Sometimes I worry that I’ve forgotten how to be alone.
I don’t mean being single; I mean hanging out by myself. For many people, the pace of life, work, family, and social obligations means that we have very little (and I hate this term, but here it is) “me time.”
My problem is that on the rare occasion when I have a few hours to myself, I’m so stunned by the freedom that I end up wasting it mindlessly. I go through the list of things to do in my head, and end up doing 3% of each item, rather than 100% of one item. Then, dismayed by my lack of progress, I tell myself I’ll just watch a little YouTube, and hop aimlessly from one video to the next like an indecisive frog in search of the perfect lily pad.
Inevitably, guilt creeps in. All kinds of internal voices start heckling me.
This isn’t what my spare time should look like. It should be an opportunity for me to build myself in some way. Light exercise maybe, or reading. Writing to someone I haven’t seen in a while. Working on some side project I’ve been putting off.
It can still be relaxing, but it shouldn’t be vegetative. It should be a release, yes, but the kind of release that elevates me in some way.
So I’m starting a spare time matrix: things I want to do when I have the time, organized by the amount of physical and mental energy they take. Something like this:
Armed with this nerdy graphic, I’m fully ready for the next time an afternoon opens itself up to me. And this track by Rich Aucoin will likely be my soundtrack.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. The chopped vocal sample, and the drums at 4:45, pan constantly from left to right, like thoughts bouncing around a mind that has too much time to second-guess.
2. The constant build, break, and rebuild, all its false starts and stuttering releases; momentum that can’t quite decide where to go.
3. The video. Aucoin lies floating in the Atlantic Ocean while a drone films him, rising slowly from extreme close-up to, basically, orbit. It takes serious guts to go with a single-shot concept for such a high-energy song, and perhaps even more guts to film it. Aucoin told me:
“I’m pretty comfortable in the water but there were sightings of Great White sharks not too far away. So I was trying to remind myself no one has been attacked in Nova Scotia…but I thought I could be the first, since I was motionless meat.”
And that, I conclude, might be the world’s best metaphor for learning how to be comfortable by yourself.
Recommended listening activity:
Looking your reflection straight in the eye.