On the importance of securing a place of solitude in your day
In the course of going through the snail mail, where it is 99% junk, I happened to find a local magazine marketing real estate and realtors. It was a full colored, glossy, eye-catching ad, one of those things you can’t help but open.
Really, I have no need to move. After moving both my family and my in-laws in the span of three months two years ago, I have no desire to pack a box again. But the curiosity was too much, so I took a few minutes to thumb through it.
The most interesting thing in the magazine wasn’t the photos of property, or homes for sale. It wasn’t even looking at the photos of perfectly coiffed and made-up realtors, complete with snappy slogans designed to convince you that they are the best choice for helping you buy or sell your real estate.
What I found interesting was a statement from some realtor who specializes in rural property:
The simple act of sitting in a relaxing environment has the ability to help our brains function better.
Now this realtor was selling the value of being in a place “far from the madding crowd” of city-dwellers. What better way to relax than to be out absorbing the natural goodness of the country? How much better is it for mental health than to be away from the continual pounding our brains take when living in the city, bombarded by traffic, noise, people?
What a powerful thought. The idea of “just sitting” conjures up images of lazy warm days of sunshine, birds singing, maybe some lemonade. As I reflect on the suburban house we chose to buy two years ago, I sometimes think there is no escape.
Like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” I have come to understand that you don’t have to go too far to find what you are looking for. I don’t need to be miles away from civilization to find an environment where I can relax.
There are definitely places where I long to go throughout the day just for a moment to let my brain decompress. Places that aren’t here. It is not that my life is so stressful with pressing concerns of great import: I am blessed to be able to be at home doing mundane things like laundry and meal prep for our little group of two nonagenarians, an adult daughter with Down syndrome, my spouse and myself. I find, though, that the dynamics of our personalities converge many times throughout the day, creating a force of negative energy that hangs like a black cloud over the house.
The usual bickering of couples married more than 60 years is a daily example of the tension that grows from almost breakfast time. “Are you taking your meds?” “Why are you not taking your meds?” “Those balance exercises are not ‘properly done.’” “You nag too much.” Voices raised because one or the other is not wearing their hearing aids. On and on.
With Jeannine, it is mostly a matter of her sensitivity to such harsh tones that excites her. Well, that and an occasional cat passing through our back yard which unnerves her to the point that she fixates on little else until she is assured the “creature” has made its way over the fence to someone else’s yard.
On those days when Tim works at home and not at the clinic can also be a point of tension. Computer isn’t working. Printer isn’t working. Something isn’t working, and bad mood creeps its way from his office upstairs throughout the house.
I also have to count myself among those contributors to negative energy. I don’t handle negativity very well. I like people to be happy and content. I like to be able to do what I want to do, mostly in solitude. The funny thing is that when I can’t, I am prone to brain overload and sadly, I hear my voice raised in frustration, disgust, or impatience.
Inevitably, one or more of us will hit the breaking point, but I have found that for myself, I don’t need to go far to a place of relaxation and quiet. For example, sitting in a chair on our covered porch, even if it is raining, is like a tonic. I don’t think about anything in particular; sometimes I just allow myself to feel the wind blowing in my face — a refreshing feeling that opens my mind and calms my spirit. In the moments of stream-of-consciousness thinking that naturally evolves in solitude, my brain ceases to be concerned about the “stuff” that needs to be done, or hearing the voices laden with anger, domination, or impatience.
Instead, I can contemplate the hummers darting and dashing around the feeders, hear my wind chimes as they are gently pushed into soft notes by a passing breeze. These minutes away from the tension just on the other side of the front door are like paradise. After 10–15 minutes, I find that I am at a better mental place, my brain having ridded itself of the toxins which had made their insidious way into my being.
As the winter moves to spring, spring to summer, I know that this place on the porch will no longer be my safe haven. Others in the house enjoy sitting in the warmth of sunshine and soft breezes, together in silence or in loud conversation (those hearing aids not working, of course). Other safe havens of solitude in our home will need to be scoped out and created. It is an important project — a necessity simply because I do not want to move again.