I Want to be Alone – Sometimes!
June 22, 2011 § 4 Comments
Many writers talk about the loneliness of the creative process. They seek out other writers who talk the talk and walk the walk, and that’s a good thing. However, for me writing is an alone-time business, not a lonely one.
I enjoy fellowship with others but sometimes I almost resent these intrusions. Sometimes I want to skip the critique group just for a while so that I can turn myself loose to write! That’s what I relish – just me, the computer, a CD playing in the background, my mind churning with ideas.
I’m not really sure when this need for alone-time actually began. In the womb? I certainly had plenty of time in there to entertain myself. But no, I believe it crept up on me, like an inherited gene one discovers later in life, then realizes it was there all the time.
If you’ve been following this blog for a few months, you will know that in 1954, our family set out for Europe aboard the Queen Mary for a 9-month stay. That first day, along with the other 1200+ passengers and crew, we waved goodbye to the Statue of Liberty, donned life-vests for Life Boat Drill, and ate dinner with a long table full of traveling folk. By the time we returned to our cramped cabin, I think I’d had about as much company as I could stand.
While Mom and Sarah walked down the hall to take baths, David went out to brush his teeth in the men’s WC. By myself for the first time that day, I climbed into the porthole “hole” and closed the curtain – a just-right fit for a 10-year-old. Alone at last, I looked out on the Atlantic and its January moon-sparkled waves and felt the tension release.
When Mom et al returned, they busied themselves with bedtime prep and didn’t notice my absence for a while. Then Mom panicked and with a sigh, I knew I had to reveal my hiding place.
I’ve been looking for “hiding places” ever since – a long drive in the country to watch a sunset; a corner table in a restaurant with a fried shrimp dinner and a good book; an afternoon at the Mall’s game room playing Pac Man or Galaga; the bathroom (Mom called this my reading room!)
Much to my surprise, I’ve discovered I possess a rare gift. I can block out any noise or activity around me and focus. In my mind, I become invisible to everyone around me, as if I am hidden by a curtain. As the world passes by, I can observe it. I can interact with it. Or, if I choose to do so, I can ignore it.
This week, Tom and I are in Tampa for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Annual Assembly, a meeting of probably 3-4K like-minded Baptists from around the nation and Puerto Rico. Included in the gathering will be missionaries, lay people, and pastors – both male and female.
Attending a meeting of any Baptist group is a tale of the feast. In my lifetime as a Baptist one truth has remained constant – if there is a meal, they will come.
At each mealtime this week, we will gather with old and new friends. The menu will vary little – chicken and rice or potatoes or polenta, a few barely cooked veggies (they call them steamed), and the inevitable cheesecake for desert, or perhaps key-lime pie, this is Florida after all.
The first such meal is tonight’s CBF 20th Anniversary Dinner. We will join many friends there we have not seen for a year. We will exchange news, opinions and concerns. We will pray together and celebrate the accomplishments of the past 20 years.
I will enjoy it all – and be glad to leave as soon as it’s over! (Tom will probably stay longer as he is much more the social being than I. Once I’ve had my alone time I will be ready to review the day with him when he gets in.)
Tomorrow begins early, with the CBF Advocates Breakfast; continues with the Baptist Center for Ethics Luncheon; and ends with the Truett Seminary Alumni Reception (Truett is part of the Baylor family). Between these will be meetings and worship hours, and the commissioning of 14 new missionaries.
Friday starts with the Heritage Society Breakfast, proceeds to the Religious Liberty Lunch, the Associated Baptist Press Dinner and then the final worship gathering with Communion – Observance of the Lord’s Supper. (Tom and I have decided we’ll probably gain between 5-10 lbs by Saturday!)
I look forward to the CBF meeting every year … writers conferences, too. But I know me! I can take just so much togetherness and then I have to find alone-time. That’s when I’ll heed the siren call of the latest downloaded book on my Kindle. Or perhaps I will scurry back to my computer, open up the file of my novel and shut the world out while I agonize over how to get my main character out of the crisis I’ve gotten him into.
In either case, I will be free to relax and refresh – and get ready for the next frantic round of activity!
So true, Mary Lois! Writing is a balance between communion with others and quiet reflection time. Staying balanced is the key.
Well, so far we’ve had three meeting/meals and have had chicken and pasta and each! One more to go – lunch! I’m praying for rice or potatoes!!!
I sometimes fear that with all our “connectedness” the human species is losing the ability to be alone. But it is in alone time that we think our deepest thoughts and come quietly upon the truths that illuminate the meaning behind the obvious, and the day-to-day.
I loved the image of you sitting in the porthole watching the sea.
Prayers answered! Mashed potatoes and green beans at lunch today!!