The Daily Debrief: How to Share Your Day When You Live Alone

debrief living alone, maggie mcreynolds blogThere are real pleasures to living alone, like getting to make up all the rules, eating cereal for dinner, and having no one to complain if you leave wet towels on the floor or hang the toilet paper the “wrong” way.

And there are downsides, too. One of them can be that there’s no built-in someone with whom to compare notes at the end of the day. You know, the big stuff. The little stuff. The annoying stuff. The weird stuff. The stuff that if you don’t tell someone, you’re going to explode. Stuff like:

“Can you believe my boss won’t replace my keyboard even though the ‘m’ stopped working? How am I supposed to write without ‘m’s’?”

“Hey, there’s another Chinese noodle shop opening downtown—what does that make, like, 137?”

“I think I’ve got a good shot at landing the account, can I bounce this idea off you?”

“I got a flat tire on the way home and then when I was changing it, I scraped the skin off all my knuckles and then I dropped the lug wrench on my cell phone. I need a hug. And a new phone.”

“The school called, and apparently Andrew has been eating crayons. Yes, again. Yes, only the red ones.”

But what if the only person who lives in your house is you? How do you share your triumphs, letdowns, worries, news, and trivia—and with whom? How do you download all that stuff that’s whirling around in your head so you can think clearly again? How do you get the support and feedback you need when it’s just you and four impassive walls staring back at you?

It helps to get clear on what you’re looking for. Maybe you just want to vent. Maybe you want feedback, suggestions, and brainstorming. Maybe you’re simply looking for affirmation—to just be heard. Maybe you want to be comforted, reassured, cheered. Knowing what you want isn’t a guarantee you’ll get it. But not knowing what you want is like setting out in your car for an unknown destination. How will you know when you get there?

Once you get clear on your needs, there are a bunch of creative ways to go about getting them met:

Journaling—this is a great solution for when you just need to do a brain dump, to get all that gunk out of your head. Writing about your day may also help you process it and even find solutions–if not in the moment, then perhaps later or the next day, when you reread what you’ve written. Another great technique for solutioning: write the question or issue at the top of the page with your dominant hand, then write the answer with your non-dominant hand, which forces you to use the other hemisphere of your brain. Assuming you can read what you wrote, your answers may surprise you with their insight.

Social media—a good choice for getting quick feedback, suggestions, and, depending upon your virtual world, genuine comfort and support. Sometimes a highly targeted online community, like, oh, Parents of Kids Who Inexplicably Eat Red Crayons, can offer you specific advice and input you might not get from even the most well-meaning partner or friend.

Pets—just looking for a sympathetic ear? Fido and Fluffy each have a set. Of course, you may have to bribe them to sit still with treats, especially if you’re going to go into that rant about the guy in the next cube who says “D’oh!” like Homer Simpson 8000 times a day again. But don’t underestimate the non-judgmental power of animals. They love you even if you did flip off that woman in the minivan because she dropped off her child in the no-drop-off-no-pick-up zone.

Meditation—another way to release the events of the day without getting emotionally hooked by them. Find a comfortable position (it needn’t involve twisting yourself like a pretzel), close your eyes, breathe, and progressively relax your body. Watch the days’ events unfold and pass by you like sticks in a river. You could choose to wade into the water and play with them, or pick them up and beat yourself up with them, but why? They are now in the past. Let them go.

A debriefing buddy—find a like-minded pal, and agree to provide end-of-the-day support to each other. You listen to them; they listen to you. Hint: it’s still helpful here to identify what you’re looking for before you download your stuff. If all you want is a chance to vent, say so, or risk that the listener may come back at you with well-intentioned but unwanted advice and feedback.

Talk to yourself—yes, aloud. Yes, it’s okay. And no, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy or hopelessly weird. It’s even okay to answer yourself. So go ahead, have a dialogue between you and you. No worries unless you start to hear a chorus of other voices chiming in.

Bottom line: you can live alone without being lonely, and you can give yourself what you need. In fact, I highly recommend growing the muscles to give yourself what you need even if you live with someone else. You can be your own best listener–as anyone will tell you who’s ever tried to talk to an exhausted partner whose eyes have glazed over and whose responses are monosyllabic.

Now pass the Lucky Charms, will you? It’s time for dinner.

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