Friday, October 27, 2006

Me, Myself and I

I love walking into town. It takes only 20 minutes, which is not prohibitively long, but long enough to get lost in thought. Walking means taking in so much: smells, colors, temperatures, textures--all sorts of things you miss when buzzing by in a car. The same houses, trees, bushes, sidewalk cracks, peeping robins, mailboxes, parked cars and bus stop signs have begun to make up a community of sorts, reinforced every time I pass them. The walk makes me feel peaceful, and envisioning myself a small component of a larger world somehow makes me feel secure.

I remember hearing Jane Goodall talk at the Union Square Barnes & Noble years back about how, as a young woman during solitary periods studying chimps at Gombe, she came to view the trees, boulders, and other landscape features as part of her community, and would even say good morning as she passed them each day. I loved hearing that because, odd as it might sound, I have always secretly greeted squirrels, birds, trees, shrubs, flowers, etc., in the same way.

This morning, my mission was to pick up drycleaning and find a pair of tights to wear with a dress on vacation (I forgot to look in London yesterday). I didn't have high hopes--the little dress shop in town isn't exactly what I'd call fashion forward. But I stopped in anyway and was shown, to my amusement, a selection of sheer panty hose with various rhinestone animals (scottish terriers, seahorses) and holiday shapes (cornucopia, christmas wreath) glued to the ankles. I passed on those and bought a more sober pair. As she rang up my purchase, the shopkeeper remarked that she'd better order more, seeing as it was "party season." My immediate thoughts were, "What is party season?" and "How do I get invited to one of these parties?"

At that moment I realized, between talking to birds and wanting women with rhinestone pantyhose to invite me into their homes, I may be a little starved for human contact. With Scott regularly working late and my UK social circle in its infancy, I've been on my own quite a bit since we got here.

I wouldn't say it's been unpleasant; I like being alone and actually need a block of time alone every day or else I get grouchy. But I've never been alone as consistently as this. Sometimes I go whole days without speaking, content to drift along in my silent, pseudo-monastic little bubble (I'm actually to the point where I think the muscles in my head related to speech are slightly atrophied--the past few times I've socialized, my throat, jaw and neck ache afterwards from a few hours of talking). Sometimes I feel lonely, but the feeling subsides after a while, as hunger would. Mostly, I find it really interesting to discover just how much time alone I can tolerate before it becomes unpleasant. Turns out my threshold is pretty high.

1 comment:

Jasmine said...

I'd say my favorite thing about this blog is the combination of an active mind with no people around -- like Mary Oliver's poetry.

I have spent periods of extensive alone time, where loneliness evolves to alone, and they are vivid periods that stand out in the haze of past years. In fact, this is why I change countries periodically. Being anonymous in a new country is one of the few ways I can get alone time without being rude. It's expected.

Then there's this switch that happens, and suddenly I want people, and they start showing up and having play dates and parties and demands and crises and ideas... thrilling and overwhelming.

Instead of changing countries this time I've started adhering to no weeks and yes weeks. When I want more people after a period of hermitage, I just say yes to every idea and invitation that comes along. No weeks are the opposite. Maybe its a neurotic way to go about my social life, but I find the yes/no week events pretty fascinating.