The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: solitude (page 1 of 3)

Retreat

Periodically, I get the urge to retreat.

I lose all inclination to talk to people and/or meet with them. Browsing Facebook or Twitter or Instagram has no charm. I feel like I want to stay indoors by myself (or with my husband who enjoys solitude as much as, if not more than, I do) puttering around the house. Or perhaps go out for a walk or hike, maybe a swim.

There is a strong urge to disengage from everything. I don’t want to read about politics or institutional racism or climate change or economic inequality or mistreatment of women or lack of sanitation, or whatever. I also am not interested in reading about Apple’s latest release or the cool styles on High Heel Confidential, or Heidi’s beautiful recipes on 101 Cookbooks.

I simply want to vegetate. Or ruminate. Or hibernate.

Of course, this stream of thought is immediately followed by another, filled with guilt and self-recrimination.

Aren’t you privileged? You can actually afford to disengage. You have nothing at stake. Not your health or employment or marriage or life. You have nothing to lose by detaching yourself from the everyday occurrences and goings-on of others. Aren’t you selfish? Instead of reaching out to people who are in need of help and support, you prefer to hunker down, like you are a self-styled hermit or a recluse.

You are neither.

You are a pampered, self-absorbed woman who has never wanted for a thing all her life. Most things came easy to you. You like to believe that you are a minimalist but that’s a relative perspective. You have everything you want, so you can actually afford to consider yourself a minimalist. You see yourself as a minimalist only because you look around and see how people spend money, acquire things, move into large homes, buy big cars. None of that is related to you, really.

Okay. But none of this, in any way, diminishes my strong desire to retreat inward, literally and metaphorically.

I used to consider myself a regular extrovert but now it seems like that was a thin veneer that shed itself as I ventured into my mid-late thirties.

So, all of this – acknowledging my need for quiet, space, solitude – is new to me.

But I am gulping it down like a much-needed glass of water. So perhaps, all of this is timely and essential.

Come Say Hi

“Why didn’t you come say Hi?”

Umm, it is a little tough to explain.

It is pretty likely that I was really happy to see you, as in literally “see” you. And I sincerely wish that your life is great, and everything is well at your end.

(I wonder, though… that if that weren’t the case, and if you were weathering challenges, would you tell me?)

And so, if we were to run into each other someplace, I suppose we would exchange pleasantries about the weather, mutual friends, children, school updates, etc. All important and significant details, I know. And I am good at this stuff, I really am. I learned early enough to converse, talk to strangers and acquaintances, make people comfortable. Someone once described me as being “delightful in most social situations.” But these aren’t my favorite kind of conversations. They feel rather onerous to me. I feel the burden of being “socially delightful.” It isn’t that I don’t care about you or your life; I genuinely do. But I don’t know if I am really interested in exchanging mundane details about our mutual lives.

Is any detail mundane, though? Not to the individual in question, no. I find the mundaneness in my life rather beautiful. It is comforting, grounding. But I am not necessarily excited about sharing it with others.

Does that make sense?

Also, I have come to think that I (or we?) am an outsider to everyone else’s life but my own. Friendly outsider, perhaps? So I can lend a ear, a shoulder… but can I do much else?

Maybe that is the point of these general encounters. To listen without judgment. To be a friendly witness, a silent and warm presence.

What I’d love to know is what you think about life. I would love to know about your imaginings, fears and victories. I’d like to know how you fell, and what made you rise.

But these conversations are organic, and best left unplanned.

Besides, not everyone is necessarily up for that conversation. So we continue to subsist on superficial talk. And it keeps things chugging along nicely.

Playing Solo

If it isn’t obvious already (from the previous posts), I am by myself these days, a lot.

The husband is currently traveling for work. I have no children or pets, plus my social life is virtually non-existent, so this means that I spend a good chunk of time in my own company (apart from the time I spend at work with my delightful colleagues). I have also begun to go out for dinner, to movies, on hikes, etc. as a solo person.

All of this is new to me.

I hope this isn’t coming across as pathetic. Indian women are so geared to be in a relationship with someone (parents, husband, children) that this might feel like a rather unconventional picture. Actually, I don’t think it is that unconventional. The truth is that there are many girls like me in other cities, here and in India, living on their own, possibly liking it too.

I have been married for 13+ years, and we, my husband and I, have rarely been apart. However, starting last year, things have been somewhat different. He travels for 3-4 weeks at a stretch, and I am left to my own devices. As I recently discovered, I have quite the fondness for solo time; some days I wonder if I am turning into a semi-recluse of sorts?

But it isn’t always easy-breezy.

There are some evenings when I am at a loss. Something within tells me, ok, now read a book. But I just finished reading a book some time ago. What about watching a film? Okay… not feeling like it. Go out for a walk? Surf the Internet?

There is an urge within to keep moving, one activity to another, stay busy. Keep going, don’t stop until it’s bedtime.

“Keep yourself occupied, so you don’t have time for unnecessary thoughts.” This is some ancient wisdom that I have heard repeated again and again, ad nauseam. Let me be the first one to call BS on this bit of wisdom.

You can run yourself down in this tremendously silly attempt to be busy and occupied. However, your mind is smarter than that. Sure, your body will be exhausted, and you will drop dead/asleep on your feet. But the litany in your mind isn’t going to shut down, if that’s what you are trying to achieve. It is a better idea to be still, sit silent, think about what you are thinking.

“Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” — Susan Ertz

Sometimes, I wonder if life is preparing me for solitude/loneliness in the future. I am certainly getting good practice these days.

This situation can go forward in multiple ways. Like countless others (women and men) who face up to their alone situation, accept it completely, stop searching for things and people and activities to fill their “isolation.” Or spend the time and energies searching. Or remain somewhere in between.

Some days, I feel dejected, as I think about empty promises of friendship, none delivered. I feel angry at my bravado, thinking that I could be independent and free, on my own. I feel pride/resignation, as I contemplate my own mind that has consistently refused to buy into popular rhythms and patterns.

And then I think, you just chose all of it, baby.