Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thoughts on a month of seeking solitude (upon which I lose any extroverted reader I might have had)

It's Day 1.  It's early morning.  I am sitting out on my side porch.  I hear the cicadas humming and some poor bird that sounds like a dying squeaky toy.  Unfortunately, when I look outside I see my side garden, which is producing lovely tomatoes but nothing else, and because we have abandoned taking care of everything but the tomatoes, it is looking quite sad and overgrown and rather shameful.  I am sipping coffee, of course.  My poor Leia with her broken leg is lying beside me, her hopes dashed because yet another morning went by when she did not get to go chase her frisbee.  I have done the morning office.  I have written in my journal.  And here I am.

Now what?  How do I use this precious time?  Last night I had sushi with my dear friend Kelly, and she asked me what I was going to be doing this month.  I had no idea.  I mean, I had a sketchy idea in my head, but not a very good one.  I thought I would figure it out this morning.  Unfortunately, I had much of the night to think about it, because I didn't sleep very well (thanks to an unsettling letter from our Amish friends yesterday--sometimes the cultural and spiritual divide is so deep between us I worry that it is a chasm into which our relationship might fatally fall).  I have also already spent 30 minutes this morning journaling my hopes for this month. 

First, the logistics.  I am committing to an hour of solitude a day.  This means getting up earlier than usual, and once school starts, this means getting up at a godforsaken time that should leave me utterly despairing and ready for bed by 7:00 a.m.  We will see.  I know I could spend my time in the evenings, and once school starts I may do that--or I may divide my time up with 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening.  We'll see.  I just love morning, once I get past the whole getting out of bed part. 

This morning I asked myself what I was supposed to do for this solitude experiment, and the answer came back to me: "whatever you want."  Well, that's a lovely thought, isn't it???  I do think I need to impose the restriction that my hour of solitude cannot involve technology, unless I am writing a blog post.  This will require utmost resistance to temptation, as "writing a blog post" does not involve checking Facebook or the JoCo library page to see if a book has come in or that article I clicked from PBS this morning about iDisorders (I did actually just re-check that article to see if it was written idisorders or iDisorders, but I didn't actually read the article, so I don't think that counts as cheating).  Never fear, I am sure that cheating will be involved at some point. 

So, what to do?  Here is my list so far.  I fear that it is a treacherously boring list.  To some, this list might be included in a blog post entitled, "How I Spell Torture," but for me...this is bliss.  (Really, though, I hesitate to share this list.  Perhaps you will truly realize what you have always suspected, that I am created from cells that are exceptionally dull, insipid, and uninteresting.)  Anyway, here it is.  Judge away:
  • Praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  I think I will include this time.  I did this morning.  It doesn't take very long, but I don't want to become resentful.
  • Journaling
  • Writing blog entries
  • Reading (both books on solitude AND books for pleasure.  Someone please remind me of this one.  I NEED to allow myself time to read for pleasure, for the beautiful ache of a lovely sentence).
  • Walking (this would have to be in the evenings or on a weekend, and not for exercise)
  • Visiting a coffee shop (again, an evening or weekend thing)
  • Visiting a museum (again, an evening or weekend thing)
Am I missing something else?  Obviously I am not adept in the pursuit of solitude, which is silly since I seem to have such a primal need to breathe it, drink it, and taste it.

Since I am just coming off of my month of praying the offices, I feel like I need to put something spiritual on my list like "pray" or "read the Bible."  Quite frankly, however, that is not how I want to spend my hour of solitude.  The last thing I need to do is make this hour duty-oriented.  That would evaporate any joy or healing right out of it. 

I do have a booklist for the month, of course.  Here's to hoping I make time to read all of these (plus something truly delicious and lovely in the not-reading-for-education department). 
  • Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton
  • The Power of Solitude: Discovering Your True Self in a World of Nonsense and Noise by Annemarie S Kidder
  • The Call of Solitude: Alonetime in a World of Attachment by Ester Schater Buchholz
  • Fifty Days of Solitude by Doris Grumbach
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I think another idea would be to pursue mini solitude breaks during the day.  However, my children have a radar for such things.  They intuitively know when I take a load of dirty clothes down to the basement or shut myself in on the other side of the bathroom door or sneak up to the attic to put away laundry.  It's uncanny, really.  However, if I seek those tiny moments to myself, maybe I can create the space for them. 

So...I raise my coffee cup to you this morning and say, "Here's to solitude."  Happy August. 

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