I have lived alone virtually my entire adult life. And for the most part, I’ve been content with that. In fact, the older I get, the more necessary it seems for my mental and emotional balance that I experience at least a portion of my day alone inside my head.
I love time with family and friends, and I love going places and doing things. But if I don’t have time to collect myself, I find myself coming a little undone. After a few days without down time I feel disorganized. Things seem disjointed. I’m easily distracted and I struggle to remember all my obligations. I don’t feel able to complete any of the tasks in front of me. I compensate for my lack of down time by staying up too late, then I compound the problem by sleeping too late the next morning and rushing off to whatever my day holds. And, as family members can attest, I get very, very cranky.
My favorite time of the week is Friday night, when I can come home and watch TV or read or watch a movie or chat with family and friends by phone or online, then go to bed and observe No Alarm Saturday.
Saturday and Sunday have their own schedules and obligations, but Friday nights and Saturday mornings are vitally important to my sense of self. If I manage to use my time even a little wisely on weekends, combining the usual errands and housework with a few blissful hours of being purely lazy, the next work week will find me better able to get up early enough for a devotional time, more likely to get in a good workout after work, and better able to cook and eat healthy meals and prepare for my work day the next day.
I’ve learned this is typical of introverts, and while it may be a luxury for anyone other than a single adult, the craving for solitude is nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve also learned that after a day or so of being alone, I get really antsy for interaction with other members of the human race. I like most people, and most people like me. I need my friends. But I am a better person – a better employee, a better daughter and sister and friend – when I have time to write in my journal, to pray, to contemplate, to center myself.
As with most things in life, balance and moderation are key.
When did solitude become something I actively sought and needed?
Looking back on my childhood, when I was the youngest of three children and shared a bedroom with my older sister, I was rarely alone. But then again, my siblings are several years older than me, and it wasn’t long before they were out and about with their friends and I was still a pre-teen. I could usually be found in a corner with my nose stuck in a book. (That hasn’t changed.)
It’s odd, how much difference a few unobligated hours can make to my peace of mind. And it makes me wonder if it is perhaps as well that I never had children. Would I have been a good mother? Or would I have adapted to that reality, as I have to this one?
Last year a friend and I vacationed in Florida for a few days. We had a wonderful, and wonderfully relaxing, time. We sunned, we shopped, we did some sightseeing. On the last morning there, my bladder woke me up shortly before 5:00 a.m. I went back to bed but couldn’t help but notice that the edges of the curtain over the window shimmered a translucent blue.
Quietly, so that I wouldn’t awaken my friend, I grabbed my journal and my Bible, and tiptoed out of the room onto the deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
And there, suspended low over the Gulf, was the moon, on its way down, but not quite gone, even as, behind me, the sun was not quite up. And except for the brilliant gold of the moon beaming down to reflect on the tranquil, lapping waves, the whole world was blue, and quiet, and still. And I experienced a few blessed moments of perfect peace.
I took this photo and saved it. I often look at it and retreat into it when I feel a need to be quiet in my mind, just for a few seconds. Or when things get hectic at work, and I feel like shouting, “SERENITY NOW!” I will pull out my iPhone and pull up this photo and allow myself to sink back into that moment of solitude, when everything was bigger than me, but I was part of everything, and it was part of me, and all was one.
Shortly thereafter, a jogger in neon turquoise shorts and a neon gold tank top passed beneath me and informed me that the local donut shop was open. Everything about it – the jarring neon tones of his clothes, his cheerful conversation and the somewhat annoying obligation to respond politely, his commercial pitch to give the donut place my business – called me back to remind me I wasn’t the only person in the world.
But I had found my treasure for the day. I had luxuriated in my moment of solitude. I had found myself immersed in an other-worldly place and moment of utter tranquility, a place of blue sprinkled with gold moondust, a place of salty breezes and rhythmic, lapping waves, a place of singular beauty. I had been gifted with a sense of deep, deep peace. And I will always have it.