The Fashion Magpie Alone Time

Alone Time.

The far side of our apartment looks out over a quiet courtyard off Central Park West and during the summer months, the staff bring patio furniture out there as a convenience for residents.  Mr. Magpie and I have talked about having a cocktail or al fresco dinner on the patio dozens of times, but it’s never come to fruition — mini needs her dinner, or it’s too hot, or dinner that night requires too many dishes and accoutrements to transport, or we forget.  I suppose our fellow residents run into the same issues because the courtyard and its patio furniture remain almost invariably empty — save for one elderly man who sits out there with a book most afternoons.  Mr. Magpie and I have talked about this gentleman in admiring, somewhat schmaltzy tones for weeks.  We’re easily moved as a general proposition, but something about his solitary bookworminess resonates with us.  Maybe it’s because we’re new parents and it feels as though our time is never our own, but the vision of his peaceful sequestration elicits a deep and abiding sense of longing.

I joined this gentleman last Wednesday with my lunch and my Kindle.  I waved hello, but he was too engrossed in his book to notice–and that made me happy, too, as my presence did not encroach on his alone time ritual.  We sat in parallel play, ten feet from one another, reading in isolation, recharging our batteries.  I left an hour later on a cloud, feeling as though I’d just left a day at the spa.  It dawned on me that though I occasionally run around the corner for a glass of wine or latte and an hour of Kindle time by myself, it is exceptionally rare for me to be outside of my apartment in New York in true silence, untouched and unbothered by anyone else.  The cafes are busy, full of interesting people and bizarre happenings, and I can easily pass an hour in one of them and only turn a few pages, as my eyes trail after those around me or my ears tune into an adjacent conversation.  (Ahem.)  There are usually physical interactions, too — switching seats and shuffling and scooting in — “Oh, is someone using this?” “Excuse me, can I just grab that off your table?”  “Miss, do you mind moving down a seat so I can sit here with my friend?”

This hour was different.  It was deeply peaceful.  The courtyard is startlingly quiet despite the traffic just feet away; the hum of HVAC units serves as a kind of calming white noise.   (#Onlyinmanhattan.)  The apprehension that I could sit, uninterrupted, for an hour, felt like a revelation.  I was alone, out of doors and unbridled in any way.  Sweet seclusion.  I realized this, too, is how I charge my batteries, and that I need to do it more often.

How do you find alone time?

Post Scripts.

+Are you guilty of secret #basic behavior, too?

+Love the romantic pink bows on this gown.

+Into this top — stripes and tassels!  And a sale price tag, too!

+Love the proportions and color of this well-priced gray sweater.  Perfect with my new pair of jeans!

+School lessons.

+Also love this blouson sweatshirt.  Great color, great shape.  But HOW can you turn down this $15 tunic sweatshirt in that oatmeal color?!  I want to wear that with leggings and my Gucci loafers for max comfort this fall…

+Chanel-esque.  Digging them with a dress like this or this for work this fall.

+Loved your reactions to my post on parenting expectations vs. reality.

+Would you categorize alone time as “wellness”?  I’m scared of and confused by that word now

17 Comments

  1. oh, the importance of alone time. Though my boyfriend and I do not have a child, I find it is imperative both for myself but also for the health of our relationship that I find time to just.be.alone. It’s nothing personal- my boyfriend is my best friend, my rock, my everything- but it’s deeply personal to who I am at my core. Living in NYC and working in NYC definitely can take a toll on you (even if you do love city life!). It’s been said time and time again – it’s hard to “turn off”, but not just as far as technology is concerned. I notice that even when I’m not in a rush to get someplace, I still must appear as a crazy speedwalker to any tourist on the street. NYers get it though!

    Even when I break away to go to a Barre class, or do grocery shopping, I’m never truly alone. So what do I do? I find opportune times to break away- i.e. this weekend, when I’m out on eastern Long Island spending time with my mom and her dog. She has a vast garden (and a teeny tiny house in a pretentious but beloved beach resort community – wink wink – I hate to say the name of the town when telling people where “home” is because all sorts of things are associated with it, and my mother’s home is none of it!). I spend my days here being grounded (literally). I pick fresh fruits and veggies from her garden, admire the flowers in the yard and even weed. And I love every moment of getting down and dirty. Though some may consider weeding “work”, when I am alone and doing this it is the most therapeutic thing. When I need a break, I’ll take the dog for a walk on the beach which is, more often than not, abandoned after Labor Day. It’s a sweet solitude I am ever so grateful for!

    1. That sounds DIVINE. I read, too, that there is scientific proof that doing things with your hands (gardening, woodworking, knitting, etc) turns on a specific part of your brain or releases a specific endorphin/hormone (can’t remember exactly) that makes you happier! So you are definitely on to something.

      Also, I SO relate to your comment about the challenge of slowing down/turning off in NYC. Sometimes I find myself borderline running between errands just because I’m used to the pace! Mr. Magpie often has to tell me to sloooow down. Ha! xo

  2. Must. Have. Alone. Time.
    I’ve long known that I need quiet time alone to recharge. I’m part of an enormous, unruly family and at any given family gathering you can be assured that I will sneak away to a quiet room at some point, usually running into my dad there!

    Interestingly, I found it much more socially accepted to sit in a bar with a book late in the afternoon when I was living in New York than I do here at home in Sydney. The thought wouldn’t occur to me in Sydney, but in New York it was one of my favourite things to do – different kinds of solitude for different kinds of lives. xx

    1. That is SO fascinating — hadn’t thought about the cultural norms around alone time. It reminds me that for a long time I was bothered by the fact that Mr. Magpie would go out to eat at restaurants alone when traveling for work. I was like — AOSIDJAOSIDJIJ!!!! THAT IS SO SAD!!! DON’T DO IT!!! But he insisted that it’s actually a lovely experience and not so abnormal. And he’s right; it is kind of a luxury. Anyway, hoping you find a little quiet space whether it’s in public or the shelter of your own home!

      xo

  3. This reminded me of one of my all time favorite memories/moments – at a friend’s lake house over the 4th of July, I was a little burnt out on people and snuck away to this amazing hanging daybed on the back porch with a big fan overhead. My Kindle and I had the most glorious quiet afternoon next to the water on that porch and I think of it often. It cemented that I need some type of hanging daybed swing on a porch in my future.

    1. Sounds divine. There is something alchemic about the sounds of the outdoors, solitude, and a good book. xo

  4. I love this!!! Reading outside is one of my favorite ways to recharge. When we were living in the city we lived on Fifth across the street from the park, and only a few blocks away from the Conservatory Garden. I would often go there to read–there are many quiet places and it’s just a perfect place to be. You’re so lucky you have a lovely courtyard!!

    1. Hadn’t heard about the Conservatory Garden!!! I might need to make a special field trip or pitstop over there 🙂 xoxo

  5. I’ve seen some of those courtyards in NYC, and it’s amazing how quiet they are amid all the hustle and bustle of the city. Alone time/rest is something I’ve taken for granted lately and haven’t made a priority. I’d be so much more effective in this time of work busyness and my move if I did. Recharging for me also usually involves a book and some quiet space (and coffee/wine depending on the time of day!). I find the time spent even better when my mind can drift and imagination is ignited.

    One particular moment came to mind when I read the portion of this post about you neighbor reading in silence – I had just arrived at Newark airport this past weekend. I was walking down a corridor and passed a gentleman who worked there. He didn’t acknowledge me when I walked by…and I thought, “it’s good to be home!” While I do enjoy the politeness of the people in the South, sometimes it’s nice to go on with just a silent knowing.

    1. That is SO hilarious about the Newark encounter – I hear you. It can be so comforting to get back to the familiar ways of your homeland 🙂 And to be tacitly acknowledged but not to have to speak, too. A beautiful thing!

      Please do carve out some YOU time, especially after a move! Moves are really hard — it’s a complete disruption to everything you’re accustomed to! It’s stressful! There are too many logistics! It has to work according to a timetable! Meanwhile, you’re sorting through the emotional baggage of leaving loved ones for the unknown. So, YES you deserve some time to yourself to recharge the batteries! We miss you in book club…!

      xo

    2. I miss you guys, too! And such a great point – this move in particular has been nothing short of exhausting. At the very least, I think a glass of wine is in my near future xo

  6. I relate to this so majorly.

    It also makes me think about the quality of alone time. When I’m burnt out I have a tendency to hide away from the world under a blanket with TV. What you did (quietly reading outside) sounds so much more fulfilling. Going to make it a point to get outside and read this weekend! x

    1. Such a good point – hadn’t thought about that, but there are certainly degrees of quality when it comes to quiet time and maybe I’ll gravitate towards the more fulfilling kinds more often now. xo

  7. Alone time is very, very necessary for me when it comes to recharging my own batteries. Always has been and, I suspect, always will be!

    Love that soft pink sweatshirt from The Great — I have a cozy dress and a couple pairs of “army” pants from that line and really like all of them. Most of their pieces have distressed edges, though, so I would send a note of caution to those who don’t appreciate that type of treatment!

    1. Yes, have heard such good things about this label — have heard that they are well-made and super-comfortable. #need

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