Saturday Night Solitude

When i was younger, I lived for weekends so that I could go out on Friday and Saturday nights.  Dates, dinner, movies, dancing, parties — you name it.  

Now?  I sometimes enjoy dinner out.  Maybe a movie.  Dates?  Haven’t had any in a long time.  But my real pleasure?  Time alone.  Solitude.

Just a few days ago I was reading something online about introverts and extroverts, and how most people think that introverts don’t like people.  That people who get along with lots of people and who are outgoing are extroverts.  The article went on to discuss the misconceptions that abound about each.  

Just where do I fit, I found myself wondering.  I certainly like people; I enjoy visiting with friends and enjoy meeting new people.  Being in front of a class or talking to a group has generally always come easily to me.  I belonged to various clubs and organizations in school and at university.

Yet in many ways, those traits (associated with extroverts) are deceptive.  Most people might be surprised to know that I frequently feel shy.  As much as I love being around my friends, talking and laughing, there is usually a moment when a click happens and I’m ready to be alone, to be quiet.

And that’s what weekends slowly became for me.  Time to retreat, to curl up quietly with a book and the television and the pets.  I can spend hours gladly chatting and laughing, either in small groups or at large parties.  But I need the opposite, too, and often without warning I simply need to leave and be alone.

I’ve always been that way.  Even as a youngster, I spent hours with the other kids in the camp, playing and screaming and whooping it up.  Then I’d go home and spend hours alone with a book.  As the oldest of three children, I often found myself “hiding out” in my room (shared for years with my younger sister), with the radio and a book.

I could be quiet for hours, not needing much interaction.  

As I got older, that held true.  I found that even in a dorm I could achieve some kind of quiet alone time with a background of white noise and a book.

By my forties, I found that weekends had become rest and recuperation time.  As my mother and brother were ill and dying, I used alone time as a way to rejuvenate for the times I needed to be there with them and helping out.  When I was taking care of my dad, just being able to retreat to my own room, with the door open, was a brief respite.

Now my time is my own.  No one needs me to be a caregiver.  It’s just me and the pets.  

Yet I still feel the need to pull in, to think, to read and write.  To shut out the world, the busy-ness of the world.  Too much chaos and noise and I’m over-stimulated.  Stressed.

All that alone time isn’t rejection of the world; it’s necessary for me to balance everything, to maintain some kind of perspective.  Quiet time, time for reflection and thought, is as necessary to me as breathing.  Without it, I get frazzled and feel as though I’m spinning.  With it, the world is just right.

So it is today. I spent a few hours with friends at a coffeeshop, having coffee and visiting and making some earrings.  But then I packed up, drove home, came inside, and shut out the world again.

Tonight I’m sleepy and need to listen to music.  Right now, I’m listening to a tribute CD, one to Townes Van Zandt, one of the great Texas singer-songwriters.  His music can be lonesome and depressing at times, but it’s also just as often haunting in its evocation of a human spirit sensitive and bruised, loving and loved.  

“To Live is To Fly” (sung on this CD by Guy Clark) often pops up in my head.  As Van Zandt writes,

“Everything is not enough

And nothin’ is too much to bear

Where you’ve been is good and gone
All you keep’s the getting there

Well to live is to fly, all low and high
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes

It’s goodbye to all my friends
It’s time to go again
But think of all the poetry
And the pickin’ down the line. .  . .

We all got holes to fill
And them holes are all that’s real
Some fall on you like a storm
Sometimes you dig your own

The choice is yours to make
And time is yours to take
Some dive into the sea
Some toil upon the stone

Well to live is to fly, all low and high
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes
Shake the dust off of your wings
And the tears out of your eyes.”


What does this have to to with solitude, with that introverted need to turn inward?

It’s basic — to some of us, anyway — a need to make sense of what’s outside and what’s inside.  A need to contemplate our own experiences, our own existence and those of others.  To reflect and find meaning.

Some people can’t stand to be alone.  I have friends who need to always be with others.  

Me?  I can’t imagine always being with others.  That would be agony to me.  Too much constant buzz, too much input.  Sensory overload.  Some people like Van Zandt deal with that with alcohol or drugs.  

Luckily, I’m not like Van Zandt in that respect.  I’m able to cope in other ways- I need to shut out the world.  

I’m with Townes Van Zandt otherwise, though. To live is to fly, surely, to feel the highs and lows.  

So it goes with me.  But tonight I’m spending time alone, being grounded, so that I don’t crash when I do fly. 

Sweet dreams, my friends.  


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