Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. How revolutionary that sounds and how impossible of attainment.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Most women at midlife are pulled apart by a good number of these demands on their time. We fantasize that cloning will be an option someday; meanwhile we play games of efficiency, fitting appropriate tasks into miniscule blocks of time. “I have ten minutes while the pasta water comes to a boil? I can empty the dishwasher, feed the cat, and do yoga stretches at the same time. Wait, my son just texted me, the phone is ringing, and I haven’t checked Facebook yet today.” Periodically we all need time alone, free from all the forces that pull at us. We need to rest and relax but also to step back, take stock, and perhaps plan some changes in our lives. We need, not a vacation, but a retreat.
What’s the difference? A retreat has a goal. It’s a time for healing, for accomplishing something you haven’t been able to devote time to at home, or for deep self analysis. The goal doesn’t have to be terribly serious; someday I’d like to take a week to read all of the works of P.G. Wodehouse. Last time I had a week alone at my family’s cabin, I memorized 40 Playford country dance tunes since no one could hear me practicing them. I also ate all the foods my family won’t eat, like eggplant and asparagus, and I hiked–at my own pace–to an alpine lake five steep miles above the cabin. (There was plenty of huffing, puffing, and swearing, and no one had to listen to that either.)
There’s also great value in doing nothing. Christopher Robin, of course, is the world expert on that.
“What I like doing best is Nothing.”
“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.
“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say ‘Oh, nothing,’ and then you go and do it.”