First off, hello! And Merry New Year! To those of you who actually noticed my hiatus, I thank you. I meant to leave a “gone skiing” sign before I disappeared, but some of you already knew where I'd gone. And my apologies to those who would like to know what went on behind that sign, but believe it or not, I do try to keep at least some of my life private.
What I will say, is that without realizing it from the get-go, I embarked on a Solo-cation. I got out of town for two weeks, away from my normal routine and my reliable network of friends and confidantes – to get in touch with myself.
When I got home, I noticed an interesting article in the NYT about “The Rise of the New GroupThink,” http://nyti.ms/ydO6ho which discusses how solitude is out of fashion, and how our companies, schools and culture are in thrall with the notion that creativity and achievement sprout from gregarious collaboration. Lone geniuses are out.
Hmm. This idea conflicts with one of my favorite quotes (etched onto the cover of my journal): “Solitude breeds innovation.”
Picasso said it best: “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”
Picasso meant “work” as the process of creation that breeds a tangible creative outcome.
But it made me consider the term “work” on different terms: working in solitude emotionally - on oneself. The process of shutting out all distractions, including the voices of those closest to us, in order to see oneself clearly.
I have a vibrant and extensive support system of friends and advisors, whom I am grateful for and love dearly. Most of them are women. Some are men. Not to mention my two sisters and my mother. That’s a lot of opinions. Or GroupThinking (and Feeling).
During all of my past relationships (marriage not included), I courted and embraced the GroupThink, even while cognizant of its potential to obfuscate my own true feelings or gut. It was a choice I made. Don’t share with those close to you and risk losing that closeness, or share and discuss, knowing that the advice is not always aligned with what’s best for you.
So when I went on my holiday abroad, on the threshold of a new relationship that comes with the challenges of any new beginning, I didn’t purchase an international phone. I didn’t have BBM. I didn’t have easy access to Internet. I was forced to shut off the wireless friendship network.
At first, it felt as if I was in rehab. In a moment of confusion or difficulty, my instinct was to reach out to this network. And when I realized that I could not – that I had to sit in and sift through the gray on my own – I felt an unsettling reprogramming of my thinking. I was out of the zone, thousands of miles out of my comfort zone, with no access to collaborative feelings.
Most of resist the discomfort zone. Our instinct is to flee at all costs. But when we can recognize it as a signal, as an opportunity for learning and change, and force ourselves to hang out in that place, the outcome is rewarding, if not empowering.
When I landed in JFK and turned on my Blackberry, the flashing red light of incoming messages induced a thrilling sensation, akin to a drug offering to an addict. “How was it? I want to hear everything!” or, “I’m sure you’re exhausted but call me this week so we can talk.”
I felt a combination of both gratitude for the loving concern, and conflict over the revelation that the growth I had experienced had been earned in the absence of such inquiries.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t return to feeding those connective channels. I genuinely missed my friends, especially my sisters and mother. I was more grateful for them than I had been before I left.
But I took a chance and tried on something new: “It was great. But it’s a long story, and I don’t have the energy, or the need, to talk about it….”
A few of my confidantes replied with: “I understand. But call me, give me a brief recap?”
But to my surprise, and relief, many of them said, “I understand. I’m here if you feel like talking.”
A few days later, when I did feel the need to talk, I took out my journal (and my novel in progress), and talked to them instead.