Day 20 – Enjoy the Solitude

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My roommate is out of town. How will I take advantage? I could dance around naked, suggested Rachel (several times). I could shake and serve a cocktail mid-week, without judgment. I could go through his drawers unhurried. Nah. Instead, I fingered his Atlantic from the mail and thumbed through the pages. I was drawn to an article on the rise and fall of the novel.

I lost you already. How sexy is an essay/book review on the history of the English novel? The author admits the 1,100 page book he reviewed seemed off putting at first. But he was hooked by the second paragraph.

The language was alive; the book would be alive as well. Take a breath, clear the week, turn off the WiFi, and throw yourself in.

W. Deresiewicz, “How the Novel Made the Modern World”

So, when was the last time I read something alive? Or experienced something, anything, worth ignoring my phone to enjoy? It’s rare but happens. I stumble on a book that makes me stay up late. I hear music I want to know and sing by heart. I take a walk that stretches to hours, lost in back streets and meandering thoughts.

Real solitude is needed to let these experiences revive a deadened heart. Sometimes a phrase, a refrain, a hushed side street, turns the corner and rushes me. I could dodge it and keep stride. Or I could let it overwhelm me, close my eyes and let it take me under like one more wave. I could feel the deep call to the deep within, and be changed.

Privacy, solitude, the slow accumulation of the soul, the extended encounter with others–the modern self may be passing away, but for those who still have one, its loss is not a little thing.

W. Deresiewicz

Most days I send emails and check off lists. God, what’s that worth, if I never hear the hum? What signal is trying to break through the noise when the words on the page crackle? I can find the time and space, within and without. I can pay attention to the intriguing interruptions, waiting for them to grow in presence. I will just need some solitude.

I believe this is a work of spirit, maybe even Spirit. But whatever you believe (or don’t) about God, surely you know the feeling of those sudden, unexpected moments of resonance. What if we learned to listen and to hum back?

 

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Day 14 – Hold a Baby, Learn from a Mom

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My friend and former co-worker had a baby boy in December. It was her first, and my first close friend to have a child. So I was pretty excited to meet him yesterday.

The baby is cute, of course. He makes adorable noises. He breaks into a mouth-wide-open grin when you tickle him, or sing the “Fuzzy Caterpillar” song. He likes to stare at the coffee maker and take baths.

I smiled at how happy my friend is. She is staying home with him full-time, and she tells me she couldn’t imagine it any other way. She tells me this several times, and it feels true, as if coming from the deepest part of her. She also described the emotional roller coaster of the first few months, the world turned upside down in ways you never imagined.

I admit that kind of change scares me, even more than the fear of growing old without family or passing something on. Yet, when she sings the caterpillar song to calm him, I see this flash in her eyes and a glow on her face. It’s like she has experienced something so profound that its beauty makes any pain worthwhile. The joy outweighs the difficulty, or maybe accepts it and takes it in, letting it become something greater.

Now I’m projecting my metaphysics onto the situation. But seeing a new mom with her child makes me think of the way people find meaning beyond heartbreak, even when their world is turned upside down. And I hope I have (or can nurture) this strength that allows you to say in the midst of the whirlwind, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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