Puttering time, soul needs, and ever-shifting self-care

“what happened to alone time?”

During the loooong time since I published my last blog post, I’ve had to kind of reinvent the ways I practice self-care. Sound familiar?

Part of this (perhaps ironically?) was the decision not to offer my Stellar Self-Care One-on-One Coaching Program this year, for the first time since 2015. I realized that, with my own self-care so up in the air, I didn’t have the personal bandwidth to “hold” the program energetically this year (though I’ve still been working with clients on self-care issues in their individual sessions).

Self-care, for me, has been hugely dependent on the availability of regular time alone, and we’re not talking about just half an hour here or there. Solid, sustained alone time was a big part of my way of life prior to the pandemic.

This solitude afforded me several important things: connection to myself, without reference to others (which, for a recovering people-pleaser, has felt like a must); the fertile creative ground from which blog posts and other pieces of writing are born; the rebalancing of my energy and recharging of my battery that I, as a definite introvert, have felt the need to do alone.

In the five years that I’ve shared a home with my partner, I’ve gotten my alone time when he’s been out, at work. I’d schedule coaching clients during this time, and I’d also be able to have my beloved “puttering time,” in which I would, yes, putter around my home alone, doing things like folding clothes, rearranging books, remembering, musing, and weaving past and future together within myself. (And, of course, talking to my cat.)

Puttering time has nothing to do with “getting things done”; it’s that pure, intentional non-doing time in which I connect with “being” energy (even though I often am doing things during it because I’m just not a particularly sedentary person). Puttering time can be hard to allow to myself, and it can be easy to forget that I need it, even in “normal” times.

Well, the pandemic brought puttering time almost to a complete halt. (I did manage to reengage with it a few weeks ago when my partner was away for a couple of days.) Add in that I have been working with more coaching clients than usual, and, for a while, I had what felt like this whole tangled mess of needs I had no idea how to meet.

I’d like to tell you this is all resolved, but, of course, it isn’t. It’s a day-by-day thing — a process of ever-shifting and ever-evolving self-care that I am learning to embrace.

What has managed to occur, though, is that I’ve reached some form of acceptance.

Acceptance that it’s extra-challenging to meet some very important needs right now.

Acceptance that my partner and I have shorter tempers and we get irritated and angry with each other more quickly.

Acceptance that there are loved ones I haven’t seen in a very long time and probably will not see for quite some time more.

Acceptance that our cat is affected by all this and going out of her mind with hunting/predatory/play energy (she’s shown up on quite a few of my video coaching sessions, stalking imaginary things in the background). (Note to self: in the future, follow instinct to adopt two cats rather than one, to avoid “single cat syndrome.”)


Sometimes when I bring up the concept of “acceptance” to clients, they say that acceptance sounds like not trying, like giving up, like resigning themselves to things they don’t want, like being excessively passive.

I used to feel this way, too. But over the years, as life brought me to my knees time and again, I’ve come to realize that acceptance comes down to recognizing where we have true control and where we don’t.

It also means recognizing our limits — which I used to hate to admit I had. It means accepting who we are — that combination of strengths and not-so-strong places that is innate to each of us — and understanding that we can change and grow and stretch ourselves — and we should (this is one of the places where I mean “should” in a positive way — our world, quite obviously, increasingly needs us to stretch ourselves in countless ways).

And: we also each have core traits that we’d do much better to accept than to try to change.

Like my need for alone time. I can do without it for a while, but I’d better figure out ways to get it if I can. It’s a soul need for me, and fulfilling that need allows me to be present for others, for the world.

And I’m learning that there are ways of getting that time, even when it can’t be as “planned” or as consistently available as it was in the past. I grab it here and there where I can; I make more requests of my partner (and he of me) so that we can each have some time to ourselves (even when we’re both at home).

I am also learning to leave myself alone more. By this I mean, more than ever, out of sheer necessity, I am quicker to be kind to myself. To give myself the benefit of the doubt. To drop it when I realize I’m criticizing myself (that self-criticism is probably the number one thing that makes me less available to others).

The ways I practice self-care are shifting, evolving, transforming. This is not a bad thing. It is a necessary thing.

What are you noticing about your self-care during this time? What have you changed? What has changed you? What challenges you the most? I’d love to hear from you.

Above dog photo by Ann Schreck on Unsplash; mountain goat photo by Ray Aucott on Unsplash

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6 thoughts on “Puttering time, soul needs, and ever-shifting self-care

  1. So good to hear from you. I’ve missed your posts, but understand completely about getting everything done when all we really should be doing is taking care of ourselves. That is critical at this crazy time. I’m taking more walks, not listening to most of the news, and give myself to being creative in journaling. Thank you as always for your wisdom and words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s wonderful to hear from you too, Joan! This really is a crazy time, and I’m so glad to hear you’re journaling and finding taking more walks helpful (me too, especially now that we have some fall weather here!), and setting boundaries around news consumption is very wise! I feel so much saner when I do that. Sending you good vibes for healthy mind, body, and soul. 🙂


  2. I pretty much want to comment on {or agree with, really} almost every line in this post! The acceptance, the need for longer periods of alone time {a half hour here or an hour there is not going to cut it}, the puttering {or pottering, as we call it here 🙂 }. Sometimes it just helps to read that someone else is out there navigating very similar needs and learning and relearning the same things in similar ways. I’m absolutely cherishing my alone time at the moment; it’s as necessary for sustenance as food.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear from you, Tara! It’s helpful for me, too, to hear that you are navigating this bizarre time we’re in in similar ways! Alone time really is sustenance for some of us and a thing to be cherished. I am lucky that since I published this post, a little more has opened up for me and it has made such a difference (even though it’s still less than I would like). Best to you — and yay for pottering! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • We’ve just had a four week national lockdown announced here, so I guess I can put it all into practice {again, more} for the next month! Enforced alone time is not the same as chosen, but I’m thankful for technology that allows me to stay connected with loved ones while also having my fill of solitude {and painting time!}. Glad you are getting a little more for yourself too just now. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, another lockdown — that is hard. I know what you mean about enforced alone time feeling different than chosen alone time — for sure. Sending good vibes for you to reap the benefits of the solitude and painting time while not being hit too hard by the downside of the “enforced” part! 🙂


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