Monday, March 26, 2012
I like being up when few other people are. I could say it's a result of the 15 years when I never, ever had time alone, but it wouldn't be true. I didn't get up before dawn when the kids were little, because even in the dark children have an inner alarm that goes off whenever they sense Mom might be sneaking a bit of solitude. If I made time to get up, they did, too.
People used to ask how I managed. I had no idea, so I shrugged and said, "Eh -- you adapt." Which is true: mainly I learned to find my quiet within myself, in the midst of doing what I had to do. I figured there are introverts in the slums in Calcutta, taking turns sleeping for lack of space, living with mere cardboard between their overcrowded shack and the next one. Somehow they make do in a world where they are never alone. It's not impossible.
I used to think solitude was so essential it was like air. But lately I've realized I only need solitude to live without discomfort. I need it to minimize stress. I need it for optimal productivity. I can survive without it, even grow without it, but it's a lot more work.
Doing without things we think we need feels like an invasion our comfort zone. It's as if someone took a bite out of a pie that we thought of as rightfully ours. We chew on that empty space like a bad-tasting cud, even (perhaps) spending more energy ruminating on our loss than on learning how to live with it.
Discomfort has the power to truncate our thinking, transforming "I can't see how to do that" into "I can't". That's limiting, even dangerous. People lived for centuries without Starbucks, air conditioning, Tylenol, vacations, pre-made clothing, TV to keep kids busy while supper's being made, and quick ways to communicate. If we think we can't live without these things, we're wrong. Maybe we can't live without them without increasing our stress load. But if we had to, we'd figure out a work-around. We'd learn. We'd cope. We're far more resourceful than we think... if we don't con ourselves into believing that discomfort makes something impossible.