You don’t need to be in breakup mode to ask for space—for yourself

Using these tips for alone time can help you attune to YOU
By Suzan Colón  Published on 01/31/2019 at 10:00 AM EDT
The multitalented author of this piece created this illustration with watercolor mixed with salt crystals Suzan Colón

I need some space. We’ve all said that at least a few times in our lives, usually to someone we’re dating who we want to not be dating. The idea of getting some space has so much more potential, though, and it doesn’t have to be about letting someone down gently. Most of us just haven’t explored space deeply enough.

My introduction to the benefits of getting space came when someone told me they needed space. Hurt and angry, I thought: Fine. I’ll give you all the space you need. Instead of taking the easy way out with distractions like overbooking with friends, overeating, and over-scrolling, I went on a solo retreat to a yoga ashram, where I would be far away from the space-needer and my phone.

At the ashram, I was really on my own. I wasn’t part of a vacationing group, and I didn’t know anyone there except for some of the nuns, women who had visited the place in the groovy 1970s and never left or married. Wallowing in rejected self-pity, I considered this as a possible career move.

I considered a lot of things, because I had quiet time, and I used it. Without being able to discuss this, or anything, with others, I was able to consider whether I was in a relationship or a habit. My surroundings hinted that answers might come if I stopped focusing on questions. I sat outside on a rock and listened to the wind rush through the trees, and I heard the difference in the music the wind made with pine needles and maple leaves. I became aware that I had eased from the urgency of need to the confidence of want.

I emerged from that weekend calmer and more centered. I didn’t feel the need to jump into any particular action. I could wait and see what would come next. And when what came next was untangling the enmeshment of two human beings, well, I untangled, and I emerged whole.

This is the value of taking space: You become attuned to you.

You don’t have to be in breakup mode to want space, or to need it. I just spent roughly 45 consecutive days on social media for a book promotion. Let me tell you: I NEED some space.

What is space, and how do you take it? That can be up to you to define, but generally, it’s quiet time. Here are some ways to carve out space for yourself:

  • You can go away, of course, but you don’t have to; you can get your space at home, provided you can have at least a few hours where you’ll be undisturbed. (Fantasy thought: Are any hotels near you having mid-week specials?)
  • Unplugging the phone, at least for part of the time, is important. You don’t want to waste your space-time in distracted scrolling or checking your email out of habit.
  • Make a list of things you’d do if you had space: watch a favorite movie, or sneak out to a movie theater for a matinee; meditate; go to a museum or gallery; get a massage or a mani/pedi… Whatever it is, it’s something that is your idea of a good and/or relaxing time, not someone else’s, or a compromise.

Whatever you do, or don’t do, there’s only one real requirement to getting and using your space to maximum benefit: You have to explore space on your own. Partner, bestie, kids—we love ‘em, but sometimes we have to remove ourselves from other people’s input, if only for a few hours. The great Sufi mystic Rumi said, “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.” We cannot hear that voice if someone, including us, is talking.

When you need guidance, a chance to recalibrate, to rest, or just to have some time to yourself, get some space. You’ll see extraordinary things when you explore the world within.  

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