The Art of Being Alone


The sun beat on my shoulders as I bent over and trimmed the kale. A bundle of edible leaves sat in a bowl, and a messy pile of half-eaten pieces thanks to our friendly neighborhood caterpillars rest beside it. I straightened and thought about all the other things I could be doing tonight (dishes, packing our toddler’s lunch for daycare, finishing this month’s book for book club), but the kale needed to be trimmed before it wilted, and for the foreseeable future – there was no one else to help.

Though my husband and I had planted this garden together in late spring – our first in ten years of marriage and five different homes – we would not get to harvest our vegetables by side-by-side. He would be gone for six weeks of training, so I would be doing it alone. 

But it was only six weeks. Six weeks is better than the eight months he was gone last year, or the four months he was gone the year before that, or even the six months he was gone in 2020 (that pandemic deployment really hit different). Six weeks was certainly a bummer, but after ten years of military life, it felt like a blip of time. 

And frankly, I have mastered the art of being alone.

At this point in my life, I find spending time alone quite relaxing. I genuinely enjoy my own company. And there were years, especially early on in our marriage, where I struggled to do so. Where I felt I had to fill every Friday and Saturday with social events, and meticulously plan out workout classes, happy hours, and what TV shows I would stream during the week nights. I would eat sad meals and drink too much wine and belabor the fact that I was utterly alone

And then my husband deployed during a pandemic…and I couldn’t use my typical coping mechanisms, so I found new ones. Arguably better ones. 

I started to write. I’ve written novels in my husband’s absence (that I hope to edit and publish one day, when I have a bit more time). I’ve thrown myself into reading in a way that I haven’t since I was a teenager. I devour books again, losing myself in the stories and worlds beyond my own. I began to cook for myself, more than plates of cheese and crackers and popcorn, but actual meals with fresh ingredients and steps. I lean into making dishes my husband doesn’t like (seafood especially – highly recommend this salmon recipe) and put the effort in just for me. 

And then in 2021 I welcomed the most time-intensive hobby of all: my son. Though I am not technically alone when my husband leaves now, an 18 month old is neither the most engaging conversationalist (though he tries) nor helpful family member. He does, however, keep me busy. So busy that by bedtime each night when my husband is gone, I am craving the solitude to get through my to-do list and settle down with a book or my laptop to write. 

I know the importance of friendships and community as a military spouse. You need people when you move. You need someone to be an emergency contact, to help you out in a pinch, to commiserate and celebrate. But when it comes to this nomadic, chaotic life, there’s something so valuable about learning to love your time alone; about finding beauty and contentment in those stretches where your spouse has to be away. 

For the next six weeks, I have some plans with friends, and I will certainly be chasing after my toddler and working full time as I always do, but I’ll also be soaking up every minute of time spent alone. 

“Fall in love with your solitude.”
― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey