Solitude

Some girls spend their time dreaming of a big wedding, planning for motherhood, wishing for Prince Charming to sweep into their lives.

Other than looking for a prince, or really any boy, to sweep into my life, I didn’t dream that way.  Professionally, I wanted to be a baseball player or a priest. But I figured my relationship options were few, and resigned myself to a life on my own, probably living in a house on a cliff overlooking the stormy Atlantic, tending to my 80 cats.

At the time, I didn’t even know I didn’t like cats. That’s how much I didn’t know.

Getting pregnant at 20 changed my anticipated trajectory, and since that moment, I really haven’t been alone. Either kids or a husband or both have been in my life for (WOW) 30 years. I am glad I was wrong about that, even though I very much enjoyed my 18 months alone in Portland while Tim worked in New York state.

I still envision living in a house overlooking the stormy sea.

Now that the world has entered a period of solitude, I feel uniquely qualified to celebrate the wonders of social distancing. As an introvert who was frequently sick (mono, strep, tonsillitis, ear infections, repeat) and had to socially distance before it was even a phrase, I also am a pianist who spent hours every day practicing; a young writer who pecked out stories on my dad’s Royal typewriter in the dormer of my childhood room; a music student who listened to hours of recordings in the library; an English major who lovingly leafed through pages and pages, finding myself in the words. I thrive on being alone.

This is nothing new to Tim. Turns out, he’s an introvert too, only he’s low key. He’s never even thought about it. Total loner. *shrug* Scorpios, right?

Here’s what I have found to revel in since locking down my social interaction four days ago:

–No taxi demands. Nobody needs to be driven anywhere. I am no longer bound by everyone else’s schedules.

–Writing. Without constraints on my time, I’m completely liberated to spread out all my materials, close the bedroom door, and unspool all these thoughts and ideas. Got myself a good novel-writing platform and started pouring all my research and ideas into an organizational system. It’s pretty fantastic.

–At-home workouts. Slightly challenging without cardio equipment in the house, but I’m creative.

–I can wear scents again. My workplace has a scent-free policy, but at home I can surround myself with whatever light fragrance I want.

–No makeup necessary, but I can do crazy shit just for fun. Green eyeliner? GOT IT. I have likewise arranged my hair in kooky buns. BECAUSE I CAN.

–No FOMO. Like, NONE. Now that I know everyone is locked down, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on all the fun stuff all the extroverts are doing.

Oh, did you think introverts don’t WANT to do fun stuff? No, we do. We just don’t want to do it with a bunch of people, unless we know for absolute certain those people understand us. That kind of understanding is hard to come by. Everyone understands extroverts; introverts are a puzzle. Like, literally. And who likes to do puzzles? Certainly not extroverts.

–Singing along as Tim plays the guitar. Did you know that when you play music with another person, your brains sync up? IT’S TRUE. And I get to do that with Tim.

–Watch Tim work on his electric guitar. People, TELL me you don’t enjoy watching your significant other pursuing the thing that makes them happy. It’s *dreamy*

–Read. I’ve started two new books since Friday. I have a stack on the bookshelf just waiting for me.

–Take an online course. LOOK AT THESE BEAUTIES.

–Meditating. Tim and I have taken to scheduling our meditating at the same time. He takes the bedroom, because he likes to lie down, and I take the leather chair in the living room. We’re guaranteed not to bug each other for 25 minutes.

–I don’t do this now, but I worked from home as a contract copy editor for 8 years for a company that created online coursework for brick-and-mortar universities. I never met most of my coworkers in person. It was some of the most interesting, gratifying work of my life. If the market opens up again for this, which I suspect it will, I might jump back into it. I guess in this case, I’m reveling in the possibility.

–I can still garden, which I prefer to do alone. Sunshine, I hear, is a great disinfectant. When I was a girl, recovering from my quarterly severe upper respiratory infection, my mom would wrap me in a blanket and sit me on a lawn chair on the patio to “bake in the sun.” It could have been 40F, and my mom would have put me out in the sun for a few minutes. That must be why I am so powerfully drawn to the outdoors; it represents the freedom I had as a child to explore and get lost in the woods, and the sensation of my body recovering from illness. I can go out and get dirty and make this year’s garden the most beautiful and successful of all time. All from tiny seeds. 

–Communicating in writing. This is different from the kind of writing I referenced above; this refers to the revelatory experience of being on social media when you’re an introvert. Some of us communicate better in writing, and social media gives us a place to shine in ways extroverts, with their flashy and fearless physicality, can’t.

And now, while we are all sequestered, you’re all here. Your eyes are looking for something to keep them occupied. Something to think about.  Something to engage with. I’m aware that writing is the hardest-to-access of all art forms; performers–actors, musicians–bring their work directly into your senses, visual artists’ work is consumable with a glance, but the audience for writers is limited to people willing to make the effort to decode all the characters and words carefully arranged for specific meaning.

And right now, when all the brains of the world are seeking content for distraction or understanding or connection or growth, writing is exactly the medium for these times. 

And neither the writer nor the reader needs to leave our house.

The only thing that’s changed for me is that for the first time, I feel like my skill set is precisely what is needed for getting through this period of prolonged aloneness.

Now all I have to do is keep my family locked down, and manage my anxiety about the suffering of my fellow man. In the meantime, I’m cultivating a peaceful, solitary heart.

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This is my favorite game to play on my phone. It’s the visual equivalent of an instrument coming into tune, or a closet becoming organized. A great feeling of “ahhhhh” comes over me as the colors fall into place under my fingertips. This, too, is part of my quiet time.