Relationships

What Do You Do When No One’s Watching?

Spending more time alone inside the four walls of my apartment than I ever have before has been illuminating…

I’ve learned, for example, that I need to invest in better sports bras. Ones that actually support my chest and, by proxy, the solitary behavior that has become my most significant source of exercise (not to mention endorphins): extremely energetic free-style dancing. I bounce and gyrate and jump-squat and shimmy. I rotate my hips and admire their silvery webs of stretch marks. I like to stand in front of a mirror and smile (bring on the stress-fighting neuropeptides!), raising my arms overhead, practicing the art of non-judgment as I observe the way my belly jiggles and folds in on itself.

This soft expanse of skin is also where I rest a baby pillow to cushion my phone when I’m doing crossword puzzles in bed. I started doing them earlier in the spring when I resolved to spend less time on social media. As difficult as it was for my brain to be deprived of its customary algorithmic drip, it was even harder for my hands, which had grown accustomed to reaching for the app during any unoccupied moment throughout the day. I tend to do them right after I get out of the shower at night, lying on top of my covers, while I’m still wrapped in a towel. Sometimes I’ll have a weird snack while I’m puzzling — cereal in a mug with so much milk it looks like it’s drowning, or peanut butter nestled into the cupped palm of a spoon, eaten slowly like a lollipop.

I have a new appreciation for Leonardo da Vinci’s wisdom, scribbled in one of his notebooks: “If you are alone you belong entirely to yourself.” So much of me is shaped by the experience of belonging to the world. The way I speak, joke, write, fill time, chew, breathe — these are things I have historically shared with it and therefore tailored to fit neatly inside its predetermined spaces. Now that I am more acquainted with the small, stir-crazy joys of spending more time alone or inside my own head, I find myself spilling outside the lines.

I’m getting better at distinguishing between alone time and loneliness. I knew the difference intellectually before, but now I can feel it physically, as visceral as the difference between water that is warm and scalding. There have been times when I’ve felt lonely in a room packed with people. Alone time might mean I am the only person in the room, but it’s full in other ways. It’s a designated opportunity to be who I want to be and do what I want to do when no one else is watching, not because it’s weird or embarrassing but because it feels like a form of care.

I also recognize alone time more deeply as the privilege that it is, manifesting in various forms depending on season and circumstance. It looks different for people who shoulder the demands of caring for children or older relatives, people living in especially crowded homes, people who are alone by default instead of choice. I’m grateful for it’s malleability, bending around the shape of all our lives, materializing as anything from walking around naked for five minutes to having conversations with your dog to lip-syncing the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the time it takes for a piece of bread to turn brown in the toaster.

So, tell me, what does it look like for you? What do you do when no one else is watching?

Harling Ross is a writer and brand consultant based in New York. She was most recently the brand director and an editor at Repeller, where she wrote about everything from fashion to relationships to rosacea.

P.S. An ode to alone time, and how would you describe yourself in five words?

(Photo by Melissa Ross/Stocksy.)

  1. Adriane says...

    I am 29, I teach preschool, I’m extremely close with my family and have wonderful friendships–and I love being alone. I’m happily single and love living with just my dog in my small apartment. I love that this post is found in the relationship section–a healthy relationship with yourself is so important and often overlooked.

  2. Sienna says...

    Take my earphones off, and turn the volume up. In my house we always wear earphones unless everyone is participating in the listening or watching activity, it’s just always been that way. It feels very loud and a bit like a guilty pleasure to be untethered.

  3. Kate says...

    I work from home, have an extroverted husband, two preschoolers, four dogs and one extremely dog-like cat. I am never alone. But on the rare occasion that I am – it’s absolute silence, a beautiful little salad with herbs from my garden, my Kindle and possibly one or two pets (the ones who don’t snore). The rest are chased to their beds in the kitchen. Heaven.

  4. Anna says...

    I’ve been heartbroken lately and I find myself watching Youtube videos of celebrity interviews about their own heartbreak and break-up stories. I don’t know why it’s such a relief.

    • Lori says...

      I can totally understand that! Which interviews did you particularly appreciate? Links?

  5. Rosalie Barlow says...

    When I’m all alone I like to clean my house. Currently I have two teenagers, my 23 year old godchild, and my husband at home. My husband’s boss has also been staying in our camper/trailer for a few weeks because it’s closer to their job site. I have always had a hard time cleaning with people in the house. It just feels weird. I’ll do it but I like to save my big, heavy duty cleaning for when I get a few hours to myself. Like last Friday, I moved furniture, dusted, washed all the floors, cleaned the fridge, did laundry, and tidied my room. I can get a mountain of stuff done in a matter of hours when I’m by myself.

    • I do the same thing!

  6. Mireya says...

    There is always something to do. It is good to refect and have down time. Life can be so busy running around. I work on my art and read.

  7. Julie says...

    I am definitely an introvert, and I need alone time to recharge. I am a nurse in a busy doctors office, so I see so many people in a day, have to make tons on small talk etc.
    I actually have been eating my lunch in my car since covid started, using it as an excuse to social distance (we have a tiny lunch room at work). I sit there with my salad, listening to a podcast for an hour, enjoying being away for that small amount of time.
    When I’m home alone, which is rare with a husband who works from home, and a 7 year old son, I usually will make myself a recipe that I’ve seen somewhere that I know my son wouldn’t eat. Even if it’s super elaborate and I have to make a special trip to the grocery store, for me the process of making/planning it is half the joy of it. Such a luxury.

  8. Lulu says...

    As a mama to three kids in primary school, there is not a great deal of ‘alone time’ that is not taken up by family however, when I get the chance*, and I remember that I am by myself, I pretend that I am in a movie. So whatever I am doing, I make sure that my posture is perfect (my eyebrows too) and I just go about what I am doing!

    * By the phrase “when I get the chance”, I mean that after I have finished charging through the day’s mental load and list of chores and finally have some time to do something JUST for me!

    • Caroline says...

      Love this, I feel the same way about alone time as you.

  9. RMB says...

    I’m REALLY surprised that no one has said this yet, but when I’m alone I love to smoke a joint, eat popcorn, take a bath, and maybe (or maybe not) listen to a Dipsea erotic recording & masturbate. Dipsea is an app made by women that has all sorts of awesome erotic stories – I love tuning in when I’m alone!

  10. Margaret says...

    These comments brought me back! When I was in my early twenties decades ago I lived in a group house, which I loved it, but I could never get a minute to myself. I realized the only way I could be alone was to wake up before everyone else, so that is what I started to do. I’d make coffee, grab the paper paper (this was pre-online news!), open up the window so I could hear the stereo while sitting on the back deck, and watch the day begin. I can still see that yard sloping down to a ravine with trees and Kudzu like it was yesterday, hear the bird calls, remember what it was like to sit there thinking about how my adult life was just beginning to unfold. I still love the mornings, which I still have to myself. Coffee, reading, reflecting.

  11. Yvonne says...

    Anon, this message is for you. I am going through the same thing as you. I am older than you and it would be nice to know how women who have been in long relationships and are in their fifties or sixties are coping with living and being alone after separation or divorce. I wonder if there is a way that we could get in touch. I am sending you hugs, strength and hope. Maybe COJ could help us get in touch if you so desire. Take care and never give up.

    • Anon says...

      CoJ……can you connect people??????
      I’m up for this!!!?

      Yvonne, I’m going to be 57 in December, so not such an age difference. ❤
      He would not “allow” me to have children, so I don’t even have kids.
      If CoJ can do it, I’d like to connect with you. I don’t know anyone else going through this and am, still, not allowed to leave the property without permission ir supposed good reason with prior notification.
      Wishing….wishing….wishing…..

  12. Kelli says...

    Ice cream for breakfast on the weekend while watching “Outlander”!!

  13. Christine says...

    For the past seven years my husband has worked and lived in another town and only been home on the weekends. I both loved it and abhorred it. Three weeks ago he retired and is home again. It is lovely but I am mourning by alone life. For seven years I have:
    Roasted chicken thighs and eaten them every night for dinner if I wanted to with a garlicky cabbage slaw or baked sweet potato while watching PBSNewshour or HGTV depending on my mood. On the white sofa I never let anyone eat on.
    Made toast and stayed up late reading deep into the night, just one more chapter
    Took our dear dog on car errands and did not really care that she left white husky fur all over the back seat
    Went to Starbucks on Sunday night to write and have a latte or maybe two
    Talked to my kid sister everyday without an audience because we have to dissect EVERYTHING and this can take a few hours
    Played Chet Baker and Dave Brubeck very loudly downstairs while soaking in bathtub upstairs
    Watched multiple episodes of k-dramas while eating Brie and pears
    Did laundry when I was wearing my last clean bra

    • Harling says...

      oh man this is SUCH a good alone time bucket list

  14. Em says...

    I never had a queen bed all to myself until this year. Now that I’m alone, it feels so satisfying to fall asleep with my book, knitting, computer, crosswords, tchotchkes… on the other side of the bed. There’s something comforting about dozing off and being cozied up to all my little treasures.

    • Harling says...

      this is so true — I used to keep so many “pals” on my bed with me when I lived alone (sweatshirts, electronics, books, warm socks…)

  15. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I live alone, but I check in with myself.
    Laying in bed, good
    Listening to “Just William” read by Martin Jarvis on Internet Archive, good
    Electric blanket on, good
    Eating a magnum, good
    Teasing out the curls in my hair, good

    I talk to people on-line and on the phone during office hours. There is always someone to talk to, but I really enjoy turning off my work laptop and phone, putting my files away and being alone,

  16. liz says...

    When I lived alone, on cold winter weeknights I’d be in bed (didn’t have a couch!) and listen to a podcast (usually my favorite murder) (or watch tv) while knitting and snuggling with the dog. highly recommend!

    • Rachael says...

      Yes to MFM!!!

    • Jamie says...

      Muderino’s! We’re everywhere! SSDGM! And your knitting and dog snuggling sounds wonderful.

    • Rebecca says...

      Yes MFM as well! Also snuggling in bed on a cold night sounds lovely. (Especially with a dog)

  17. Helen says...

    When I’m alone, I like to take a long shower then and then sit on my couch in my towel and watch all the people and dogs out my window. My cat thinks the towel is a blanket just for her, so she will cuddle up on me as long as I stay on the couch. I love watching the world go by from the comfort of my own couch.

  18. Rebecca says...

    YES to weird snacks! I’m always eating some kind of strange cheese with bread and a glass of wine and watching whatever shitty historical fiction drama I can find. While knitting, of course.

    • Harling says...

      mmmmmm strange cheese

  19. Lauren Hildreth says...

    Doesn’t Harling live with her fiancée? Unless they broke up, I feel like she should mention her housemate. This post feels like a slap in the face to someone who lives alone and has had to wrestle with deep feelings of isolation and skin-hunger during quarantine. Being “alone” is a vastly different experience when you have another person in the house with you, a person who will hug you and chat with you over coffee and be there when you don’t want to be alone anymore. Please mention that.

    • Katy says...

      It sounds like you are struggling. Perhaps therapy would help.

    • Danielle says...

      I thought the same thing as I read this. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a slap in the face but I do think saying, “when I’m alone, because my partner is on the other side of the apt” or “when I’m alone, because my partner is temporarily out of the house” is very different from truly living alone during this pandemic. I believe all of the writers currently on COJ have partners but I would be interested to see the perspective of being single in this moment.

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      Well, I was single and living alone before the pandemic, I am single and living alone during the pandemic, and I’ll probably still be single and living alone after the pandemic from the look of things. I approach my situation with humour, but I recognise that it’s hard for many people to do so. Love and light to everyone who is struggling right now.

  20. Anon says...

    I. Can’t. Wait. To. Be. On. My. Own!
    Separating has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve had many huge challenges). We’re cohabiting and it’s so hard.
    He’s a Covert Narcissist who uses Coercive Control to destroy me.
    It will come to pass. I can’t wait!
    It’s probably worse than it’s been for a while, because he’s angry. So angry that I’ve chosen to end it and he cannot control that choice.
    It drives him mad that he doesn’t get to force me to stay.
    I’m still towing the line, for my safety and the dog’s safety.
    But, it will end. He’s bought another house.
    Reading this post has been delicious and I’ve copied comments to remind me of ways to self care once I’m free from the prison of him.
    Simpky being able to make a phone call or sending/receiving an email that he can’t surveil will be utter bliss!
    Even though there will be no one but my dog around, imgoing to close doors. Because I haven’t been allowed to have a closed door besides the bathroom and outside doors, for years.
    Time is ticking……tick….tick….tick….

    Thank you Harljng! I’m inspired! ?

    • Anon says...

      Sorry, Harling

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      Sending you strength and a big warm hug. I’m glad you’ll soon be free of him.

    • liz says...

      proud of you! hug

    • Rachael says...

      Keeping you in my thoughts Anon xo hope this all comes to pass for you, soon!

  21. Lisa says...

    I didn’t have much time on my own for a while, what with my husband working from home and a 2 and a 4 year old. My husband used to travel relatively frequently for work, so in the evenings I would watch the stupidest, soppiest rom com I could find (he doesn’t like them), have a glass of wine or chocolate, have a bath. Recently I’ve been able to go and some by myself – we have a pool in our building, so I go and swim listening to music (I have waterproof blue tooth headphones) and sometimes just float on a lilo and listen to music. Bliss!

  22. Anna says...

    I hate to be alone, too. Always have and wonder If I always will hate it?
    I am an only child, so it should be okay for me. Or have I just spend enough time on my own already?
    Really wondering what is different about us!

  23. H says...

    Love all of these comments! They all feel very familiar. :)

    When my husband is out and I’m alone in the house:

    – Sing very weird songs to my dog
    – Eat ice cream in the morning
    – Unabashed bodily functions like nose-picking and, ahem, passing gas
    – Watch YouTube compilations of dogs and babies together

    I sometimes do more elevated things when I’m alone, too, but just trying to keep it real…

  24. Nigerian Girl says...

    What do I do when no one’s watching, eh? Hmm. Ha. Let’s just leave it there.

    • Nyah says...

      lol yesssss same!

    • Harling says...

      hahaha :) :) :)

  25. Beth says...

    A couple of weeks ago I drove up to Chicago (five hours from my home) to help my graduated-from-college-in-June son move from a studio to a new apt in a different neighborhood. My husband and older son had work obligations and couldn’t help and I cancelled the movers I had originally hired as he truly had so little. I rented a van and we did this in a day. The second day I was there he had to work in the evening. I had a fantastic time that evening on my own. I walked around his new neighborhood, found a little bodega a couple of blocks away where he could pick up a couple of essentials (he’s on a bike all the time so grocery shopping is difficult) and bought a special beer just for me, discovered a great coffee shop, picked up a vegan burger and fries to bring back to his place, oh and a piece of cake. Then, I sat in his kitchen as the sun started to set, eating my burger in the darkening room, listening to the neighbors coming home from work, outside on their patios, on either side of his building. His WiFi was not set up yet and I savored the quiet, watching the lovely light change in each of the rooms while I measured his windows for curtains. It felt like I had a vacation night to myself in a lovely little airbnb—clean and neat with some new and vintage pieces my son had been collecting with anticipation of having room for more than a bed. The nicest thing though was anticipating him living in this space, that he had chosen on his own.

    • Agus says...

      Beth this was a lovely thing to read, Very soothing, the nicest feelings and you describes everything beautifully… :) Thank you for sharing have a nice weekend!

    • Meghan says...

      Oh Beth, thank you. That was gorgeous. I was sitting here feeling sentimental about my sons growing up – they’re only in elementary school, but just ran off with their freshly combed hair and unbuttoned jackets flapping in the wind like tiny little versions of the men they’re going to grow into. Your sweet moment gives me such a hopeful thing to look forward to that I hadn’t considered, when I look to the future. Your son sounds like a thoughtful man, I hope he’s enjoying that new apartment and I’m sure he appreciates having you fill it with your love to start his new adventure!

    • Helen says...

      I love love this. I live in Chicago and this warms my heart.

    • Amy says...

      I came back again today to this post just to read this comment. Thank you for sharing!

    • H says...

      This is so lovely. I don’t have any children yet, but sometimes I write journal entries describing scenes I want for my future. This is totally one of those scenes; thanks for sharing.

  26. Kiely says...

    God how I did NOT appreciate being alone enough when I had the opportunity pre-March. How I miss it.

  27. Anne says...

    When my husband is out, I picked the saddest (and usually cheesiest) movie I can find and have a GOOD CRY and feel so good afterwards. Its like therapy. I could do the same with him there, but something about being alone makes me feel free to ugly cry to Moulin Rouge or anything from Nicolas Sparks for the 20th time without abandon. Add a glass of red wine (or currently: pregnancy hormones) and the tears flow even more freely, and the its my favorite way to escape and let off some pressure.

    • Mary O says...

      I do this same thing! Typically I will order takeout (dumplings and lo mein), find a yummy ice cream pint (Gimme s’more from Ben and Jerry’s has been my recent fave), and watch the best crying movies. I watched The Vow a few weeks ago and it still makes me cry!

  28. Rose says...

    Oh my gosh, I love the photo of the dog. My dog Koda’s favorite food is pizza and every time we have it, he will plot a way to get it. It starts with his little nose peeking over the table (like the photo) and ends with half of a pizza disappearing the second our backs are turned :)

  29. Kristie says...

    In the extremely rare event of a minute alone, I eat chocolate ice cream straight from the tub and read the comments on COJ.

  30. Nina says...

    Am I the only degenerate that just watches TV? volume on blast. I guess since I don’t watch when I’m around husband/kids, the only chance I have is when I’m alone.

  31. Bridget says...

    My go to when I’m alone is a dinner of focaccia bread with olive oil and vinegar, lots of red wine, and rom-coms.

    • Sunny says...

      Wow, so validating and specific to have someone have the EXACT same guilty pleasures!

  32. sasha says...

    i hate hate hate being alone. going to the grocery store solo is now one of my most dreaded activities (thanks covid, i miss my toddler sidekicks! and random convos with strangers seems to be off the table these days). but i do looooove waking up before my 3 littles and husband and doing a crossword (secretly printed out, how not very green of me!) then i ball it up and throw it away when i finish. and i have a cup of coffee with 2 mini trader joe’s almond biscotti that i have secretly hidden for just myself. so maybe i like being alone and my 2 totally lame secrets, knowing i’m not *actually* alone, ya know?

  33. Jenny says...

    When things have gotten a bit overwhelming lately I resort to cooking, which proves to be a timeless therapy.

    My new favorite hobby in that regard is to click on the SURPRISE! button in the top right corner of the Smitten Kitchen website, until I discover the next thing I want to cook. This is endlessly soothing.

    • Maggie says...

      I do this!! I don’t know why but those softly lit photos calm me down every time. It’s also how I found my way to shakshuka for dinner this week.

    • Rhea Q. says...

      I do this with Smitten Kitchen too. I’m so glad to hear others do it. I felt like such a nerd when I told my husband about it.

  34. Dana says...

    Without my husband and child around, I:
    -pour a splash of bourbon
    -make pasta with butter and parmesan
    -do a face mask that looks like I’m wearing someone else’s skin
    -eat a ton of gummy bears
    -watch a shitty old rom-com that I’ve seen a million times
    -don my oldest, grossest oversized sleep shirt from high school
    -pop in my retainer
    …and head to bed.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Love these!

  35. Sarah says...

    This is a bit off topic, but please be careful with peanut butter “lollipops “. That sounds like a totally ridiculous statement on its own… but I once went to a funeral for a man, a good friend of my husband’s, who was alone watching a movie, eating peanut butter on a spoon. He choked and died. I know, so random. But I couldn’t get any reading done after that part, and that open casket was REAL. Anyway… snack safely, friends.

    • Genevieve Martin says...

      how was his choking related to the fact he was eating it off a spoon?

  36. Erica says...

    Every now and then, I put on my wedding dress.

    Even though we’ve been married for six years – and the state of the world looks VERY different from years past – I can still feel the magic of our wedding day every time I put my dress on, however snug. Somehow, it instantly transports me to the cliffs of Big Sur where we joined in union, totally, unabashedly, madly in love. It feels like the biggest hug, especially when I give it a twirl for good measure :)

    • Lara says...

      Awwwwwww!!

    • Amy says...

      This is really sweet, Erica. Big Sur is one of my favorite places in life, and I’ve always dreamed of getting eloped there. What a beautiful experience that you have to revisit!

  37. EW says...

    Pre-pandemic I traveled far too often for work. Mostly just for day trips (flight out at 6am, flight back at 6pm) but sometimes for overnights, too. I miss hotel rooms just for me. OMG, A HOTEL ROOM JUST FOR ME. I miss ordering room service, watching original Law & Order on cable, setting up my desk area just so, using every towel in the bathroom, figuring out my running route for the next morning, NOT making the bed. As long as I wasn’t too close to the ice machine, it was all good. Now, my husband and kids are home 24-7 and I’m *thisclose* to losing my mind all the time.

    • Liz says...

      I am you. I never really thought I would miss work travel, but oh, oh, I do.

    • Daphne says...

      Oh my, “a hotel room just for me” sounds like heaven now…. who knew! Haha

    • MGM says...

      I didn’t realise I missed this. Until now…

  38. Jenni says...

    Alone time is my favorite time, and silence is my favorite sound. When my boyfriend is out golfing, my favorite thing to do is have a looong bath. I love filling the tub with hot water, lighting some candles, and whipping out a Korean face mask. I prepare both savory and sweet treats usually a ramekin of berries, chocolate, and a cookie; as well as a ramekin of crunchy, salty snacks. Next to me is an ice cold drink. Sometimes I skip the snack and have a bowl of pasta in the tub. On the toilet is my laptop where I rewatch a movie I’ve seen when I was younger (recently Sleepless in Seattle) to see how it has aged, and if I still have the same views on it now that I’m older and a different person. (SIS did not hold up. Unpopular opinion, but I did not like Annie this time around. Didn’t really realize she was pursuing Sam while she was still in a relationship.) Then I lie on my bed in a towel and enjoy the silence, except for when have to fart. And I can be as loud as I fucking want.

    • Meg O says...

      Love this.

    • Rose says...

      This is gold.

    • Sarah says...

      Epic self care here

    • Isabelle says...

      Tub pasta!!!!! <3

  39. Sadie says...

    Am I the only one that hates being alone?

    • Sharon says...

      Wow…I am retired…my husband is retired. Since the pandemic, especially, I am sorely in need of alone time! The closest I can get is staying downstairs to watch TV or read while he goes upstairs to watch sports. Heaven!

    • Laura says...

      Not me, but I have a friend who doesn’t need any alone time. I don’t think she hates being alone, but she’s perfectly fine being around her family and friends 24-7. I can’t relate, but she’s very happy without it.

    • Sarz says...

      Sadie, I feel this! I appreciate *very small pockets* of Alone Time. Maybe a few hours a week? I work the sort of job in which you’re never, ever alone, so I’d have reason to feel the opposite! Ultimately, I think it’s good to value people’s companionship. We have that down pat, don’t we? ;-)

  40. Megan says...

    To be alone, I take a bath almost EVERY NIGHT. I use epsom salts if I have them and grab a magazine (or book if there’s one I currently can’t put down–like this week it was Station Eleven–thank you to this community for recommending it!) or sometimes prop up the iPad and watch Netflix and it is BLISS.

  41. D says...

    I watch ASMR videos on youtube. For some reason I keep this secret from my husband

    • Kristin says...

      ME TOO! Hahaha. You are not alone.

      WhispersRed ASMR, Gentle Whispering ASMR, Tingting ASMR, and ASMRSleepyHead are some of my favs. How about you?

    • Sarah says...

      I think it is healthy to have little secrets from your partner. Watching ASMR videos seems like the perfect level of little secret that you can keep just for you and not feel guilty about.

  42. lynn says...

    I eat a scoop of jam straight from the jar. It’s the only sweet thing in our house these days and the world is a disaster so…let there be strawberry jam on a spoon between zooms.

  43. Reba says...

    I’m single and took in 2 foster kids about halfway through the pandemic–both too young to really be left alone for more than an hour, and one too young to do much of anything alone. With schools physically closed and everyone working from home, we have been together virtually 24-7 for 4 months. This weekend, my parents are taking them for a solid six hours. I am already scrambling to get all my work stuff done so I can do a blissful *nothing* for those hours. Or maybe I’ll scroll through these comments and steal some ideas: I haven’t had substantive alone time in so long, I don’t even know how to spend it!

    • Jenny says...

      I wish I could safely offer to babysit for you right this second, Reba! Thanks for the reminder to reach out to the folks in my life who need a break because they are doing work that lifts us all up.

    • nadine says...

      I second Jenny and I wish I could offer to babysit too Reba. Enjoy your blissful nothing time off, it’s so well deserved <3

    • Reba, I have always thought I would become a foster parent at some point and just want to tell you how awesome what your doing is. Would love to hear about your experiences (with the understanding that your kids’ privacy comes first.)

      Joanna if you’re reading I think this would be a great parenting post, and one I don’t think has been covered on the blog yet.

    • Roxana says...

      Reba, may God bless you richly for opening your home to those two precious children! Thank you for selflessly giving of yourself!

      Enjoy your few hours of *nothing* ;).

      I second Georgia’s comment! To those interested in serving children in foster care, but who are unable to open their home, please look into becoming a CASA volunteer!

    • Rusty says...

      I’ve been thinking a LOT about fostering too…chronic shortage of foster care here in Western Australia,
      Joanna, I’m keen to hear of SINGLE WOMEN’S experiences of fostering. Is this a possibility????
      Ooooh, I hope so! ?

    • I agree with Georgia! We’ve adopted out of the foster care system and been foster parents. I’d love to see this type of parenting and this type of adoption discussed on the blog! It’s so complex and profound. And the need for good foster parents is so big!

    • Reba says...

      Replying to my own comment because I took some of my “nothing” time to check this thread yesterday. I didn’t quite succeed in doing nothing–I did some laundry, raked leaves, took care of the usual Saturday chores like grocery shopping, birthday present buying, and returning library books. But doing these things without my two little shadows (and their masks, and their increasingly persuasive arguments about buying sugary cereal, etc.) took so much less time than usual that I took a walk, bought myself lunch (which did not involve me cooking OR chicken nuggets), and read a chapter of one of those library books. Other things about this fostering experience have been harder, but I expected them. The lack of alone time has been the most surprising hard thing. Thanks for your kind wishes everyone. Joanna and team, I would read with great interest any features here on fostering….

  44. Emily R says...

    Everything! I live by myself and have for years so I’m always alone.

    • Anon says...

      I’m going to be living by myself soon after 33 years….childless and almost 57!!!
      I’m really interested in how oyher women transition i to singledom after very long term relationships.

  45. Barbara says...

    Lovely essay, timelessly true.

    Universally useful to think about and amusing to compare stories.

    Harling I’ve long admired your work and so happy to see your writing here!

    Mine has to do with ballet dance moves (pointed toes! graceful arms!) and singing operatic songs to my sweet dog Tucker.

  46. Liz says...

    Honestly?

    I run a bath and masturbate.

    • Margaret Forsey says...

      Awesome! Yay!

    • soph says...

      Same!

    • J says...

      This is my favorite comment!

    • Sarz says...

      *claps* Thank you for this. XD

  47. CT says...

    One of my great lessons from pandemic living (in the UK, 2 kids, home schooling, my husband and I WFH with full time jobs that went up at least three gears during the spring) is to just try doing those things anyway. I sneak off to my bedroom and read, I do exercises in the living room, I slob (only a little, but #goals), I watch awful vacuous youtubers. And I try to do it in view (although not exactly full view!). Even before lockdown I had been feeling very observed all the time. And I feel pretty vulnerable doing it, so this is a practice for me rather than something I’ve mastered. I asked myself when i started to feel this way, but the answer is that I grew up in a big and very critical family so I always have felt observed.

    • CT says...

      P.S. having said that, when I have a night alone I always cook a massive steak with béarnaise sauce and chips and have a glass of red wine!

  48. Sarah says...

    When I have a night alone, I watch a dumb romcom, paint my toes, do facemask, eat Spaghettios, and stay up late reading some fluff on my kindle. I do all of that with my husband around too, except for the Spaghettios, for some reason :)

    • Hilary says...

      I do all those things around my husband too, except for my secret snack: Pringles. There is something weirdly private to me about being up to my elbows in greasy chip container but THEY’RE SO GOOD. Whenever I have the chance to drive a long distance alone (almost never, sob) I will get a sneaky can of Pringles for the cupholder and never, ever regret it!

  49. Cara says...

    Now that we’re all WFH full time, a lot of people at my company started complaining about burnout. The company’s response was to institute half-day Fridays through the end of the year (but we still get paid for the full day)! I can’t believe what a difference it’s made in my morale and productivity just knowing that I have those 4 blessed extra hours at the end of the week with no predetermined programming and no Zoom calls. And the best part is that no one else is home in my house during that time. Sometimes I close my laptop and just go to my bed and take a nap. Other times I bake pumpkin things. Last Friday I pruned my entire closet and spent two hours evaluating travel cribs (I’m pregnant!). Other than our baby, half-day Fridays have been the best thing about 2020 by far. I will sing their praises until the end of time.

    • Erica B says...

      Putting in a rec for the Guava Lotus for the best. travel. crib. ever. SO easy to put together, lightweight and literally folds into a backpack. worth every damn penny. Congratulations!!

    • Inez says...

      Second the Guava lotus rec!

    • Julie says...

      Ditto to the rec for the Guava by Lotus. We ended up living with my parents for 4 months this year due to the pandemic and my 1 year old slept happily in it the whole time. We also spent three months traveling around Italy a few years ago and easily carried it everywhere with us. My boobs did get hung up on it when I had to fold in half to gingerly lay down a tiny baby that had just fallen asleep, but that seems like a flexibility/stature problem for me. :)
      Congrats on the baby and your blissful 4 hour Fridays.

    • Cara says...

      Ah, this makes me so happy to read these recommendations because the Guava is actually the one we decided to order!

  50. Katey says...

    I love alone time. I’ve made it a priority in my day. I live with my husband, my five year old, and two year old. Every afternoon we have quiet time/nap time. It can be up to three hours long! Rarely, but it has happened. Everyone gets time alone in some section of the house. Even if the kids aren’t tired they get time to be alone. I tell my oldest, “you get time to think your own thoughts and feel your own feelings. It is important.”

    QTNT makes every day better.

  51. Katie S. says...

    Duolingo! I’m trying to learn Spanish but it’s kind of embarrassing to pronounce words for the first time out loud, so I wait until no one’s around :) I also play an insane amount of Wordscapes on my phone. If you want to absolutely wreck your family and friends at Banagrams, I highly recommend this app for practice.

    • Nataša says...

      Ha! Duolingo. I started just like you, but life happened and now I am whispering silly Spanish sentences while laying in bed, close to midnight, next to my sleeping husband.

    • Lara says...

      Hahaha, I’ve been learning French off and on via Duolingo for a while now. Love this pandemic habit!

  52. Sonja says...

    We once drove with our two kids to South American in a pickup truck with a tiny camper in the back. It was an amazing 8 month trip but there were days when I wanted nothing more than to close my bedroom door, grab a mug of tea, and lose myself in a good book. Unfortunately you can’t do that in the space that is literally smaller than a parking spot since we had no rooms with doors, a way to brew tea that didn’t involve a camp stove or storage space for paper books. Instead I’d snuggle down into my big mummy sleeping bag, prop my kindle against the wall, and pretend my husband and kids weren’t literally 3 feet away. :)

    I find that there are emotional similarities between that trip and our current Covid quarantine, namely that it’s tough to be a firmly-committed introvert immersed 24/7 within a loving, chaotic family. My impulses are still the same as well: a good book (just read The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes!) and the ability to ignore the demands of the real world for a few hours helps enormously with my mental equilibrium.

    These are tough times – much love to everyone out there struggling to keep it together.

  53. Shayla says...

    I am an anatomy professor, wife, and mother of 3 young boys. I am also an introvert who actually craves along time like others crave ‘a night out’ with friends, a date night, or vacation. I crave quiet. Fortunately, I spend a lot of my day in the lab and I’m the only warm body there. : ) I am grateful for flexibility in my day so I can choose to come in a bit late some mornings when I just need a couple hours post-daycare/school drop off for a shower, putting myself together, and a fresh, healthy lunch packed. Other days I leave by 3pm and rather than pick up the kids on my way home, I go straight there and get a solid workout done first, without guilt. Despite my two older children (4 & 7) no longer napping, we have quiet time every day when home together. I grant myself permission to pour a hot tea or coffee, a little dark chocolate, and a good book in my bed while my youngest naps & older two play quietly or read themselves. I’m teaching my children the treasure of silence, too. My oldest and I (pre-pandemic) would spend an hour every weekend at our local library, sitting next to each other on the floor reading, silently but together. I worry about the ‘noise’ these days, with constant distractions everywhere. Being alone & silent is my time for mindful growth, and I cherish every second of it!

    • Sophie says...

      I love the sound of your parenting style so much – I would have absolutely treasured those quiet times as the only introvert among a family of 6. Sounds like your kids are very lucky, and you’ve done a great job of teaching them the value of quiet time early on. I will try and remember this for when I have my own one day!

    • Shannon says...

      Amen!

    • Hilary says...

      Shayla, those are some parenting *goals* right there! I, too, relish a cup of tea, a snack (perhaps one I don’t have to share?), and a good book. We spent the first few months of quarantine listening to spotify 24/7, but we literally got tired of every playlist and stopped the music We can still be loud- we have a toddler after all- but I do marvel at the quiet of us reading while she plays with her dolls or blocks or play kitchen. She seems like a little introvert, so I would love to adopt the library visits and reading side by side!

    • Vero says...

      I love this <3

    • Liz says...

      We instituted “reading time” when my daughter was 2. Weekend, with coffee, grownups read and she plays quietly. It started with 5 minutes and tears. Now she is almost 5 and sometimes I miss her when “reading”/quiet play time stretches on and on, (That’s not true. I just read, and am happy.) During pandemic, reading time is a ritual I could not have foregone. This is what I urge for all introvert parents: start the reading and nap time traditions young, and be fierce about them.

  54. J says...

    Last year, I began implementing a “self-care day” one day a semester (I work in higher ed) where I take a random weekday off work and do whatever the heck I want, all by myself. I enacted this ritual after realizing that as a therapist and an extrovert, I talk and interact with people all.day.long. I do love it but I found that I was also craving solo time. It was incredibly rejuvenating and gave me something to look forward to for weeks. I also recognize my ability to do that is a privilege and appreciate the author’s acknowledgement of how the experience of being alone by choice is a privilege.

  55. Harling — what’s your go-to app for crosswords? That sounds like a better way to spend my screen time.

    My alone moments are few and far between with a toddler at home, but I love scrolling through photo galleries (I’m a photographer) and discovering the soulfulness in the way others capture humanity.

    • b says...

      Not Harling, but NY Times!

    • Gabi says...

      The Atlantic!

    • soph says...

      the NY Times crossword app is great! The app’s Spelling Bee game is also super fun — I quit social media recently and it’s been a great way to curb the impulse to check social. ;)

    • Harling says...

      I also use the NYT app! It’s great.

  56. Anna says...

    What a timely article for me. My husband and I just drove across Canada (6 days) to be with his sister who just was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Being within 1 meter of him for 6 days went surprisingly well, but last night I requested alone time. We are staying in a huge empty house, and I selected a room 3 stories above him, sat in the dark and drank a beer. The space allowed me to finally relax; even my thoughts felt more free.

    • Lynn says...

      Sitting in the dark alone drinking beer sounds delightful right now.

  57. For the first part of lockdown I was completely alone. My husband was trapped in the UK so it was just me and the cats. It felt so strange to be alone. Now we’re back together (which is, of course, amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything), I find myself missing that time alone. So now my alone time is my running. Three or four times a week I make it outside with my podcast and my city. It’s both bliss to be there, and then bliss to come back and have us a family again.

  58. Bee says...

    I’m an introvert, and I live in an nyc apartment with my husband and toddler. Before covid, my husband and I would take turns going out with friends. Now, we have a scheduled “alone night” once a week. I get the living room, he gets the bedroom. We both get to do whatever we want. I usually make my favorite pasta (Amatriciana with cream) or order takeout, take a bath, watch trash on tv, light a candle, etc. I look forward to it so much and plan my night all week.

    • Olivia Jane says...

      That is *genius.* I used to fantasize about living in neighboring apartments with my partner. Then 7 months into our courtship we moved to a studio apartment 7,000 miles away. He got so good at lovingly ignoring me when I needed it. Such a gift.

    • Rachel says...

      Do you follow a favorite recipe for the Amatriciana? Please share!

    • Rachel says...

      Thank you, Bee! Will be making this tonight for my solo evening (along with some trash TV for good measure) xx

  59. Kay says...

    Ha, what a timely post! I actually discussed this with a friend recently, what they call “single secret behaviour” on sex and the city!
    Mine: cooking with wayyy too much garlic, watching French TV (usually really bad soaps) (my boyfriend is English and doesn’t speak French), doing long and elaborate skin care routines (double masking!)

    • becky says...

      Haha eating a stack of peanut butter saltines while reading fashion magazines in the kitchen ? first thing I thought of when I read the title.

    • Mary O says...

      This is exactly what I thought about too!!

  60. Paige says...

    HARLING! HARLING! HARLING!

    • Harling says...

      HELLO!

  61. Cece says...

    One of the strange ironies of this Covid world is that people either seem to have SO much alone time they have to learn to cope with… or absolutely none at all.

    I’m in the UK. My husband has been working from home since March, switching spots at what was once my desk with me. My kids are, theoretically, in school and daycare but since the beginning of September we’ve had maybe 10 days where both children were able to go in and weren’t required to isolate at home thanks to positive cases. The knock on effect is obviously frantic extra work once they’re asleep at night. I would give so much for half a day completely to myself. To read a book, or watch something on TV nobody else likes. Do a crossword. Bake something and then deep clean the kitchen. But I also think I’d find it very difficult to be living alone in these strange times, so I’m not suggesting other people have it any easier!

    • Angela says...

      Oh good point about the extremes!

    • Isabelle says...

      You’re totally right – both are hard! I live alone and there are certain things that make it difficult during a pandemic, but I don’t think I’d trade places if I had the chance. I’m personally a lot better at coping with loneliness than I am at coping with other people in my personal space! ha

  62. Daniela says...

    I talk to myself. I feel like I process things so much better when I say my thoughts out loud. When my thoughts are just in my head, they are all over the place, but when I say them out loud, I stay on track.

    Just beware of accidentally calling someone on accident (hi, husband!) and having them hear you talking to yourself and the cats when home alone.

    • Sarah says...

      Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize how much I speak out loud when I’m working (to absolutely no one) until my husband began closing doors in our apartment to keep my noises contained. lol!

  63. Emily L says...

    I love having SILENCE when I’m alone! My husband prefers to have TV/music/podcast on and sometimes I’m just like – can we NOT have any sound??

    • Sara says...

      My life!

      My husband always wants music or tv — and a few times music AND tv — on. It drives me bonkers.

      I have wondered if part of it is that I grew as an only child and he grew up as the youngest of three kids. Quiet is default to me, but feels like a void to him.

    • Can soooo relate! “Can’t there be silence please!!” When there is a Power Cut it is SUCH bliss, not hearing any electrical equiment/appliances buzzing. Now THAT is silence, specially during full-on Covid Lockdown with no traffic or people on the streets. Now everyone is complaining about endless days of feeling prisoned in, I just relish in my Covid Cocooning!

    • Justine says...

      Me too!!!!!!

    • EB says...

      Every time we leave my in-law’s house, where it’s nonstop gossip and small talk and noise from SIL’s grandkids or TVs or something, we get in the car and my husband wants to immediately put a podcast on for the hour drive home. And I’m like, BUT FIRST, SILENCE. We get about 20 minutes down the road and then I’m ready for noise.

    • Anne says...

      Yes, yes, yes! I am a teacher and after working I just want silence. Well honestly also otherwise, I adore silence and my partner is the opposite – constant noise, music, tv or podcasts or sometimes even two at once. We have a system that has worked pretty well for us now… I just hand him is earphones when I can’t take it anymore. It’s led to him often walking around with one or two earphones always in his ears, but I get my quiet.

    • Liz says...

      Yes. I need silence often. I propose, and my loving partner agrees, that headphones aren’t the answer. If we both want to hear it, great. (Rare.) Otherwise, that’s what headphones are for!

      If I had a partner who wouldn’t respect my need for quiet time or alone time, I don’t think the relationship would work.

    • Liz says...

      *are the answer

  64. Anne says...

    Harling, it’s wonderful to see your writing here. It is somehow even more beautiful than on MR. There is an expansive freedom to it.

    • Sarah K says...

      I’d love to say I do something creative or meditate when I’m alone but it is mainly eating things dipped in peanut butter while watching reruns of Marie Kondo and wilfully ignoring my messy living room.

  65. Audra says...

    I also want to invest in better sports bras! If there’s anything quarantine has opened my eyes to, it’s that I am so over regular bras…

    • Harling says...

      I haven’t worn an underwire in I-don’t-even-know-how-long haha

    • Yael says...

      Oooh I would LOVE if CoJ did a sports bra test

    • naomi says...

      Same! I have moved to what I am calling the “lounge bra” category. The Wireless Bralette from Soma is my favorite. It started as a ‘house bra’ which turned into ‘oh i’m just running to the deli bra’ to ‘this is just my bra now’ :) Since March, I have acquired about 6 of them, haha (they tend to have great sales!!)

    • margaret says...

      Friends, I am happy to report that I have only warn a bra maybe 20 times since Covid hit. Something about wearing a mask makes me feel comfortable going kind of feral. ( :

  66. Stephanie says...

    A few years ago, I lived with two roommates that I loved. We had so much fun living together, and all loved socializing and had friends and boyfriends over all the time and it was great, but every once in a while, maybe once or twice a week, schedules would work out as such that I came home to an empty house for a few hours.
    I loved those moments so much! And I remember being a bit puzzled by it, because I didn’t really do anything particularly different than if my roommates were home, but it felt great to do things without having to take anyone else’s needs into account.
    I could watch whatever I wanted on TV (even though my roommates almost never objected to what I wanted to watch if they were home)
    I could order greasy comfort food delivered without judgement (even though my roommates would never judge me anyway).
    I think it just felt nice, for a quick minute, to feel like my actions were unobserved and didn’t affect anyone else. There’s a certain peace in that!

    • Harling says...

      yes!!! this is exactly what I love about it, too — that it can be as straightforward as just existing in your space with no agenda.

    • Katie S. says...

      I remember these exact moments fondly from college. I had, if you can believe it, NINE roommates and every once in a while I’d come and the house would be silent. Such glorious, free moments! I think one time I actually just laid on my bed and stared at the ceiling for a whole hour.

    • Liz says...

      “Unobserved” is the thing, isn’t it?

    • Sarah Jane says...

      Yes! This! Unobserved. I need to find a way to articulate this to my spouse without it sounding offensive. I love her. I love the baby. And sometimes I want to get dressed/ brush my teeth/ unload the dishwasher unobserved. Just me and my uninterrupted thoughts.

  67. JAK says...

    Absolutely could not agree more with you Harling! I’ve spent most of the last 6 months alone (by virtue of solo living and also living in a different country then my family). Living alone has been eye opening and at times really hard, since before this I had lived in an apartment with lots of roommates (and hence more daily socialization). Being alone so much has enabled me to realize that most of the time I like my company. I like that I can put on my favourite podcast (The High Low) while cooking dinner and no one will tell me to turn it off. I like that I can scroll through TikTok for an hour without feeling judgement from someone else. I like that I can paint watercolours for hours on end. I like how I make myself feel. These things bring me joy and there is no shame in that. I actually worry about people who don’t know how to be alone, to enjoy your own company is really important. Whether it is solo traveling (remember that?) or dancing madly to Robyn for 20 minutes, solitary moments can be joyful. They feel really raw and unabashed!

    All this being said, I like myself enough at this stage but I wouldn’t mind sharing it with someone else in person more frequently! Life is a balance of sitting with ones self, and giving ones self to others. And I’d love to be able to give more of my energy to my family and friends in person, alas that shall have to wait for a bit and letters and FaceTimes will suffice. There is a certain kind of joy being able to SEE people in person that I never feel is fully replicated online.

  68. El says...

    I can’t stop thinking of Botham Jean’s murder while he was alone in his apartment eating ice cream, or Atatiana Jefferson’s murder when she was sitting in her house. It is bananas to me that even hanging out alone in our apartment is a privilege that isn’t afforded to everyone in this country. Love this essay, Harling.

    • Vero says...

      This is a really great point. Thanks for bringing it up. So much we take for granted. Rest in power Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson.

  69. Rosie says...

    I love working wherever I want. I couldn’t take any time off this summer, but my wife took my daughter on a road trip to visit her parents on the other side of the country and I had a blissful month to myself. When quarantine began we turned a walk-in closet into our Zoom room and I didn’t go in there once while they were gone. I loved being able to move from the kitchen counter to the couch to the dining room table to the back porch without worrying about someone walking in with a question. It was also so nice to be able to cook or order in whatever I wanted. I ate cookies for dinner more than once and I also roasted a whole chicken. I bought whatever I wanted at the farmers market. I’m thrilled to have them home, but every day when I close the closet door I ache to stretch out on the sofa to take a call with my team.

  70. Elena says...

    I sit in a silent house – child asleep, husband in his man-cave/shed – and read my Sunday NYT, most likely on Thursday. Cat on my right, dog on my left. Beverage in reach, changing with the seasons. (I’m done with Aperol Spritz and moved on to red wine or tea) Once it finally gets cool enough to have the windows open at night, I will be in heaven.

  71. Becca says...

    I’m also team solo dance parties, for decades! Feels so good. I also sing as terrible as possible while dancing. I do all the voices, accents etc. By the end I’ve totally cracked myself up and burnt a few calories.

  72. kristin says...

    oh alone time…how i miss thee.
    my relationship was basically built on alone time (my partner and i had disparate work hours for a good while, so i had lots of evenings and weekends to myself). these days we are, of course, in each other’s business 24/7. every so often, though, he heads out in the morning to surf with his son, so on those days i wake up SUPER early, make a huge cup of tea, and listen to Best of Blondie on repeat while i vacuum. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  73. Hani says...

    I stop holding in my stomach.

    feels nice.

    • Haha, I love this, Hani. Also a great benefit of oversized sweaters. My tummy loves those.

  74. Susannah says...

    I love that DaVinci quote “If you are alone you belong entirely to yourself.” It perfectly describes how I have felt when I’m alone for my entire life. I love being by myself.

    I talk to myself when I’m home alone about what food I’m making, what I’m thinking about, what I need to do next. It’s kind of like my inner dialogue, but out loud. I also like to watch the truly terrible movies that I love but wouldn’t want anyone else to see me watching.

    • Jess says...

      Me too! I am never home alone anymore with virtual work and virtual school for the kids, but I go in to the office one day a week, and those car rides there an back I have a whole out loud running commentary. I go over what needs to get done, worries I have, what I wish I would have done or said differently, thoughts about life in general. Sort of putting it all out there, but no need to worry about the reaction.

    • Em says...

      Me too! When I’m home alone (or in the car) my inner dialogue goes out loud :)

  75. ARC says...

    Thank you for this wonderfully written article, Harling! I feel like I am never home alone. My family members work/school from home, and are generally more homebodies than I am. I am craving home-alone time. I enjoy cooking and baking and I blast loud modern choral music (Eric Whiteacre, Ola Gjeilo) and sing with it – loudly! I sing in a choir (which I totally miss right now), but I don’t like anyone listening to just me singing. I also talk to my food when I am cooking or baking (“you are one yummy-looking cauliflower”…) but only when nobody is at home.

    • Kathryn says...

      YES! Been blasting the Gjeilo Voces8 album while cooking. Ooo I’ll also throw in some Will Todd or Esenvalds! And pretend I’m the world’s best soprano, haha:)

  76. hokidoki says...

    too much that i want to do and not enough alone time. I enjoy doing laborious craft while watching TV/youtube or listening to audiobooks/podcasts. I have tackled a very intricate advent calendar https://www.purlsoho.com/advent-calendar-kit.html. i am now working on another intricate christmas wreath from bucilla. if only i get more alone time but there are just so much to do with a full time job, a husband and two kids (6 and 8, thank god they are now a bit more independent)

  77. jane says...

    I lay out naked in the backyard. Walk around the house naked, which is normally Not Done. Feels so good to be naked haha! Deeply savor *not speaking*, and *just silence*, which are things I have always loved. I love music but I love silence just as much. It’s what I call a null zone and it makes it easy to focus very deeply, such a pleasure for my ADD-self .

  78. Andrea says...

    I highly recommend traveling alone. I was in Paris a few years back for a week and my husband could only join me for the last few days. So divine to get up, have a terrific breakfast, go out and walk and gawp at the architecture, stop in places, use my bad French, buy what I wanted, eat what I wanted. I had a cheese of the day contest that I ran and judged.

    My husband was also a love and gave me $300 euros in a card to open on the plane to spend on indulgences. It really gave me the internal permission to go into a chocolate store, chat and buy expensive chocolates, etc.

    • Tiff says...

      I also love traveling alone. No one to accommodate but myself and my every whim!

    • soph says...

      Just a few weeks ago I traveled alone for pleasure, for the very first time. It was BLISS. I’m going to make it an annual tradition.

    • KJ says...

      Yes! Traveling alone is luxurious.

    • Tricia says...

      My best kind of trip is to arrive at destination, solo, and spend several days on my own. Then huz arrives to join me for several days. Upon his departure, I continue my travel solo, for a week or so. Friends don’t “get it”, but I adore being on my own time and interest lines.

  79. Amy says...

    I really loved this short essay! Alone time really does feel so different depending on life’s circumstances.

    As a working wife and mother (to three children under age 5!) alone time is a rare and cherished treasure to me!
    I discovered in adulthood that I’m a very extroverted introvert, andmy years of living alone as a young graduate student gave me a precious chance to discover the beauty of “belonging entirely to myself!”
    I encourage all young, single women in my life to live alone for a stretch, to get to know themselves and take are of just themselves for a while!
    Now, in my busy family life, I try to not spend all my alone time folding laundry, scrubbing toilets and listening to podcasts! When I allow myself some real “me” time I’ll do yoga in the living room (surrounded my dinosaurs, puzzle pieces, books..), read with a glass of wine or just sitting with my thoughts in my own backyard, observing the wind or the chirps of birds and crickets. A face mask and nail trim in a steamy post-shower bathroom also works :)

  80. Sarah says...

    I am homeschooling two kids, work remotely, and we haven’t had a babysitter, school, or anyone else to watch our children in seven months. What would I do if I was alone? I no longer know. Lol!!!!

  81. Karen says...

    Plies while I stir dinner, with or without a glass of red.

  82. aet says...

    I often remind myself — “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company”

  83. Steph says...

    I’m a parent of two young kids and I miss solitude so. fricken. much. Even as a kid I remember getting home from school in 6th or 7th grade and relishing the hour or two alone before my parents returned from their jobs with my younger sibling in tow. Lots of reading wherever I wanted. Lots of silence. Preparing the foods I wanted to eat without a thought to anyone else’s cravings or nutritional needs. Cleaning a room and having it stay clean for more than 5 minutes.
    I never lived alone as an adult. Segued directly from college cohabitation with roommates to post-college living with my future spouse. I see even now, 15 years later, how I am still trying to carve out space of my own.

    • Karen says...

      I am 100 percent feeling this way too, same situation here! Good luck finding your time!

    • Annie K says...

      I’ve never actually looked to see if this is a thing (did I see it on C of J?!) but in moments of overwhelm this often comes to mind: #parentingwhileintrovert

  84. L says...

    Your writing is divine. Alone time to me is time to be alone with my thoughts. It happens so very rarely these days, thus I treasure it all the more when it does.

  85. Jenn says...

    what a beautifully written piece, captivating me with every word. thank you for steering me to think differently about being alone and loneliness.

    • Harling says...

      Thank you, Jenn <3

  86. Abby says...

    I have many conversations out loud with people who are not there – sometimes they get a voice of their own and sometimes they do not. Sometimes I’m engaging in daydream-type scenarios that will never be true and other times I’m having fierce, volatile political debates. This exercise, weirdly, has brought me to so many realizations about my own beliefs, who I really, really am and helped me to sort out problems both big and small. I’ve been doing it since childhood and have a very real fear that one day I’ll be caught.

  87. Tess says...

    SOO excited to see Harling here!! What fantastically written piece. The big change in my days has been taking my time with a morning shower, now that I don’t have to commute. I always listen to boppy music and sing along in the shower, and then take a long time lotion-ing myself from head to toe afterwards, while dancing with the music. Its a pretty great self-love moment in my morning.

    • Harling says...

      Love this! The pleasure of a slow morning = so simple and special.

  88. Jill says...

    I wear a robe all day.
    I eat on the sofa.
    I eat too much.
    I put my hair up and don’t comb it for days.
    I text and talk on the phone.
    I watch too much TV/movies/cable.
    I read A LOT.
    I read blogs while in my robe, eating too much on the sofa, and holding my phone with my other hand.
    I pretend I look good.
    I do this every day until I have to put on a mask to go get groceries.

    • Friend says...

      <3

    • Helen says...

      I love every single thing about this comment.

    • JT says...

      Jill, you are the quarantine poet laureate

  89. Candice says...

    I flip over a Tate’s crispy chocolate chip cookie, cover it with Reddi whip, and top with sprinkles. It’s not poetic, but this is exactly what 2020 needs.

  90. Chrissy says...

    I pick my boogers! It’s sooo satisfying and I’m sort of disappointed when there’s nothing to pick LOL!!

    • Karen says...

      Graduate to ear wax!!!

    • Eve says...

      We all do, you’re just brave enough to admit it.

    • Emily R says...

      This was the first thing I thought of! ME TOO

  91. Beaslie says...

    I love being on my own and just having time to potter about, play with my make up, put on my choice of music etc.
    WFH ‘alone’ is different though because obviously you need to stay motivated and be productive, regardless of what or how much work you have to do. What gets me through WFH (aside from Teams chats) is talking to our fish, who will swim over and butt up against the tank and show off their fins. Transpires fish are surprisingly personable and, as much as I like talking to myself, getting a reaction is affirming during these long days.

  92. Tiff says...

    I liked reading this a lot. It was so eloquent and romantic sounding. In this time of forced isolation I’ve found myself falling more in love with myself and naturally determining the things that make me happy and satisfied. I also feel forced to analyze myself more and think about the things that make me feel bad, why I feel that way, and how I can work through them to be better. I’m working on what I can control in myself versus controlling others.

  93. Jen NYC says...

    Love it!
    If I’m alone at home I’ll eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked while my husband’s out.
    I’ll also let my farts rip while no one’s home, as loud and proud as I can. The sound startled my cat a few times :D

    • Ditto on the farts! Lovely quiet day alone, then oops there goes another firecracker! LOL!!

  94. Caitlin says...

    This is neither here nor there, but Harling is such a great name. Rhymes with darling, would look good on the spine of a book. A++.

    • Harling says...

      Whenever I’m trying to explain how to pronounce my name I always say “it’s like darling with an H” haha :)

  95. Lauren E. says...

    I think after 7 months of being together all the time, my husband and I are finally starting to get on each other’s nerves. So when I get a moment of alone time, I relish it. I’ve been trying to drink less alcohol, so I started making fresh ginger tea (fresh ginger minced with boiled water, honey and lemon), turning on some trash TV or reading a mystery novel, and going to bed at 9. It’s nothing I couldn’t do with my husband around, but it just feels so decadent to be completely alone.

    • Harling says...

      Now I want to make ginger tea !!!!

    • Michaela says...

      I am in the same boat! Nothing I’m most craving to do alone is weird but I don’t want to be observed in my reading/tv watching/journaling. It’s the mental freedom more than anything else.

    • Emily L says...

      Yes! Mine is going out this evening (to the park) and I am so excited to have a couple hours alone. We live in a small house so we never have our own spaces to get away to without hearing each other!

  96. Elle says...

    I’m about the same, a LAZY bones! :). I’m also not known for being overly social, so my life looks very similar to pre Covid times. I do miss the small interactions I had in my classes with fellow students (I’ve returned to school to work on finishing up a degree) but overall, our family unit is keeping me sane, and not giving me much actual time ALONE. The social medias I had to tone down in my life as it’s too much right now. So, my alone time is still laziness and sometimes it takes place in the form of a bath :).

  97. LD says...

    I read romance novels when I’m alone. This is a genre that I have, historically, never read… but pandemic needs are different and I need FLUFF! and HAPPY ENDINGS! And predictability! And nice descriptions of a hot firefighter’s SIX PACK ABS!

    • b says...

      Romance novels are everything right now. I’m all in on cowboy romance – AJ Pine and Carolyn Brown are two good places to start.

    • Soph says...

      You are not alone!! I had barely dabbled in romance novels before this year, but 2020 has me CRAVING happy endings and they’re all I’m reading these days!!

    • Sadie says...

      I just read a romance novel, Tourist Trap. It was so cheesy and generally bad but it was everything I wanted it to be.

    • mariah says...

      YUP, I am right there with you. I love a good romance novel to read (or even listen to) when I am alone. I sit in a nice hot bath with estee lauder’s Youth Dew bath oil, listen to a juicy romance novel and relax.

      – I also love to watch trashy tv while baking/cooking.
      – OR do a deep clean or organization project while listening to musical show tunes, rap, or whatever else I am in the mood for, and sing along.
      – I will usually make a pit stop at the gas station nearby and grab either ramen or kraft mac and cheese as a special sodium-filled indulgence.

      ****Bath oil link: https://www.esteelauder.com/product/571/2108/product-catalog/fragrance/youth-dew/bath-oil

  98. Taylor says...

    this is more because I have a ten week old more than anything else but also because I was pregnant the entire pandemic: I literally don’t wear clothes anymore, my husband doesn’t put on clothes, it is like the national geographic channel in our apartment at all times!!

    My baby, however, wears excellent, very curated outfits because sending photos of her to friends and family is the only remedy for having the pandemic steal my right to have a nice lady in a supermarket tell me my baby is beautiful!!

    • Lisa says...

      Hahaha. I feel this. I also read this article and thought, “I have a five week old and a toddler. My husband and I both work from home… I’m not sure I can remember the last time I was actually alone.”

  99. Agnès says...

    Oh I love that question! And I could not answer it, as there is always somebody watching. I do fantasize about being alone, for more than a few hours (these don’t count), and I envy you! But, back when I would live on my one, I would be reading, when no one was watching, and I would stay in bed, all day long, in my pajamas, surviving of bread and butter. That sounds so perfect. ;-)

  100. Maclean Nash says...

    Oh Harling! Thank you for sharing! I too dance, gyrate, and mouth the lyrics to all my favourite songs – usually before bed. Its such a great release and way for me to feel connected to myself. It’s not as easy for me to do now though, as it once was when I lived alone. Living with my boyfriend has meant I need to get creative! So when he takes out the trash I’ll throw on a quick tune, when he’s watching a show Im willing to pass on, I will lock myself in the bathroom, even when Im cooking us dinner I’ll bust a move!

    • Harling says...

      I love this… picturing you sneaking in little dance sessions throughout the day when his head is turned. So sweet.