“Spending time alone can look a little suspect in a world gone wild for wikis and interdisciplinary collaboration. Those who prefer solitude and privacy are seen as eccentric at best and defective at worst, and are often presumed to be suffering from social anxiety, boredom, and alienation.”
Boston Globe “The Power of Lonely”
I am sitting alone in my studio because it feeds my soul. It’s my happy place. I am alone for longer periods of time than I have been since I was young and used to play in my room for hours at a time content with the company found in imaginary worlds.
Being alone is not being lonely.
When I retired from a profession where I worked in a building filled everyday with hundreds of kids and adults; I needed a little quiet time. When I moved to a new community; I had the opportunity to evaluate the level of social interaction I wanted and found myself really enjoying most of my time with my husband and hours alone working in my studio.
There are other “lonely” activities. Spending time just listening to my husband’s large collection of albums in our music room is wonderful way to end the day without the need for company. I read; blogs, books, and articles. Most days I do a bit of writing and at least once a week I am enjoying extended periods writing this blog and working on potential publications.
I used to attend group exercise classes. Now I am happy to swim laps, go to peaceful group yoga class, hike in the desert or walk my dog on the golf course after it closes. I am also committed to daily meditation. It helps to both to clear my mind of mental noise and allow space for new ideas.
Each of these lonely ways I spend my time has increased my creative energy and focus.
Retirement helped me remember my strong desire as I graduated from art school to be a “real artist” working in a studio. Although many years have passed I am lucky to have an income, a great deal of time and place to make art my fulltime job. I am living my dream.
Not everyone understands my love of time alone especially my accidental friend.
What is an “accidental friend”? I define an accidental friend as a person who comes into one’s life by chance and not choice. This person is in close proximity; like someone in the adjacent office or your new next door neighbor. Maybe they sit next to you at a meeting or you have a children in the same class.
In process of finding out how little you have in common with this person they declare you a friend.
In Anne Taylor’s book the main character is Macon Leary; a travel writer who hates travel and writes for the person who travels for business. Macon’s motivation is to keep life’s disruptions to a minimum and encourage predictability. In his travel writing he describes a scenario of the friendly seatmate on a long flight. He provides detailed instructions on how to avoid any unnecessary social interaction. His character describes a perfect prescription to keep one safe from the accidental friend.
When I moved to Mesquite I was really tired. So tired, my word of the year was nap! Now that my energy has picked up, I am using it on several new projects. This means I am often working during the afternoons and late in the night. I am very happy to be isolated; but my accidental friend wants to rescue me.
Before nine the doorbell rings and here comes the accidental friend trying to get me to do something with a group. This friend finds me at the pool and insists on talking to me non-stop or moving my lounge chair so I won’t be alone. If I have been working in my studio without going outside I’ll discover my friend peeking in my window. saying “I haven’t seen you out today.”
When I have tried to explain that I am really enjoying studio time, the response is “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” “I just can’t sit still. I need to be moving.” “Having a social group is so important. Retired people get depressed when they are alone.”
So I am now in the process of nicely saying no. I am sure that in a few weeks when more “snowbirds” arrive back my friend will give up on trying to fix me. What will not happen is my ability to help my friend understand the value of time spent alone.
Until the next time…..