Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Really be Alone

A Facebook friend posted a link to  this amazing short film by Andrea Dorfman this week called How to Be Alone (you should watch it because it's really, really great) and it got me to thinking about being alone and whether I truly know how to REALLY be alone anymore.

I know this question is not new, and that I am not the only one asking (hah, the irony, that I am not alone... ;))

I mean, the quick answer is I am alone most the time. My husband goes off to work, and my kids go off to school, and most days, unless I have a client in my paid-work world (er, that sounds like I am a street walker, I am really just a divorce mediator) I am reading alone, or writing alone, or swimming, usually alone.

But then I started thinking about how much my life has changed in the past few years -- about how much time I spend emailing or playing on facebook and all. And I realize that the new me is rarely "alone" and, perhaps forgetting how to be.

The old me used to write with a lovely, uninterrupted quiet that permeated the house and my brain and my soul, while the new me writes with facebook open on one screen and gmail open on the other, and takes constant breaks to skim back and forth between the two. The new me, leaves the computer occasionally, but takes my cell phone instead, constantly checking for that friendly wave or "ping." Sure, I still get my writing done, but there's a noise to all that, a chatter, and I wonder if there's a price tag to it, too.

Moreso, I watch my kids who always have some sort of interaction taking place. From the moment they wake up, till the time they go to sleep, there are friends hanging, text messages, online, interactive X-box games, facebook and endless screens.

As a kid, I spent hours a day lying around with nothing but my own self and a book; no other music, no friends, no other sound. It's some of the fondest time I remember. I fear we've lost that ability; that we've all lost sight of the beauty of being alone.

So for the next few days, with a nod to Andrea and her gorgeous little film, I'm going to try to unplug and shut down, and see if I still remember how. You know, to REALLY be alone.

Don't forget me while I'm gone.



  1. Gae, Thank you for taking the time from your pursuits to write this for me. I actually have a version of this running in my head most of the time. I really believe that our kids have seen their brains rewired such is their ability to deal with so many conflicting...usually electronic...demands for their attention. But I
    often wonder "At what cost?" I guess time will tell if living life in two-minute increments will ultimately prove more or less fulfilling.

  2. Hear, hear. True solitude is magnificent - and maybe the primary reason I run and bike. It's the only time I'm truly, uninterruptibly alone.

    (And I'm so glad that you loved the film so much. Lines from it are still running through my head. Keeping me company, as it were.)

  3. Writing is the alone craft. Being told that I MUST be an active online social networker because I have a book being published was sort of like being told I needed to do crack as part of my profession. Withdrawl is hard; but I don't want to be an online writer anymore, I just want to write.

  4. I watch my son write his stories/chapters and he is clearly multi tasking to some degree but he also tells us to leave so he can have quiet time. He tells us his favorite time to write is betwen 10pm and 4am when no one is around , the house is quiet and the dogs are asleep. I think even the young writers need the time alone with there thoughts to write.

  5. My daughter sends and receives between 500-1,000 texts a day. If you assume 10 seconds for each, you're talking 90 minutes to 3 hours a day spent texting. Then there's Facebook and e-mail, and she wonders why there aren't enough hours in the day to pick up clothes off the floor, or spend a couple minutes playing with her brothers and sister.

    I, too, find this in my own life. I'm constantly distracting from what I should be doing, by all the shiny baubles. Er. Like this blog. Oh, the irony.

  6. Apparently, too distracted even to proof my own posts.

  7. Good luck with your aloneness. Even though I've backed off the social networking and emails, I still find myself rarely alone with myself and my work. And I really need to be.

    So I may have to ride your coat tails on this one and get back to my writing and finding where I belong in the universe. I'll miss you (but of course I already do)


  8. We enter the world alone, we leave the world alone. The time between is too short to worry. Do what feels right, do what feels good, but do something. The universe is forgiving.


  9. had a good day. Quiet, productive, busy. and a glorious swim. Seems I am not bad company. ;)

    thanks all, for your comments. <3

  10. Totally relate to this. It was my greatest fear when I entered fb and blog worlds 6 months ago. Now I'm addicted. But I know/feel when I need to break away and get my quiet fix. I don't have fb open all the time, but I do get emails if a message comes in.

    Glad you had a good, productive day. Hope many more follow! xo B

  11. That WAS a gorgeous little film! I need alone time like crazy--most of it is spent walking (to and from work, daily, plus my powerwalks--though those usually have music) and then I write as alone as I can be (in the bathtub--sometimes the family intrudes, but mostly they let me). I love wandering woods or cities alone.

    Yes, I spend too much time on the computer, but I LOVE the ALONE.

    (Have a fabulous, productive few days remembering how to be alone)