solitude

Being One Person in One Head and Feeling

Pulled pork, roasted Brussels sprouts, and salad from Have-Paul's, April 25, 2014

How to be Alone

by Tanya Davis

If you are at first lonely, be patient. If you've not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren't okay with it, then just wait. You'll find it's fine to be alone once you're embracing it.

We could start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library. Where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books. You're not supposed to talk much anyway so it's safe there.

There's also the gym. If you're shy you could hang out with yourself in mirrors, you could put headphones in.

And there's public transportation, because we all gotta go places.

And there's prayer and meditation. No one will think less if you're hanging with your breath seeking peace and salvation.

Start simple. Things you may have previously based on your avoid being alone principals.

The lunch counter. Where you will be surrounded by chow-downers. Employees who only have an hour and their spouses work across town and so they - like you - will be alone.

Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.

When you are comfortable with eat lunch and run, take yourself out for dinner. A restaurant with linen and silverware. You're no less intriguing a person when you're eating solo dessert to cleaning the whipped cream from the dish with your finger. In fact some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.

Go to the movies. Where it is dark and soothing. Alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.

And then, take yourself out dancing to a club where no one knows you. Stand on the outside of the floor till the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no one's watching . . . because, they're probably not. And, if they are, assume it is with best of human intentions.

The way bodies move genuinely to beats is, after all, gorgeous and affecting. Dance until you're sweating, and beads of perspiration remind you of life's best things, down your back like a brook of blessings.

Go to the woods alone, and the trees and squirrels will watch for you.

Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets, there're always statues to talk to and benches made for sitting give strangers a shared existence if only for a minute and these moments can be so uplifting and the conversations you get in by sitting alone on benches might've never happened had you not been there by yourself.

Society is afraid of alonedom, like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements, like people must have problems if, after a while, nobody is dating them. But lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it.

You could stand, swathed by groups and mobs or hold hands with your partner, look both further and farther for the endless quest for company. But no one's in your head and by the time you translate your thoughts, some essence of them may be lost or perhaps it is just kept.

Perhaps in the interest of loving oneself, perhaps all those sappy slogans from preschool over to high school's groaning were tokens for holding the lonely at bay. Cuz if you're happy in your head then solitude is blessed and alone is okay.

It's okay if no one believes like you. All experience is unique, no one has the same synapses, can't think like you, for this be relieved, keeps things interesting life's magic things in reach.

And it doesn't mean you're not connected, that communities' not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it. Take silence and respect it. If you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it. If your family doesn't get you, or religious sect is not meant for you, don't obsess about it.

You could be in an instant surrounded if you needed it.

If your heart is bleeding make the best of it.

There is heat in freezing, be a testament.

Davis, T., & Dorfman, A. (2013). How to be alone. New York: Harper. (Amazon, library)

My Only Audience

From "The Self-Reflecting Pool," by Bonnie Tsui, The New York Times, Feb. 14, 2014:

Most days, I get into the neighborhood pool by 8:30 a.m. Even when there’s frost on the ground, the water is warm. Unless you’re the lifeguard, blowing the whistle when you want me to get out, I don’t know you exist. For 60 blessed minutes and 3,200 yards, I’m my only audience.

There’s nothing to look at, once the goggles fog over. Sound? The sloshing of water pretty much cancels out everything else. Taste and smell are largely of the chlorine and salt variety (though, at my old pool, I used to smell burgers cooking from the cafe downstairs). Despite all the tech advances of the last few years, you won’t see many swimmers wearing earphones or bone-conduction music devices: They just don’t work that well.

We enter the meditative state induced by counting laps, and observe the subtle play of light as the sun moves across the lanes. We sing songs, or make to-do lists, or fantasize about what we’re going to eat for breakfast. Submersion creates the space to be free, to stretch, without having to contend with constant external chatter. It creates internal quiet, too... 

For better or worse, the mind wanders: We are left alone with our thoughts, wherever they may take us. A lot of creative thinking happens when we’re not actively aware of it. A recent Carnegie Mellon study shows that to make good decisions, our brains need every bit of that room to meander. Other research has found that problem-solving tends to come most easily when our minds are unfocused, and while we’re exercising...

The enforced solitude is at odds with where we are as a culture. Our gyms are full of televisions tuned to SportsCenter and cable news. We’re tethered to our devices, even at bedtime. With that pervasive lack of self-control, who has the willpower to turn off technology for any meaningful period of time? I submit: Sliding into the water is the easiest way to detach from your phone.

Read the entire editorial...


See also: Creswell, J. D., Bursley, J. K., & Satpute, A. B. (January 01, 2013). Neural reactivation links unconscious thought to decision-making performance. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8(8), 863-9. http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/8/863.short 

Questions

Topiary Park, January 11, 2014

Topiary Park, January 11, 2014

Sometimes
by David Whyte

Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest,

breathing
like the ones
in the old stories,

who could cross
a shimmering bed of leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests,

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,

questions
that have patiently
waited for you,

questions
that have no right
to go away.


Part of the Earth

December 26, 2012

Storm
by James Tate 

The snow visits us,
taking little bits of us with it,
to become part of the earth,
an early death and an early return— 

like the filing of tax forms.
And all you can say after adding up
column after column: “I’m not myself.”

And all you can say after the long night
of searching for one certain scrap of paper:
“It never existed.”

And when all the lamps are lit
and the smell of the stew
has followed you upstairs
and slipped under the door of your study:
“The lute is telling the story
of the life I might have lived,
had I not—” 

In my study, which is without heat,
in mid-January, in the hills
of a northern province—only
the thin white-haired volumes
of poetry speak, quietly, like
unfed birds on a night visit 

to a cat farm. And an airplane is lost
in a storm of fitting pins.
The snow falls, far into the interior.