Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Or recently a friend taught me the word, ambivert; someone who is balance between the two. I am a bonafide introvert. But my husband and I like to call ourselves, high functioning introverts. No matter how wonderful a group of people or person is or how delightful an activity is, I need time alone.
Our life in West Africa proved this to me. I was the caregiver of our two great kids 24/7, 7 days a week. No school. No Sunday school. No community activities. No babysitters. No family to relieve me. No Bible studies. Nothing. My husband was at the mercy of the hospital and I was at the mercy of our kids. All. The. Time. This was my life. I was overwhelmed, exhausted and frazzled. Sound familiar? If you have children this may be how you are feeling right now in this season of social isolation. This was not healthy for me. Being available to people all the time took a tole on my mental, emotional and even physical health. I need time alone.
Guilt is a horrible companion. It often accompanies the innate and obvious arguments we have with ourselves over whether or not we should act on an instinct to do something that we know will be good for us. This is a tactical approach of our spirits’ enemy. Of course the enemy of our souls doesn’t want us to take care of ourselves. He knows that if we take care of ourselves, then we will be healthy. If we are healthy, then we’ll have a greater capacity to bless the people around us. So, he uses one of his age old, worn out, but still effective tools called, guilt to keep us from taking care of ourselves. He convinces us that we are selfish for TAKEing.
When I began to understand that guilt was a tactic of the enemy, it became so much easier to fight it and do what was good. Taking time to be alone, for me, is good. I am not hurting my children when I take time to be away and quiet, I am doing them and myself a favor.
A really great moment came when my husband, having begun to understand my need for time alone, saw one day that I was getting rather cranky and testy with the kids. He gave me a special gift. He invited me to go into time out. Having already had conversations around this topic I did not see his invitation as infantile or unkind. Rather, he was stepping up to handle the kids and the activities so that I could slip away for some time to myself. I took the invitation. With earbuds in hand, I closed the bedroom door behind me and sat. The time and space to just ‘be’ was exactly what my weary soul needed in that moment. After twenty minutes I re-emerged feeling calm, happy, refueled and ready to engage with my family in a healthy way once gain.
Uninterrupted time alone is a powerful tool, especially during these seasons of isolation and social distancing. The irony of social distancing is that for those living with family, you are now in each others space a lot! But, we’re not necessarily connecting in meaningful ways with others and even our families, as we usually would. This low-grade, semi-connected-to-everyone state of living is not good for the soul, whether your an introvert or an extrovert. It is being around people rather than being with people. This concept is part of the Advance and Retreat rhythm we talked about last week. Fully retreat so that you can fully advance in your relationships as well as life’s work and activities.
So here is my tip for today. It is, take care of yourself. What does your soul need in order to be happy and well? Do you need to put yourself in time out? Talk with your spouse, kids and anyone else living in your home. Clarify the value of quiet time alone, so that you can have a common vocabulary for communicating when you need to slip away. Introverts and extroverts alike need breaks. I have had to explain to my kids, one being an extrovert and one an introvert, that sometimes when they are sent to their rooms, it is not punishment. Rather it is the invitation to go and be in their space, without anyone else interrupting them. They are offered the gift of retreat. Don’t allow guilt to keep you from the gift of alone time. Just don’t forget to re-emerge and bless your family after your time out :)
Until tomorrow, I hope you see what God has placed in your life to bless your soul.