Be with yourself
“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.