Have you seen the George Clooney film, Up in the Air? His character travels year-round, home only 43 days out of 365. His family and co-worker give him grief because he doesn’t want to get married and/or have children. They tell him he’s too isolated, he must be lonely. But he isn’t lonely until he starts believing them. He’s happy in airports and hotel rooms, everything clean and nice and in its place. He knows how to navigate this life. Perhaps he’s merely a Buddhist businessman, all about detachment. Who are we to judge?
I discovered that I need a certain amount of solitude to feel happy and creative. So twice a week, barring guilt, I turn off the computer, hide the phone, and take a down day. No other humans, just me: reading, writing, and sometimes ‘rithmetic (I like to balance my checkbook, it’s calming). I post a sign on the door: please… do not disturb.
It’s possible I need a lot of solitude because I’m an introvert – people wear me out (as opposed to an extravert, who’s energized by people). When I allow myself enough down time, my brain works better, faster, and more efficiently. I don’t get sick as often.
This summer was the most social I’ve been in a long time. I performed in eight different venues. I auditioned for various theater companies. My dad and stepmom visited. I flew to California for a funeral. I worked on projects for four different clients.
During this whirlwind of activity, I did not take as many down days as I needed. I fell over the edge a few times, after wobbling on the precipice of overstimulation. I got weepy and cranky and tired. I forgot that the word No is my friend.
Winding down from adrenaline overload can be tricky. Sometimes I get stuck in high gear, moving faster and faster. When I finally put up the sign and lock the doors, it takes a few days to exhale.
Solitude is necessary, not only for my mental and physical health, but also to process events. Check out the changes: no longer estranged from my father; posting essays, instead of filing them in a drawer; performing and choreographing after a 14-year hiatus; speaking the truth to friends and family.
I have a wonderful life. And if I need copious amounts of down time, so be it. With enough solitude, I am happy, calm, and kind. I can deal with whatever comes down the pike. Melodrama takes a back seat, then gets off at the next exit. Do you want to pick her up?