I believe in solitude, not the ice caves of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude or the enforced isolation brought about by solitary confinement, but in the restorative power of a moment alone. The secret is in a moment alone snatched from the maddening crowd when chorus converts to a solo, dialogue to soliloquy.
I recall a moment in college when I was down. Grades had not gone as well as I’d hoped, a girlfriend had moved on and a new residence had left me without friends within easy reach. Outside, I skirted the dormitories and walked along a bush-covered gully that ran into now-you-see-them streams, which fed into the river and disappeared after the rains.
In the suburban wilderness, accompanied by Chokecherries, Hawthorns, and nascent Mulberry bushes, I wound my way along seldom used paths, feeling the wonder of discovery – the discovery of nothing but that I belonged to this world. My mind leapfrogged from surrounding farms, to the topography of Iowa, to the prairie plant-life, and finally to the Ioway tribe which gave their name and lives to the land.
In the background, the songs of cicadas and birds orchestrated my walk. Without thinking and as quickly as the shift of a breeze, I joined them, singing my heart out, my voice blending with the wildlife choir. I sang enthusiastically, but poorly, belting a high note that for a better singer, might have been elevated to falsetto, trilled into a yodel, or lowered to a less challenging octave. Instead, the note grated between the epi and the glottis of my vocal chords and emerged as a prolonged squeal. Plants subjected in sound experiments to my squeal or to heavy metal, would have flourished to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida but perished with my rendition of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
Alone, my vocal failure bothered me not one bit. Instead, I returned lighthearted to my room. With that briefest of exposures to land and sky, I had been renewed. My next semester’s GPA would rise, with effort I could be dating soon and a bicycle would provide contact with friends, not to mention exercise. No logical process had occurred to explain the change within me, only solitude.
I recall a Psychology construct called Locus of Control, which seemed to explain the unexpected rejuvenation. The concept, perhaps oversimplified, holds that people feeling controlled by outside events, experience stress or its evil twin, depression. Call my moment alone solitude. Call it quality time with myself, call it whatever you like, but I believe that time alone with you, your best friend is the compost heap that generates emotional capitol and reserves to fund investments in others. The most productive minutes you may ever spend, are those rarest of instances connecting with yourself.
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