February 17, 2012

Listening to Solitude

Listening to Solitude

Solitude stands by the window
She turns her head as I walk in the room
I can see by her eyes she’s been waiting
Standing in the slant of the late afternoon
– Suzanne Vega

Do you every have a day – or maybe even a week in your life where the universe keeps trying to tell you something over and over and over again? I have been very busy lately, and very stressed, and struggling with my asthma – so maybe by today the universe just needed to shout at me a little…

It started early this morning. Thanks to the hefty dose of drugs I am taking for my lungs I was wide awake at some hour of the morning that barely qualifies as morning. I read this great blog post titled What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space by Scott Belsky. It’s a short piece, I hope you read it. In it he talks about the increasing pressure to be be constantly plugged in and with this the loss of disconnected down time. He reflects on this loss of time alone and relates it to the loss of the “creative pause”- the moments, where the mind, no longer listening to the outside world, can turn in and listen to itself. He writes:

In these moments, you are completely isolated, and your mind is able to wander and churn big questions without interruption.

I saved the article. Tried to quiet my mind. Tried to sleep. No such luck.

9 am and I am on the phone with a colleague/friend – Colleen – she edited my book. We get to talking about the crazy non-stop busyness of our lives, and we talk about running and she asks Aren’t you just grateful for the time alone, for the reason to be alone, for the solitude?

Yes! Of course I am. Ok.

Then it’s on to a morning of trainings and meetings and calls. Things get scheduled, unscheduled, moved. There are reports to review and data to look over and at least 3 unplanned calls.

Somewhere later in the day I hear from another friend – someone I am sure is usually busier than I am – a text about needing to be alone to have some down time so he can “reset.”

(And I still have not found the theme here…)

More meetings, the kids have two separate sports practices, I have to do a conference call from my car, rotate the laundry, stop by the bank, cook dinner and read two articles that I brought home. And I am sure I am forgetting something in there. Then suddenly I realize I have a 45 minute window of opportunity to run.

Let’s go.

A few minutes later I am running along the coast by my house. I have gone without music so I am running to the sound of cars and the ocean and the sound of my own feet on the ground.

Time to be alone…to let the mind wander without interruption…to reset.


I look around. There are really people everywhere.  Tons of cars on the road, other runners, cyclists, surfers coming off the beach. But they could just as well not be there because – and I think this is one of the magical secrets of running that no one tells you about – I feel like I am Alone. My thoughts arise and I can hear them. The stresses of the day and the week and the year (wow 2012 has only begun and it is already on a roll) fall away for a moment and I can actually hear what’s going on in my own head.

I turn the corner and run onto the sand and make for the edge of the water. The sound of the waves, the sound of my feet, the sound of my thoughts. There might be a hundred people out here on the beach with me, but they are part of the backdrop and my own inner self is the only thing in the foreground.

Do you wonder every how we got here – to a place where we only value constant doing and we seem to have forgotten that being – simply being without doing has enormous value?  Even this run, I think, is a bit of an example. It easier to say I am going to run for 45 minutes than it is to say I am going to go and just sit and listen to what’s going on in my head for a little while.

Ask runners why they run – what the love about running – and a whole lot of them will tell you something like I work out important problems when I run or I can see things more clearly when I run or It’s the way I get to be alone with myself.

Today, I found the truth in that. I found my thoughts. I found my creative pause. I found my solitude in the busyness of the world. It was only brief, but it was mine.

I think, really, it had been waiting there for me all along.




Leave a comment
  1. nordictk
    February 18, 2012 at 5:03 am #

    Didn’t you say you are doing this as an experiment? It sounds like you are learning the wonders of running…and I dare say, you sound like you ARE a runner!

    • Jacqueline Jacques
      February 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

      Well, I guess the best experiments all teach us things, right? About ourselves, about the world.