The importance of being alone

There was a teenage girl swinging at the park tonight, playing country music from her phone speakers. She was singing along, loudly and mostly out of tune. I recognized myself in her. I thought of how I am always seeking solitude. How I look for places where I can be alone, remember myself again.

I am acutely aware of the influence of people, how they change me. Not only do I feel I have to put on a show for them, but also, they fill up my brain space, crowd out my thoughts. Around people, my emotions boil under my skin until they shoot out of me, until I make a display of myself, embarrass myself back into solitude.

In the MFA program, I had five ten-day residencies. A total of fifty days where I was constantly around other people. We ate meals together, attended lectures and readings, and socialized on the terrace. I don’t have the word for what it felt like, but I was something like jumpy and anxious and on edge.

So at the end of each day, when the scheduled events had concluded, I walked across the street to the park where it was dark and not a soul but me was. I sat on a swing, turned my music up full blast, sang along, mostly out of tune while I pumped my legs and watched the moon. That was how I returned to what I knew, retreated inward.

It has only been a couple weeks of summer so far, but already, the lack of alone time is bubbling under my skin, making me itchy for pockets of reprieve from people. I am the most comfortable around my kids but even around only them I can not sing. Holden screams at me in the car if I try, says I’m hurting his ears or he hates this song.

On Friday, when the absence of solitude got to be so much I almost lost it, I said to my children “I am going to sing. I am going to sing and I don’t want you to tell me to stop because I need to so I don’t go crazy.” And I did. Then I scheduled a night without my kids so I could find solitude, so I could stop worrying about what everyone around me needs and how to fill it, so I can just be again.

A comfortable silence is what I’m after. It is the high I keep on chasing.

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