most productive I had been in weeks—maybe because I wasn’t trying to be. I wasn’t putting pressure on myself, I was just letting things happen.

Seeing the city with new eyes

The interesting thing about that day is that I didn’t go anywhere especially new. I was in the same part of the city where I spend most days and went to places I’d walked by for years. The difference was me—I was seeing everything with new eyes.

When I first moved to White Plains to finish college I was excited by its proximity to New York City. I felt an excitement and anticipation taking Metro North into Manhattan. The electricity of walking into the middle of Grand Central Station and the swirling, endless crowds of the city. I was excited by the newness and ready to experience everything. During those few years in school I came into the city a few times a week to hear speakers at AIGA or the Type Directors Club. I’d go to exhibitions and art book fairs. I wanted to see everything and learn as much as I possibly could because I had a sense that it couldn’t last forever. I spent those two years focused on taking it all in because I thought once I graduated, the time for that would be over.

I was right, but I was also wrong. After I graduated things were much different. I got a job at a nonprofit and was focused on trying to figure out how to be an adult and how to be ok at my job despite being shy and introverted. The city that used to energize me started to make me tired. After work I just wanted to lie in my bed instead of exploring the city. But on that one Saturday I remembered what it was like to feel open to newness. I looked at the city like I had never seen it before. The sun gleaming off the tall buildings, yellow cabs whizzing by, crowds swirling.

After that day I felt different. Some switch in my brain flipped and I felt inspired again. I realized that even though things are different and trying to be an adult isn’t easy, that doesn’t mean I have to give up the feeling of wanting to see and learn everything. Going to all the same places like I’d never been there before was enough to change my outlook. I learned that I just have to make the space for that feeling to come back instead of scheduling every second of every day. Even though I did have to get back to my regular life, I carried that lightness and openness with me into the week and felt more productive and content in everything I did.

Melissa Green

I'm Melissa, an Art Director and everyday athlete. I started blogging to share my personal wellness journey—from coping with depression to using fitness as a vehicle to practice taking up space, facing my fears, overcoming perfectionism, and recognizing my accomplishments.

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