A perfect park bench for some alone time.

When Introverts Need Alone Time, We Get to Pick the Flavor

Maybe you want to be alone all alone. Or maybe you want to be alone with a few other people around! When introverts need alone time, we get to define “alone.”

I always believed that the very introverted concept of alone time was straightforward and self-evident. We introverts want, even need, our alone time each day to regroup, recharge, replenish, restore. It’s practically in our DNA.

Embedded in this thinking, though, is a flawed assumption: that the definition of alone time is itself self-evident. And constant.

It’s neither.

What’s true instead is that introverts need alone time in different ways at different times, and for different reasons.

The Many Ways to Be Alone—or “Alone”

When I think of alone time — the kind of alone time I seek out … usually — I picture being truly alone, as in all by myself. I’m in a perfectly or almost perfectly quiet place, surrounded by lots of breathing time and space, free to let my mind wander and my heart ponder with no interruptions.

Think wilderness—being in the middle of absolutely nowhere at, say, Glacier National Park in Montana.

That’s what alone time is.

But wait …

Sometimes I don’t want to be alone all alone. Sometimes I want to be alone with a few other people around!

So I inevitably go to a coffee shop.

Not just any coffee shop, mind you. I need one that offers a little activity and a small dose of humanity around me.

Though not too much.

If music is blaring through the overhead speakers, forget it. Same goes if there’s any risk of me running into people I know, or stumbling into strangers who want to chat.

OK, that’s what alone time is.

But wait …

My wife, Adrianne, also an introvert, just about never wants to be literally alone during her version of alone time. In fact, she ideally spends her alone time with me (which gets interesting when I’m looking for my own most frequent version of alone time — i.e., being all alone — but I digress).

Adrianne generally likes to spend her introverted alone time with one other person, as long as said person is a grown-up. (She’s a kindergarten teacher. Need I say more?)

OK, that’s what alone time is.

But wait …

On weekday mornings especially, Adrianne craves — well, she craves my kind of alone time. Or should I say my primary kind of alone time, the truly alone kind of alone time I seek out. Most often, at least.

Adrianne loves to sip her coffee at our kitchen table in the near dark of predawn, reading a favorite book and simply being quiet and still so that she can prepare for her day teaching her little ones everything from how to cut a piece of paper to how to write their name to how to watch out for other people in life.

OK, that’s what alone time is — until I or Adrianne or you decide that we want to seek out some other type of alone time.

Define Solitude Your Own Way

When it comes to alone time, then, remember this:

Your mileage will vary.

You yourself may need to switch up the times and settings and overall vibes of the instances of alone time you pursue.

Some days, or even some parts of days, you’ll feel like having solitude in genuine solitude — alone, in pure or near-pure quiet.

Other days, or even some parts of days, you’ll instead want to pursue alone time with a bit of the rest of humanity thrown in as a side dish.

Remember, too, that the diverse group of people we call introverts is made up of souls who likely have their own ideas about what alone time is, either as a matter of their general preferences or as a function of their moods … or their time … or their instincts … or d) all of the above.

If you’re an introvert and you have an introverted partner, especially, don’t assume the two of you will always be on the same alone-time page. Talk together about what you each need, and when, and why.

Your alone time is your alone time.

You get to define it.

And you’re not limited to one definition.

No one is.

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