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About eight months before the pandemic, we moved to a veritable mountain paradise. Our cabin home was built quite literally into the side of the mountain. We drove past exactly five houses spread out on their own parcels of mountain land to get to ours—end of the road privacy that had pines and aspens and a few outlooks all around us.

I had orchestrated the *exact* outer circumstances to make my inner dialogue (and yet undiagnosed autistic, dissociative identity disordered needs) unavoidable. Moving there forced me to confront that there was nowhere I could escape being me, not even paradise. I had to acknowledge that this had been my ideal solution my whole life: to escape and split myself.

Of course when I tell people about our life in the mountains, and that we moved back to a suburb of Dallas last summer, the shock in their response is the same. (Why? Why would you give up that serenity? That peace?) And the short answer I give is that solitude isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially if you become a mother for the first time.

But I do feel nervous about letting them down with the truth that their ideal escape won’t help them like they hope it will. It might be a stepping stone to somewhere more honest. But it won’t be a gentle ride. I don’t suppose the road to belonging to yourself ever is.

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It’s weird for me to answer how I show up for myself “first” because one of the ways I show up for myself *IS* by surrounding myself with the right people and investing in my deep, intimate friendships. When I was single and dating, I needed these friends to love me and remind me what I was looking for when my vision got blurred by the hellscape of dating apps. When I had to leave behind a job I loved for a much less fulfilling role, I needed these friends to help me sketch out a life in my new position to see if it would be bearable or if I needed to pivot. Now I have an almost-1 -year-old and I need these friends to remind me who I am outside of this small yet all-consuming human. The keeping of the friends *IS* the self-care. I validate their emotions and they validate mine. I try to solve their problems and they try to solve mine. Caring for them *IS* caring for me.

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A commenter on another blog I read just shared these wise words: “I’ve started talking to myself the way I talk to my beloved cat. ‘ It’s ok, baby girl’ I will tell her when she is upset about something.” This is a brilliant way to think of self-talk and self-care, I think!

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My mother passed away about 8 weeks ago. I need more support from my friends right now, especially since I live quite far from family (across an ocean & half a continent).

So I posted on FB - in a private group I have just for my 60 closest friends in my city - to tell them what I need (walks, invites to spend the night) and don’t (alcohol, asking how I’m doing).

Creating a framework for my friends to help me made them feel more at ease with knowing how to reach out. And it let me simultaneously ask, but not continuously, for help. That one post has let me show up for myself, and allowed them to show up for me, in lovely ways.

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The balance is hardest when things are starting to go wrong. My father was just diagnosed with cancer (it looks like it might be aggressive but we don’t know—more tests are needed). Time is slowing down. I’m feeling that pull of the terrible chaos weight of anticipatory grief. I know I NEED to show up for myself more than I have in other crises. To be fair to me I am showing up for myself much more now than I used to. But the pull of outside forces comes so much more strongly when things are starting to go wrong.

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Solitude being connected to not having anyone else in your brain? Wow, that hits hard.

I have recently been undergoing somatic therapy for a year and already I can see such amazing results from learning how to connect to my own physical body as a place of constant resourcing. I used to view being alone as a time to learn, recharge, and get better so I could go back to doing everything. Now I view it as a time to connect to my physical body, to listen to it, and to honor it. What a huge difference this has made to my mental health!

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I absolutely loved this — and just sent it to my 19-year-old (because I know how much I struggled with this in a big way when I was 19!). And, of course, still do today, just in different ways. When I’ve met people in my life who have this gift, it’s like an otherworldly experience being around them — they give you that feeling, even just for a moment, that “all is right with the world.” This is such a great reminder, too, to appreciate ourselves in all our quirky little ways, in all our weirdnesses. Thank you for this 🙏

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The "doing less" part: How?? Like AHP says, "MUST BE NICE, HAVING TIME TO HANG OUT WITH YOURSELF AND WITH OTHERS!"

If you have young kids and a job, just, how?

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For those worried about TS and TK, don’t. She’ll dump him and write an album about it. Like Carly in the 70s, Stevie in the 80s, Alanis in the 90s. I don’t know who in the oughts because I’m old. She’ll definitely show up for herself.

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The pandemic really through things off for me in many ways. One of which is that I got into this dissociative place where I thought I was making time for myself, but really I was trying to escape from the chaos of the world.

Finally in a much better place and I’m excited to be doing more things for myself again. I’ve signed up for adult dance lessons. I just want to move and have fun! Experience joy

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I have this weird switching between feeling absolutely at calm with myself for months, and then suddenly going off balance and being all miserable (and that's when I sometimes push others away as well). These days I generally wait for that 'phase' to get over, but I'm wondering if others also feel this way. Do you have strategies that have proved useful to counter this?

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I’m in the midst of writing a book on top of my day job and I’m more socially isolated than I want to be. It might also be a function of winter. But I don’t know how to find the time to initiate social time on top of digging in to find the stamina and creative juice to finish this book AND work a full-time day job, (vaguely) manage my house, and be present for my two kids who are still home (16 and 20), though they’re with their dad half the time.

For me temperamentally, there’s always a real push and pull between solitude deep enough to create and cultivating community.

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Yoooooooooo THAT HOUSE in the links. Incredible.

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I love my alone time & solitude. And in a busy season of life (busy/stressful job that I love but also takes up a lot of my time and energy, married w/ a toddler) in a new city (we moved from LA back to the east coast for a job offer I had, and to be closer to family) I’ve found it so hard to prioritize the types of activities that I know will help me make friends in this new city and help us find some sense of community. Outside of work, I prioritize time with family, my husband, & time for me to be alone by myself, but that doesn’t leave much time for friendship and socializing (which feels like a big gap in our lives right now).

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I’ve been having a hard time with this balance lately. I’ve been dealing with ongoing medical “stuff” (POTS?long Covid? burnout? a fun cocktail of all those things? TBD) and I feel like I’ve had to really lean into taking care of myself and it’s been hard to show up literally and metaphorically for my friends and at work. I’ve been trying to give myself time and space to just be. I’ve been pacing my energy and taking each day at a time and I do think that’s helpful for me, but it feels like I’m dropping balls elsewhere. Some days it’s hard just to muster texting friends to keep in touch. Sometimes because I just don’t really want to get into what’s going on with me—it’s a little scary to not really have answers and not really know if I’ll improve. I’m also just…tired, and it doesn’t feel good to feign enthusiasm or interest when it’s not naturally occurring. I also don’t know when I’ll have a good day or a bad day—so making plans just feels futile right now. In my work in a caring profession where my job centers on showing up for other people, it’s hard to feel like I can only give what I got on any given day. I’ve had to take more time off more frequently than I’ve ever had to before and I’ve had to pull back on a leadership position I hold that feels impossible to pull back from without facing other consequences later. I live with my partner who has been wonderful throughout all of this and so I don’t necessarily feel lonely, but it is a weird feeling to have the balance in my life flipped so much where most of the focus is just on taking care of me and spending time with myself (which I don’t feel particularly good at—but I’m working on it). I’ve been getting into baking and that’s a task that’s helped me find some joy in this time when I can’t go out and do my normal solo activities like walking by myself. I’ve also started reading the Artists Way and find it interesting that solitude and spending intentional time alone is coming up here and also there—I love when the universe does that.

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I love being alone. I’ve always needed time and space to myself since I was a small child. It is harder to come by now that I have a husband and three kids and live in a downtown neighborhood with people I know at every time. For one of the first times lately though, I’ve been grappling with loneliness. I live about 30-50 minutes from my family of origin and childhood friends which makes it hard to see them as much as I want. I feel like most of my older friendships could use a lot of TLC and I’ve struggled to make lasting friendships in current community mainly due to work and parenting demands and lifestyle choices I’ve made. I actually have been writing about it a lot on my blog (readership of life 1-2 people!) if anyone wants to understand more of my feelings and thoughts on this topic. And yes, I’m definitely in the Portal, and maybe even exiting the portal as I turn 45 later this year. www.charm-citizen.com.

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