Do you have a moment, right now, to do a quick relational stock-take?
Can you track through your significant others – family, friends, wider community – and log how much time you have invested in these this week?
How do you feel about your total?
If your relational hours account for a significant portion of your time this week, you may feel anything from satisfaction in having such a rich and rooted life to overwhelm at how much time and energy these relationships cost you.
But if your relational total is lower than you would like, if it reflects a paucity in your close relationships that wounds you, then different feelings may be surfacing. You may feel hurt, abandoned, alone.
Whatever your response, I wonder… did you consider the most important relationship in your life?
I’m referring, of course, to your relationship with your Self.
How much time have you invested this week in your relationship with yourself?
I had the opportunity today to spend a couple of hours in the sunshine, with no particular agenda in mind. It was a rare luxury and I was restlessly eager to enjoy it as fully as possible. I immediately reached for my favourite person to enjoy spontaneous free time with – and they weren’t free. I could feel my energy begin to slide away, evaporating as I realised I faced the prospect of finding my own entertainment alone, or returning home to do something ‘productive’ alone.
Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m normally quite comfortable in my own company. I relish moments of peace and quiet where I can hear myself think, move at my own pace, manage my own time and energy. But here I was, balking at the opportunity to unwind alone. Why?
I realised that I am really quite good at investing in my own growth, development, emotional depth, and even in more recent months self care. But I am less confident about investing leisure time in myself. In other words, I’ll spend time on ‘worthy’ pursuits that will grow me as a person but I struggle to justify spending time on simply enjoying my own company.
Now, while I’m peculiar in many ways, I’m going to take a gamble on not being entirely alone in this peculiarity.
I learnt early on in life that a display of busy achievement got me positive feedback and, being quite energetic and good with people and focused activity, I ran with this notion. If I wanted to do something fun, or at least stop working (!), the best justification was one where I could frame my fun as relational investment – “It’s good to spend time with friends”.
There is something quite deliciously decadent about rewording this phrase, “It’s good to spend time with myself”.
It’s good. Good.
Not just ‘necessary for sanity’.
Not simply ‘self care’.
Not a ‘need’.
And it was good this afternoon. As I pushed myself to get curious about my disappointment at being ‘only’ with myself, I could feel the anxiety about the ‘pointlessness’ of the endeavour emerging. And, almost simultaneously, resentment at my self-reference as pointless. Resentment is such a useful emotion – signaling those things that really matter to us. And after resentment, realisation – realisation that if I could embrace the silence, the absence of any need to be ‘good company’ for another, I could perhaps be good company for myself.
This is not an uncomplicated experience. It is perhaps especially so for those of us with complex histories and a multiplicity of cultural identities. We a walking talking mosaic of competing expectations, values, opinions, and feelings. The cacophony we hear in our own heads can become deafening in the absence of an Other to focus our attentions on.
I am a Third Culture Kid working with Third Culture Kids, and it strikes me that we can come to depend on these Others – focusing our energies on them, their expectations and needs, is an effective way of silencing our own voices – confusing and fragmented as they often are.
How often do you reach for the TV remote, radio dial, podcast, audiobook or YouTube video in a moment of silence or inactivity? Are we reaching our of interest in external input in those moments, or are we reaching to avoid hearing our own?
How much time have you invested in your relationship with You today?
Do you feel a stranger to yourself? Confused, even frightened by what your voice might say, if it got the chance?
It doesn’t have to be like this. We can gently explore our resistance to our own presence. We can move beyond a maintenance-focused investment in ourselves – beyond self care and healthy sleeping and eating, as important as these are. We can move into a space where we delight in our identity mosaics, enjoying the contrasts as well as the complimenting colours.
Do you want this? Do you want to feel closer to your own self – more whole, more integrated, more fun?!
I invite you, today, to make conscious space to enjoy your own company – to create just enough silence that you can hear your own Voice emerge.
You are, after all, quite marvellous, you know.
Wow, Dr. Rachel! That took a sudden, unexpected turn. What we call a ‘curve ball’ on this side of the pond. (A baseball reference)
Well done, and food for thought, indeed.
Thanks so much for reading, Dan! I was never any good at baseball but I do love a good curve ball 😉