Be with yourself

Grady enjoys a self-chosen respite from the Christmas chaos, December 2014

Grady enjoys a self-chosen respite from the Christmas chaos, December 2014

“Children especially need solitude.  Solitude is the precondition for having a conversation with yourself.  This capacity to be with yourself and discover yourself is the bedrock of development.” Sherry Turkle

Much has been written about the changes technology is bringing to the way we relate to each other.  Does it connect us more closely, or paradoxically isolate us by decreasing our experience of being physically present and face-to-face with another person?  It’s a difficult question to answer, but one aspect of the debate I have yet to see mentioned much is the effect technology has had on solitude.

Have you ever known anyone who had to have the radio or television playing when they were alone?  Do you know people who feel uneasy if they are not within easy reach of a cell phone?  Have we bought into the idea that it is our responsibility to be available to others every waking minute of every day?

During the brief time we spent with Grady recently, I was impressed that he seems to have an innate sense (as his father did) that quiet time alone is of utmost value.  Many of his waking hours were spent in rowdy play or curious exploration, but also, he seemed almost contemplative at times.

One afternoon Drew and Megan left to explore Mount Vernon while MeMe and PaPa happily stayed with Grady.  After the usual staged protests that vanished literally before they had gotten five feet from the front door, he quite happily returned to the living room with us, obviously not distressed.

Jeff had gone to retrieve several stuffed toys for him to play with.  To our surprise, he lined them up in a sort of circle and lay down in the middle of them, using one as a pillow.  Thinking he must be ready for a nap (though it was not yet time) I covered him with a soft throw.  But he did not sleep.

For at least an hour he lay there, eyes wide open, apparently content with the silence and inactivity.  Jeff was nearby reading, and that seemed enough for him.  From time to time I would come in and check on him, and he would smile, but wouldn’t budge.  He was right where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do.

How intelligent that seemed to me!  How I envied his ability to simply lie quietly, free of entertainment or amusement, happy to do nothing but enjoy a respite from the nonstop excitement of the Christmas holidays.  I started to wonder how many of us, especially young people, ever have such time to recharge and renew our souls.

Justifiably fearful of children’s safety, we increasingly guard them from exploring alone in the neighborhood, or outdoors, and equip them with cell phones so that we can feel connected to them at all times.  We may over-schedule them (not to mention ourselves) to the point that they never experience the rich atmosphere of time spent by oneself.  But I believe Turkle is right; solitude is the bedrock of development, and quiet time alone rightly deserves to be a priority not only for them, but for us too, no matter our age.

So, in keeping with the theme of today’s post, I am going unplug from my computer this week.  Please keep those comments coming in if you have anything to say — I love reading your comments, and will read and respond to each one on Saturday or maybe Sunday evening, depending on when I can get back to it.

I don’t want anyone to worry about us or how we are doing this week.  I assure you that “no news is good news.”  I will miss hearing from you and exchanging ideas, but that will make it all the more fun when I do plug back in.  Thursday’s post has been scheduled and will appear as usual, unless there is some sort of WordPress glitch.

If you feel increasingly stretched thin by the continual intrusion of ringing phones, pinging email, mock-urgent news broadcasts, and mind-numbing commercials everywhere we turn, don’t be afraid to just unplug everything for awhile and be with yourself.  If possible, take a walk in the park, or the woods, or a nearby garden or meadow.  Listen to the sound of the wind in the trees, or the birds calling to each other.  Tune in to the conversation in your mind.

Like father, like son -- Drew at about the same age, enjoying our back yard. Huber Heights, Ohio, sometime in 1985

Like father, like son — Drew at about the same age, enjoying our back yard.
Huber Heights, Ohio, sometime in 1985

 

40 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia!
    What a great photo! It really speaks volumes.
    I also agree 100% about solitude – when are we more “ourselves” than when we are alone?
    I spent many childhood hours developing me! (Some might think that’s a good thing, and some might find that debatable, but I’ll take it!) 😀
    Blessings on your day!

    • Thank you Susan! We just got back from a 5-day getaway and though I fought a nasty cold the entire time, it was a nice respite from the cold (we were in the tropics) but also nice to get back home again. I’m so glad you like the post. I think the most interesting people I know are the ones who have a rich inner life, and that is formed, to a great extent, in solitude. So, count me among those who say it’s a good thing! Hope you have a lovely week ahead.

      • I’m so happy that you were able to get away from the cold!
        Yesterday a friend and I attempted embracing the cold – cross country skiing! It was lovely … but it sure doesn’t replace a warm sunny beach and a turquoise sea!

        • Susan, I imagine that cross-country skiing would be quite a workout. The one time I went skiing I was amazed at how light I felt when I took the ski boots off at the end of the day. The sea is great too, but aren’t we lucky to live in a world where we can have both kinds of beauty?

  2. Ann

    Julia, you are so right about the constant electronic intrusions in our lives. Hope you enjoy your computer free week and that you turned on a phone answering machine too!

    Grady is a cutie pie😊

    Ann

    • Hi Ann, my “unplugged” week just flew by, so I can attest that anybody who’s thinking of a week free of electronics will find plenty to do in other areas. I agree with you that Grady is a cutie pie, but as his Grandmother, I’m not a 100% credible source. 😀

  3. Bobby

    Our preacher has challenged us to take an electronic fast on a regular basis this year. I am going to try it, but it might be easier to go without food.

    • Oh, I could go without electronics WAY easier than I could go without food! But either one is tempting. During the week I read a book I’ve been reading for awhile now, that made the case (in the chapters I read this week) that electronics actually foster addiction by acting on many of the same neural pathways as other substances subject to addiction. (The author is a professor of behavioral neuroscience.) The funny thing is — I read it on my Kindle! Hee-hee. Here’s an online article by the same author that covers the topic in the chapter I described.

  4. Thank you for the call to unplug for awhile. Enjoy your solitude. Like Grady and Drew as a young child I too searched for my own moments of aloneness. Have a beautiful, quiet, calm week.

    • Thank you, Cherie! I hope you too had a calm and quiet week — or if not, at least a fun and productive one!

  5. Michael

    It is probably good to unplug once in a while, sort of an electronic retreat.
    Yesterday as I listened to Dr. Stanley – In Touch. Org- First Baptist -Atlanta-he was talking about the witness that some people have as they go through various trials. I know we sometimes get caught up on the why questions. But I thought he had some good points, and even though I don’t always agree with his theology I appreciate his delivery and scriptural insights and hope to visit the sanctuary next trip.
    When we are in a tough spot we want to hear from those who have chartered those waters and survived. I think you know what I am saying as one who has gone through so much you have taught many ways to navigate. Think of the witness.

    • Thank you, Michael. I appreciate the encouragement! I have not listened to Dr. Stanley but I should tune in to him sometime. Like you, I find that I learn as much — if not more — from people I don’t necessarily agree with, than I do from those who sing my tune, so to speak. I can say for sure that there are many people who have been good examples for us in these recent trials, and a lot of them probably don’t even know we are drawing strength from their lives, no matter how many years ago we were blessed to know them. That’s the wonderful thing about a good example, and the scary thing about a bad one. They last a long, long time.

  6. I just heard on the radio last night (on John Tesh’s Intelligence for Life) that cell phones are detrimental to thinking outside the box at work. When people are bored these days they reach for their cell phones. It interferes with the time the brain needs to regroup and process things it doesn’t deal with when consciously and actively working. I would bet this is a creative hindrance too. I’m not sure what study this is from, but I bet you could find more information on it at John Tesh’s website.

    • Thanks J, I just did a quick search and I found this article at Tesh’s website. It’s about a different but related topic. I can see where cell phones would totally destroy the fertility of a creative mind, like overworking the soil for years on end. The compulsive nature of it seems to be a clue that something isn’t right about all this cell phone use. Of course it’s easy for me to talk, since rarely ever use one. I had a pay-per-minute cell phone for so many years, and banked so many unused minutes, that I was able to use the balance to get a smart phone and three months of service “free.” I checked the other day and I had used 11 of my 300 monthly minutes. That was plenty enough for me!

  7. Megan

    I love this post! I love seeing Grady and Drew compared at the same age and in the same position!

    Hope you have a great week “unplugged”! We’ll miss you!

    • Hi Megan, our week was pretty nice although Matt and I were fighting this uncommonly nasty cold all week long. But the Mayan ruins were beautiful, especially at Tulum, and the sea days allowed us to relax and recoup a bit. We just watched the video of Grady playing with his tools. Tell him that his MeMe and PaPa are so impressed with his skills that we are drawing up a “to-do” list of little maintenance tasks for him to do next time he comes. 😀 😀 😀

  8. Jack

    I’m supposing my father tried to drill into my siblings and my head that to learn to be alone was a gift that would keep on giving. He had me wandering around in the woods alone and armed at 12 or 13, firearm safety drilled into me since I was a very young child. I got lost and found. I did unbelievably stupid things that worked out. I panicked then slowed down and thought, and came up with answers. I became resourceful because no one was solving (or creating) my problems for me. What a lucky kid I was to be so well loved.

    My impression now is that kids of my generation learned to pay attention to things that today’s don’t, but of course, time will dispel the pride and foolishness of that notion. But this I know: all the (undiagnosed, untreated, unstigmatized) ADD of my youth was very satisfactorily treated by a father that knew I needed to learn to be alone well. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Jack, thanks for sharing with us that your father’s wisdom was better for you than any pill or doctor could have been. In many ways, I can identify with what you say about ADD. I’ve often said that if I had gone through school 20 years later than I did, I would have been labeled ADD. I had a sweet, nearly retired second grade teacher that kept insisting my mother needed to take me to an audiologist to have my hearing checked (when it finally was, my hearing was found to be better than normal). She just couldn’t understand why I didn’t respond when she called on me in class. My mom knew I was off in Wonderland, zoned out and probably a bit bored unless it was free-reading time.

      My father, like yours, taught us all to handle firearms safely from as far back as I can remember. We were taught that guns were tools, not toys, to be respected and handled rightly, but not feared — much like the automobiles that ended up killing or wounding far more people I knew than any gun did. We were not even allowed to point toy guns at each other. We were taught to assume that every gun we saw was real and loaded. We had a great time target shooting at the city dump, (outside the city limits, where it was allowed), and we had endless discarded cans and bottles for practice. Though I have never hunted and never plan to do so, I am grateful to be comfortable with firearms. I have always believed that this enabled me to avoid the “learned helplessness” that was still fairly common among young girls in that era. Not because of the gun itself, but the confidence instilled from being trusted with it. I must confess that I have not been as good about trusting my kids that much. Given Matt’s disabilities, I suppose it’s understandable in his case. Jeff and I did let Drew go to South America every summer during his high school years, where he worked as a helper with a medical mission team, accompanied by a doctor who was a friend of ours from church. Though I was fearful of sending him off so many miles from home, we knew it would change his life (it did) and felt that the risk was worth it.

      I’m happy that your father was there to help you over the rough spots of growing up. As you say, knowing how to be alone is a gift that keeps on giving.

  9. Anon E. Moose

    It paradoxically isolates us. If you reply to this comment on Saturday, I will reply to your reply on February 15th.

    • It sounds as if you are heading for a getaway too! It’s a great time of year for it, especially if you head south!

  10. Well, I’m glad I came by just when you’re taking a quiet time. I’ll look forward to all our chats to be had then.

    Such an interesting topic. It’d be hard to wrap my head around if I was 14 or younger. They’re so used to being connected. To friends and family. I don’t know if they get much of a chance to reflect in solitude. I’m often alone during the day and really enjoy the quiet. Actually, I worry sometimes that I’m becoming overly sensitive to the constant hub-bub that goes on at the market or even the dreaded mall. Which I avoid like the plague. Sometimes I think people forget how to talk indoors. Some are so intrusive to others by being loud with each other. I think they’re wanting attention or something and don’t seem to mind that they’re getting attention for poor manners.

    Once at a restaurant, Jim and I were dining when a young woman was seated adjacent to us. Before her date arrived, she decided to phone someone and preceded to talk really loud. I said to Jim (loud enough for her to hear) “I don’t think we need to hear every detail of her day”. She ignored that and continued on. They either don’t have a clue or don’t care. I’ve met my share of mature people who do the same thing too. Society is getting less polite all the time. It’s worrisome. SOooooo, that’s my rant for the day, LOL.

    I’m thinking Grady (and his daddy) are sensitive souls. Quiet reflection and observation are not traits I’d attribute to most youngsters. How fabulous to be so smart to take advantage of a wee break from life all on your own. That’s such a great photo of Drew. So little in the big yard. I think that might have been me as a little girl. I was very quiet and often had to play on my own. I’m making up for it now though, LOL

    • K, I do think that my years of living in a very quiet home (among men who are silent types) have made me far more sensitive to noise and clamor than I used to be. It amazes me how so many restaurants now have the music blaring. We try to avoid those that do that, since we don’t like having to shout to be heard. Just the other day I read where Jonathan Franzen wrote that he didn’t worry so much about privacy in terms of what could be found out about him, but about being forced to be privy to so many other people’s personal details in situations such as the one you describe. He said (rightly, I think) that it feels intrusive to be forced to listen to other people’s personal business. On the other hand, as a writer, I would think he could consider it grist for the mill! I knew a writer who wore a shirt that said “CAREFUL or you’ll end up in my novel!” Somehow, I don’t think that would stop anybody, either. 😀 In fact it might only encourage some of the more brazen exhibitionists among them.

  11. raynard

    Julia “as I tiptoe thru the tulips” followed by a minefield”,my wife’s aunt doesnt like quiet.She got clearly upset last Sunday that we retreated into the room to have “some quiet time.We asked I told her( I believed I quote that bible verse Ecclesiates 3 . this has been a ongoing challenge since I got married.She likes for her and her dog to be the center of attention.Keep us in prayer when we finally move to a bigger place and I have my own ” little corner of the world as they say..Hope all is well down your neck of the woods. Be blessed

    • Raynard, as one who loves to gab, I have always been impressed by how many Bible verses counsel silence and using words sparingly. The Proverbs are full of warnings about that. I am guessing she is just lonely and feels left out, but that really cannot be avoided. Perhaps over time she will come to appreciate the wonderful gift you are giving her by allowing her to share your home. I do pray for you all, that you will soon have a more comfortable set of circumstances for everyone. In the meantime, blessings to you for caring about this lady. All of us, if we are lucky to live long enough, will know or be someone in similar circumstances and the world can be pretty heartless. We are all doing OK. I am hoping I have seen the worst of this nasty cold. Have a wonderful week ahead.

  12. Very nice and insightful post, Julia. And Grady looks as snug as a bug ON the rug.
    -Alan

    • Thank you Alan. Yes, he looks pretty snug – it makes me want to take a nap, just looking at that photo!

  13. Lovely sharing, smart child!

    • Thank you, Cynthia!

  14. Delightful post, Julia. Thanks for letting us know you’re okay and congratulations for stepping into your own solitude, for unplugging for a week.

    What a delightful pair of photos of father and son (and Jeff, too). xox

    • Thanks Alys! I totally basked in the quiet and relaxation, and it all passed by too quickly. I wrote a little post during one quiet hour that you’ll be seeing soon. Thanks for being here.

      • I’m looking forward to that post. I’m glad you enjoyed the respite.

        • Thank you, Alys.

  15. Sheila

    Julia, I believe little Grady created his own secure world with his furry friends surrounding him and feeling the love of his grandparents close by. Jeff looks perfectly content, too. 😊
    I don’t have television on during the day, not a requirement! It’s amazing though as I listen to the sounds of our house, it’s far from quiet. Even now, I detect the hum of the heat pump, the refrigerator’s little clicks, the coffeemaker has a sound as it stays warm, and the air bubbles in the aquarium. So familiar, so comforting! 🙏 It won’t be long though before the world comes knocking ~~~~ 🐥 Walter will say, “Move me!” which is his morning greeting and I will roll his cage to a more visible DAY location. Jack isn’t a noisy dog but I talk to him often. Family and friends may call or text (can be some drama there). 😍 And I say to myself “What a wonderful world!” I hope you’re having a great week! 👏

    • Sheila, I didn’t realize it until I was reading about the “music” of your home, that I don’t even consider such sounds to be noise at all. In fact, one reason I like quiet so much is that one can hear so many ambient sounds that are around us all the time and go unnoticed. Reading about the comfortable sounds you described brought back memories of sounds I used to love hearing years ago: the ticking of the clocks in Jeff’s mother’s home; the sound of a rocking chair squeaking faintly; the wooden, spring-loaded screen door creaking open and slamming shut; the sounds of cars going by on the highway at my Granny’s home; or the sound of a rooster crowing in the wee hours of the morning at my other Granny’s home. You are right – What a Wonderful World! And so full of treasures to enjoy even on an ordinary day. Have a happy week my friend!

  16. raynard

    Julia thanks for the reply. I do talk to my wife’s aunt to encourage her and read a passage of scripture not to bonk her over the head with do’s and dont’s. Super Bowl Sunday if i can pull off a first mini dinner for us as we all watch the game and commercials.Would love for us to if your schedule and time permits have a prayer with us. Also Flower Show is the end of the month and I have to purchase tickets soon .The first day this year it starts on our wedding anniversary..Why am I singing”the them to Gillian’s Island the part about” the weather starting getting rough? I digress hope you feel better. had a 24 hr bug last week that I caught from my job…. Chicken soup, Alka Selser cold& flu and rest it was for me. Be blessed and encouraged and have a great day..

    • Thanks Raynard, I am feeling quite a bit better today, but I still decided not to risk it and get outside since the winds were pretty bad. I have been eating a lot of soup lately which I like anyway, and getting to bed early. Wow, if it is already time for Flower Show tickets, can spring be far behind? It’s funny you mentioned the Gilligan’s Island song – I was singing that verse to myself as we took a high-speed ferry across some unusually choppy seas to the coast of Mexico. The people on the boat were handing out plastic bags but luckily we didn’t need one. I didn’t watch the super bowl and don’t even know who was in it, but I hope your team won! Have a great week, and remember I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  17. Michael

    Probably one of the reasons I listen to Dr. Stanley is having dropped cable we get like four stations through the air antenna. Of course, it could also be divine intervention, depending on our point of view. Yesterday I turned off Dr. Stanley when he started talking about persecution and how if you are a “real” Christian you are going to make the ungodly around you uncomfortable. Well we will see.
    My friend – a recently retired minister- moved to an Island just north of us-Whidbey. Moving to an Island is such a lifestyle shift and I am not sure he understands this. Being at the mercy of Puget Sound ferries can be frustrating and or quaint depending on your pace. I hope he starts a blog. It is hard for me to think of my contemporaries moving into retirement. I guess I am getting on in years.

    • Michael, if I could talk Jeff into dropping our FIOS TV I would definitely see it as divine intervention! 😀 If you have high speed internet, you should get a Roku or Fire Stick or Chromecast if you don’t already have something like that. With all the stuff that can be streamed, I don’t see why anyone would want to pay for 300 channels of mostly junk. But that’s my opinion and I don’t know too many people who share it.

      Dr. Stanley’s contention is an interesting one. I remember Jane Pauley years ago asking Billy Graham how he felt about being named one of the most admired men in America, and he said he was, of course, honored in one sense, but he wasn’t sure Jesus would have made such a list, and therefore he wasn’t sure whether his making the list was a good sign or a bad one. I do know that there have been times when people become apologetic or defensive about their own behaviors if they find out someone is a Christian, even if that person does not say one word or make one remotely negative expression. On the other hand, there are those who seem to feel righteous if they go around picking fights about things for no reason, whether they consider themselves religious or not. So much of what masquerades as moral courage (on either side of the equation, whether for or against religion) is basically a result of having a contentious personality. I think there is a little bit of that in almost all of us, and a lot of it in some of us. But having said that, I do think that persecution is a very real risk of being a Christian in this world, and I have seen some of the meekest, kindest people I have ever known who were made the butt of cruel jokes and backbiting simply because they lived their lives differently than the people who were attacking them. Perhaps these are the people Jesus was talking about in the beatitudes and in numerous other places where he warns his disciples that the world will not approve of their faith.

      I think there is a military base on Whidbey Island? Or maybe just a recreation area. I do know it’s a place we used to talk about wanting to visit. But you’re right; visiting and living are two different things. Perhaps he will find it the perfect place to retire. I think a lot of ministers would love to be in a place where they could not be reached as easily, after a long career of being available to people basically 24/7 😀 (since most ministers are “on call” to their congregation in times of crisis). He might really enjoy blogging. Let me know if he starts.

  18. Michael

    Thanks for the thoughtful response in regards to persecution. I guess the point is not to wear it as a badge of honor as proof that you are a true believer. And Pope is also a pretty popular person not unlike Billy. There is a base on Whidbey- airforce? Whidbey Island air base. They fly the sub hunters out of there and also some f-14’s. I am going to his surprise housewarming next weekend.
    That is terrifying about cell phones- the smart ones -I still have a dumb one. Is this a sign of the end times? Is this the end? Do you have to pay a monthly fee for the Roku thing? I will look into it.

    • Yes, I guess badges are part of any sort of true belief, really. We may be told to take “the helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit and shield of faith, but I don’t think there’s anything in there about “the badge of honor and authenticity.” 😀 The current Pope may be popular, but his immediate predecessor was not so celebrated. Some could see this as a case in point; people can be eager to see and hear what they want to see and hear, whether or not it is actually representative of the real person. I finally got a smart phone, but I still don’t know how to use it very well. It took me an amazingly long time to even learn how to answer a call. Luckily I don’t get too many since I rarely have it turned on.

      Roku has no monthly fee, though many of the TV services people use it for (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.) do have fees. But there’s a pretty fair amount of free stuff on it too, including lots of PBS shows. It’s a one-time expense to buy one, and very reasonable. Three different models ranging from about $50-100.

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