I often see people rushing off to work as I sit, indecisively pondering what to write next, at one cafe or another, and I feel envious. Then I have to slap myself upside the head once or twice and remember. 'Remember Dummy," I say, to myself. "You always wished when you were rushing that you could be idle..."
Aaah, with the passage of time, memory fades, making whatever seems true in the moment absolutely and forever true. Or so it seems in the moment. To be fair, I have never desired to be aimless. I often defended the idle rich against their detractors, even when I was a 9-to-5-er (OK, any ex-colleagues, I know I never made it in before 10, 10:30...) I spent far too much time watching soap operas one after another on summer days to forget how absolutely incredibly boring it can to be bored, how hard it is to get up the gumption to get anything going when you don't absolutely have to.
It is funny. Yesterday, a rainy day where everything got cancelled and my family played hookie from having to do anything at all save staying home playing computer games (my husband and sons) and organizing (me), I picked up an old favorite book, Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From The Sea. As I began to read, I related to it in a way I hadn't before. In it, Ms. Lindbergh, a writer, mother and wife of a man who made more than a living wage, wrote of the vagaries of modern feminism, the few thousand ways a woman can manage to fill her time that do not "feed the spirit."
She offered up the idea of taking oneself off to the beach or, as she acknowledged, for those whom such a thing is out of reach, to take oneself off even for an hour to avoid external distractions and find a creative source by which to tap the inner springs, the "true essence of themselves," she says, "which will be the indespensable center of a whole web of human relationships."
I can well identify. I am blessed enough not to have to be busy all the time, to take the time to think and write, time I do believe makes me calmer in the face of the hardest job, the job of raising human beings. But, then, too, the solitude can become all too much, the "consciousness" Ms. Lindbergh speaks of having been raised cracking one in the head, making one's life a meta world where one's existential to-do list is long, the actual one not so much.
Ms. Lindbergh acknowledged her own funny fate, 20 years after writing about the "gift" of solitude, that she, at the time, had no idea what sudden panic she would fly in to when real solitude came, when her children no longer relied on her as center.
It was from a completely different vantage point then that she agreed with her former self, two decades hence, that "woman must come of age by herself-she must find her true center alone," albeit, this time around, under more forced rather than stolen circumstances. I had to laugh. It is a struggle I see people, lots of people, wrestle with daily. Solitude can come when alone or in a crowd, as a parent or as a single person. It is something to be savored as much as possible, appreciated in its pure ability to force one to face what one must in order to go forward with others. But, man, sometimes it seems far better to keep busy.
I give Ms. Lindbergh a big gold star and credit for understanding as she did that her own search for meaning mirrored that of most women, if only they had the time to ponder it. Her own outpourings, seemingly navel-gazing to some, have helped more than a million people feel less alone in their looking. As a writer, such a thing is a great aspiration.