We are lucky here in this part of the Shenandoah Valley - frost has not yet hit us. It has been around us, but not yet here at our home on the James River. I am glad, because the tomatoes and peppers keep producing along with the basil and the beautiful zinnias. In fact, it appears that the zinnias like these cooler temperatures. They are still growing and blooming, offering their beautiful colors and smiling faces.


We continue to live closely here at our country home. Our ages have my husband and I being particularly careful to not expose ourselves to the Covid virus. I know that I have been enjoying this time together as I wrote about in my previous blog. And we each are also honoring when we want to be away from each other. Our separateness usually is in the form of being in different places in the house or on the property.


Honoring the need for the other person to have time for themselves is very important to good mental health and balanced relationships, thus this second living-together suggestion: Honor Separate.


I teach relationship dynamics through the use of circles. In this case of two individuals, each person is a circle. In a healthy relationship, the two circles have a dynamic relationship where the circles can intersect each other as much as is agreeable to each individual. They can completely overlap. And when one person wants to separate and have time for self, that person is able to slide their circle away from the other person’s circle without an issue. Mutual respect for both the relationship and the individuality of each person makes this possible. Trust does, too.


So when my husband goes to work on his writing or is busy with notes he may be jotting down for his work, I respect his space. I try not to interrupt, not to insert myself in what he has going on. He has not left me. He is just doing things which are part of who he is and what builds him as a person. I leave him to his thoughts and work and trust that we will intersect again and again in natural ways as the day moves on.


Honor Separate works both ways. Not only do we want to be in a relationship which honors each person’s needs for time alone, we want to be able to offer this same opportunity to our self to take time away from others and activities. I know that when I step aside to write or play in my gardens, I become calmer and more centered. When I go for my walk, I prefer to go alone so I can be quiet and appreciate the sights and sounds of the world I am traveling through.


Allowing our self to have this separateness can be a challenge. We may feel selfish not inviting the rest of the family to walk with us. We may feel guilty taking time to look through catalogs or read a book when our child is waiting for us to review their homework. We may feel too pressed to get other things done to allow our self to stop and step away.


My experience is that I can always put these obstacles to Honor Separate– these thoughts and feelings - in my way. It’s not that someone else is stopping me from exercising, watching a show, or napping. It’s me. My recovery often has me noticing such self-imposed obstacles and making efforts to remove them. Things that help me to do this include creating a pause in my activities to notice if I would do well to be on my own for a bit, tuning into what I would really like to go do for me for these separate moments, and reminding myself of how restored I feel from time alone.


Looking at the photo of the zinnias still growing in my garden, we see beautiful color and form. Reaching to the sun on their strong stems, each zinnia has its own distinct life and character. The flowers are separate and yet they are all rooted together. Separate and rooted together. What a masterpiece!