Posts Tagged With: solitude

Quiet Solitude

What a gift to have — the time to sit, to spend hours alone, and to rise having accomplished something without hurry.

Today I only left home to grocery shop.  Otherwise, I’ve been here in the house with only the pets for company.  All I had on my agenda for today was organizing — and I didn’t care how much I got done.  There was no deadline, no time constraint.  In fact, my only goal for the whole weekend is to end up with a straight office and organized craft materials.

No alarm clock set, I simply woke when I was ready — and it wasn’t terribly late.  I read for a while, played online a bit.  I dressed, went grocery shopping, and came home to eat lunch.  After a bit of HGTV, I was sleepy and napped a bit.  Such leisure used to be a rare treat — usually achieved only on weekends when I didn’t have any grading, or during semester breaks.  Now, of course, no worries about grading or course preparation disturb my freedom.  Though I certainly have deadlines, those are fewer, and they are of my choosing, not imposed.

Before I could organize anything, I spent time working with the precious metal clay that I had left.  Before too long, seven new pieces lay drying on a mug warmer.  This is the first time in a couple of weeks that I’ve made anything with the PMC3, and it was overdue.  My only regret:  I had no more PMC3 clay to work with.  More is ordered, but for now I simply must spend time planning what to work on when it arrives.  Tomorrow, though, I’ll clean up and fire the new pieces.

It was a natural move at that point to begin sorting through the various things scattered in my pmc workspace and through the materials.  By the time I was finished, I could fit everything but the clay products, slip, and olive oil jar into one tote, and all of the different tools were bagged with like tools.  Much easier than digging through everything.  I still need to wipe off the surfaces, but there’s time for that tomorrow.

With that area neatly organized and arranged, I moved back to lie down and read.  No urge to rush.  No anxiety about time.  Just the need to shift my focus for a while.  

Reading always fills any moment I can find.  From my first discovery of Little Golden Books, I have been a willing captive of books. By this time of year, when I was growing up, my Christmas list always began with what books I wanted.  I’d browse the Sears Christmas catalog, selecting Nancy Drew books, or Hardy Boys books, or other series of adventure tales.  Shakespeare joined the list when I was a freshman in high school.  I was (and am still) the geeky kid who gladly picks up a random volume of any encyclopedia just to browse articles.  

Now in retirement, it isn’t unusual for me to spend hours reading, spaced out daily.  My morning ritual reads are online newspapers and news sites.  Novels and craft books fill in at different times during my day.  

Reading material today?  A couple of new craft books, a science fiction/fantasy novel.  And a scholarly book on Jean Lafitte and his brother, on piracy during the battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.  

And so it was that I drifted from this house and time to other places, other universes, other times, and when it was time for a break, I shifted back to the living room, where my next task of organizing waited for me.

This time, I tackled the various containers of beads and wire and tools that I work with when I make jewelry — or at least what I often tote around with me to work on when I’m out at a coffeeshop or at McDonald’s near the university.  A couple of bags of new beads had to be sorted and placed in appropriate containers, labeled clearly by size and material.  I wasn’t really sure exactly what I have or what I need, which is one reason I needed to take the time for this.  Without a sense of what’s available, i can’t continue the jewelry I want to make for Christmas sales and gifts.  Otherwise, I’ll start something and realize that I lack the right wire.  This is exactly what happened to me last week, when I realized that I had no more 22-gauge or 24-gauge sterling silver wire, which is what I most commonly use with earrings.  Time for ordering, which I did at that point — and now I simply wait for the order to arrive. 

Sitting on one of the carpets I brought back from Azerbaijahn, I opened containers,  snipped knots off strands of gemstone beads, and meticulously filled container after container, labeling as I went.  When my back hurt, or a leg cramped, I’d shift around a bit, and then work some more.  Over the months I’ve been working with wire and beads, I’ve tried out different kinds of boxes and containers, settling on containers with individual areas with separate lids, a design that require the user to punch a lever in in order to release a lid — and the lid has to be pushed up.  I’ve spent way too much time picking up beads that have fallen out when the tops pop open.  Some beads I bagged and labeled.  Some went into stacking containers.  

From beads I moved on to findings — to sterling silver beads, rounds and other shapes, such as  rondelles and saucers.  I can now tell what I need to order more of.

Once I was finished, I had managed to put all of the bead containers into one tote with a locking lid and handle.  One large container holds spools of wire and bags of stones and beads, some earrings I’ve completed, with some projects that I’ve started.  One container holds only material for gold-filled or gold-plated work.  Another smaller container holds earrings I’ve started.  One box is only for tools.  Then there’s my ring binder notebook with labeled plastic pockets filled with different wires.  These now sit neatly on the carpet, out of the way, ready to be put onto shelves tomorrow when I move on to straightening and organizing the office.

I really don’t have any clear idea of how long I sat there.  The dogs and cats wandered around me, through the piles of containers scattered near me on the carpet.  From time to time I’d stop, spend time petting them, and then return to beads and tools and boxes.  

When I was done, I managed to get up, stretching because I was stiffer than I realized.  I threw away the bag of trash, shooed the pets out of the living room, and left, closing the door behind me.

Now I’m getting ready to return to bed, and I haven’t spoken more than a few words to anyone today.  I’ve talked to the dogs and cats more than to humans.  

Yet it was a full, productive day.  Solitude never bothers me; I’m happy having time to think while I work.  There’s a certain kind of reflection that arises naturally out of routines that in themselves don’t really require much thought.  Being alone rarely means that I’m lonely (though that certainly does happen too — don’t get me wrong).

Not everything is completed, but I’m not worried or stressed about it.  The living room is still a kind of holding space for things that need to come to the office or go to the beach with me the next time I go there.

In the meantime, though, I’m tired, a bit stiff, and satisfied.

I know the weather’s beautiful and the cooler temperatures are welcome.  But I’m happy and content to have such expanses of time to spend here, in the home I’m slowly returning to order, to life.  

Time for a book again.  

And to move back to the bedroom, to lie down and pull the covers up, snuggle in, and drift off to sleep while reading.

 

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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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