We Should All Spend More Time Alone with Ourselves

A man alone on a mountain

My neighbor called and asked if we could spare some eggs. I walked up and gave him a dozen. He was the first person I had seen, other than my wife, since last Friday. We had a pleasant chat, mostly about the snow and the dog, but I wouldn’t be averse to going another week without seeing another living soul.

We remain snowed in. The county has not yet cleared the road. The only downside so far is that we couldn’t have salad with dinner because it wilted. We fed it to the chickens and my wife had Swiss chard instead.

The Benefits of Alone Time

It’s been nice to have no outside demands. Even the power outage was relaxing because we just read. No TV, no YouTube. Not even a phone call. We were disconnected.

I think every Americans would benefit if they withdrew from public life for a few days. Don’t answer your phone. Don’t go on social media. Give yourself a chance to be alone, to think, or read a book, to build something with your hands or use the creative side of your mind. Answering to no one is relaxing. It’s like a vacation for your mind.

There’s a certain sense of freedom that comes with knowing you can do only what you want to do. The snow is a perfect excuse. We can’t go anywhere and no one can come over. My wife can’t even invite anyone over for dinner. There are maybe three people in walking distance. No one else could make it here.

I think that’s why people go hunting. It’s an excuse to turn your phone off and be alone in a tree stand. Sure, it’s great if you get a chance to shoot a buck, but no hunter considers a day in the field a waste of time.

The Demands of the Modern World

It’s only when you step back that you realize how many demands the modern world places on you. Too much of it focuses on the pursuit of the dollar work, overtime, side gig, etc. Too much of it focuses on keeping up with other people, doing what someone else expects rather than what you want.

Modern communication devices pull you in so many directions. You’re talking to someone face-to-face and yet your eyes drift to the screen of your phone when it dings. Could that message really be more important than the person you’re sitting across the table from? Can you focus on someone and hear what they are saying when your brains is distracted by the buzzing and beeps of new messages, emails and posts? Cell phone are a great convenience, but they are also a curse.

Thinking back, it would be hard to be alone living in my old pre-war apartment building in New York. I’d hear the neighbor’s keys jingle when they unlock the door, and would hear when they laughed or fought. You’d see people out the window. There were street noises, sirens, car alarms, horns, diesel engines, boom boxes, shouts, and the odd gunshot.

It was easier in the suburbs, especially when we had the 6-foot high fence and gate. That kept people out, but you would still see or hear them as their cars came and went. Up here on the side of the mountain, there’s very little of that. We can only hear the neighbors when we are outside and they are outside. Cars are rare enough that we don’t ignore them but look to see who that could be.

Out here in the great beyond, being alone is our default state. I like it.