Before having children, I don’t think I would have ever chosen a weekend away by myself. Girlfriend getaway? Sure. Roadtrip with Stephen? Absolutely. Mother-daughter shopping weekend? Oh yes.
But alone? Who would I talk to? What would I do? Are you even allowed to eat in a restaurant by yourself?
Add it to the long list of how seven years and three kids can make all the difference.
I had my first solo weekend in September of 2014. I was 36 weeks pregnant with my second baby, and Stephen had just graduated with his doctorate after a six-year program. Our families sat around our living room as Stephen opened a few small gifts to celebrate his great accomplishment. Stephen then turned the attention to me, and with a baller husband-of-the-year move, he began acknowledging the sacrifices I had made in order for him to complete this degree. He thanked me and passed me a large envelope. Inside were the reservation papers for a solo weekend away in Indianapolis.
Oh, that guy.
I spent two night in the Omni Hotel and filled my weekend with reading, writing, shopping, and a prenatal massage. There was a fair amount of sleeping in, an even greater amount of ice cream, and as it turns out, you can in fact eat in a restaurant all by yourself. It was an indulgent weekend away, and I returned home rested, well fed, and with a few new nursing tops
Earlier this month I again went on a solo weekend, but with a different purpose. Years ago I started a writing project that just keeps lingering, and I wanted a weekend away to write, work, and finally start down the homestretch of this project. I made three writing goals for 2019:
Launch my new blog. Done!
Take a writing course. Done!
Go on a weekend writing retreat. Done!
Three out of three and it isn’t even June, yet. Wow. Does this mean I need to make more goals?
There were a few moments leading up to my weekend away that caused brief panic. The time seemed like such a gift, and I didn’t want to mess it up. Looking back, here are my two nuggets of wisdom that really helped make the weekend a success.
Finding the perfect place
I opted for an AirBnB over a hotel because I wanted something cozy and the ability to “cook” my own food. When I say cook, I mean heat up a Trader Joe’s frozen pizza. The idea of a Bed and Breakfast sounded dreamy, but all my google searches led me to lace curtains and night stands with doilies. Not the creative inspiration I was hoping for.
I finally stumbled upon this tiny house in Kentucky, and it was perfect.
I’m fascinated by tiny homes, and have been known to get sucked into the abyss of YouTube when I start watching tiny home tour videos. A spacious work area was a must, and this place had a great counter right in front of the window where I spread out notebooks, PaperMate flair pens, and books. As an added tiny house bonus, the bed folded out of the wall and a giant projector dropped from the ceiling. It was pretty legit.
My tiny house was almost two hours away. Because I was going to be gone two nights, I didn’t mind the commute. Driving in a car by myself has become a luxury, and I filled my time with equal parts silence and podcasts. I do some of my best thinking in the car, and I often need to talk through ideas out loud to myself in the form of pretend conversations; I never get very far with this when I try it in my living room.
Making plans and specific goals
I knew I needed to spend time planning both my big goals and tiny details before the weekend arrived. If I didn’t, the sound of silence would likely provoke shock and rather than writing, I would spend the weekend in bed, binging on Netflix and popcorn. On the other hand, I could also see myself with a list of twenty-five things to accomplish, scattered, overworked, and leaving more exhausted than I came.
In order to avoid either extreme, I made plans, goals, and I wrote them all down.
I posted this sign on the window in front of me to keep me focused. It is easy to think of a dozen other tasks I could be working on, but these four were the weekend goals. They provided me a variety of work from formatting a cookbook to revising old essays to dumping out first drafts from intriguing prompts I’d tucked away. Having this variety kept me from getting burnt out on one task.
But let’s be real. I cannot have a weekend away without plans for doing nothing, so I also packed nail polish, face masks, books, candles, and good food. I went as far as to map out each meal because I wanted to eat well but didn’t want to spend my precious time reading online reviews as I scrambled to find somewhere for dinner. Knowing that I would introvert pretty hard the majority of the weekend, I brought breakfast, dinner, and snacks, but I did venture out for a couple hours on Saturday afternoon to a cafe and bookstore where I dined as the mysterious lone lady scribbling voraciously in a notebook.
I had given myself permission to take an afternoon nap, but as it turned out, I didn’t need it. After 8 hours of sleep and sitting in a chair all morning, my body wasn’t even tired come 2:00. Such a strange phenomenon.
I made solid progress on each of my writing goals, and I came home both energized and rested. At the risk of sounding too hermit-like, I loved spending time with myself. When I’m alone, I remember who I am apart from motherhood, and that my brain still has capacity for creativity beyond unicorn crafts. I can focus on a single task for longer than five minutes, and I still have problem solving skills beyond who gets to sit in the middle stool.
On the two hour drive home, my mind was racing with ideas and next steps. It’s been a few weeks since my retreat, and truth be told, I’ve made little progress toward some of those next steps. I could easily get down on myself for that, but that won’t do me any good.
Instead, I’m still living off the high of all I accomplished and the stillness that allowed me time to think.
Oh, and I’m also planning for another retreat in the fall.
Bonus: My request for a later checkout was granted, and I used every quiet minute of it!