a star lost in the night
even while many surround her
One of my favorite activities is going to a coffee house or cafe (Biggby's or Chandler's usually) to drink coffee, possibly nibble a treat, and read or write. I love being in a cafe full of people who are talking, laughing, studying, or reading. I watch them, smile and nod at them (they're often the same people I see time and again), maybe even small-talk (though I'm not much good at small talk).
I usually go to these places alone (although I've tried to recruit others before). I think sitting and reading with another who is sitting and reading is a great way to spend time together. Alone but not alone. But, this is also a concept I've struggled with. While I enjoy solitude, I also crave being around others. I often wish I had a good friend to sit and read with me--not because I mind being alone--but because I want to share my "story"--the story that unfolds as Life--with someone else, so that it is not just my story. Experiencing something--whether it be reading or traveling--with another person makes the activity even more special.
I'm not the type of person who longs for a lot of friends. I'd rather have just a few true and close friends to spend my time with. Like a lot of writers, I'm not a "social butterfly." Think Harper Lee or J.D. Salinger--though I'm not (and hope never to be) as reclusive as those two are (Lee)/were (Salinger).
It is natural for humans to need others. When one is alone, she can get lost in her own mind. I know that when I think too much, for too long, I can see how easy it would be for one's mind to unravel. I think of the Unabomber, in his alone-ness in his cabin.
Yet too many people and too much noise can be distracting. We live in a fast-paced world--too fast sometimes. We need to savor moments. A few years ago I started reading about the art of haiku poetry. It's not easy to write, but it's beautiful to read. I struggled with expressing my thoughts so succinctly and put the book away. Recently, though, I've tried again. Although I'm still learning, it is my understanding that haiku is used to express a single ordinary moment or thought. It's meant to cause us to explore our surroundings and our relationships with nature or people. We need time to think, to look inside, to see who we are, and who we want to be, in order to then look outside of ourselves and see who we can help and how we can make a difference. Since I started reading about haiku, I jot down notes constantly--anything I think of--to go back to later and form into a stanza. It helps me notice things I might not ordinarily notice. Solitude does this as well. This is why it's important to have time to ourselves periodically.
I think I would go crazy with too much solitude, too much silence. If something happened and all computer networks and phone lines shut down indefinitely, I would feel utterly cut off from the rest of the world. Still, there has to be a "happy-medium" (pardon the cliche). I once overheard two girls at a coffee house--they were talking so fast that it was like listening to a verbal ping-pong game. Although I could understand their words, I couldn't keep up with their conversation. It was too overwhelming.
Me--I want to enjoy another person's company, not be stressed by it. After all, there is a "time for everything," solitude and loneliness included.