I'm falling woefully behind in my Inside Out course. But that's OK, because I can just save the materials and work on it at my own pace; there are no "assignments" that need to be turned in, and I haven't really had time to participate in the interactive portion anyway. I think it's kind of good to take a little time to let the little snippets of introspection sink in a bit between journaling sessions.
I had thought that I had journaled in the past--I have kept notebooks of writing about my life and other things--but I guess I've never really and truly "journaled" as in writing in response to a prompt intended not to produce a piece of writing, but to tap into one's emotions. I've found myself gushing tears on more than one journaling occasion.
One of the insights I've uncovered through this process, is that I have this paradoxical conflict in my life between a deep need for solitude and an abiding loneliness. After puzzling over this for some days now, I think I understand that these two states are not so in conflict after all, but feed on each other. As a mother of three boys, a wife and an employee, I have very little time alone, in solitude [Heather has a nice description of what true solitude is here...can I tell you how good being solo on the side of a mountain with nothing but a bag of GORP and a notebook sounds? (It should go without saying that I'm visualizing this in a warm, summery, bug-free location)]. And I need it. I crave it. So much so that I resent perceived intrusions into any potential time to myself--including evenings out with friends, phone calls, a calendar with weekends booked solid for months ahead.
It kind of makes it difficult to form close, intimate friendships when one doesn't want to be around other people, doesn't it? Combine that with my natural reserve and tendency to hold people at arm's length (and that weird guard that goes up wherever mothers congregate--wondering if I'm being judged, my own judgements slipping in unbidden), and let's just say that among my many friends and acquaintances in close geographic proximity, I don't know anyone on whom I would drop in unannounced and be welcome with open arms, or who I would turn to if I had a real life crisis. Having lived in Maine for 11 consecutive years now, I should have had time to get to know at least one person that well, shouldn't I?
So I don't really know what to do with this insight, in general or in the long term, but I think now I'll notice that when I'm feeling edgy, cranky, grumpy, etc., it's time to get away. Yesterday I felt that way and took the afternoon off. I took myself out to lunch, sitting in the corner of a brew pub, occasionally dipping into the book I brought, but mostly just eating and listening in on bits of conversation around me, sort of wishing I had brought a notebook to write down some things I overheard, descriptions of people at the other tables.
I then walked around the small town, popping into antique shops, which should have been a relaxing activity, but I feel so conspicuous in small stores, when I'm the only customer, and guilty when I don't buy anything, so that anxiety started to tug at my chest. I tried to quell it, and focus on "stillness"--another element from class, taking a few minutes each day to quiet the mind through a relaxing yoga pose, meditation, taking a walk, etc. I popped into a friend's art gallery and ended up in a long conversation about school and kids. I then went grocery shopping and picked up all the boys early, giving us a bit of breathing time to relax at home before C got home and started dinner and I headed off to my knitting group.
While an afternoon to myself is not an option every day or week, I now have the awareness that some moments of solitude are necessary for me each day, and I just need to find a way to create the space for it.