Christmas often intensifies emotions, and ways of thinking that usually lurk in the basement shadows of our lives. As Christmas day approached with the usually frenetic activity of family, friends, food, presents, and unrealistic scheduling of events I found myself scanning the days ahead for any opportunity to escape the approaching landscape of sensory overload and overwhelm.
Unusually however, I caught myself in the act and wondered, “Where has this come from? Why is time alone so important that I feel like an addict subversively plotting his next fix?” Unnerved by this realisation, I explored the principle further and realised it wasn’t just a Christmas event. I engage in this activity all through the year. It is my baseline operating system.
So, what does this say about me? That constant exposure to human (and animal) interaction is so challenging I have developed and upgraded, over the years systems and strategies to escape? Amongst my vessels of need, I can feel the strain of prioritising, and transitioning between different demands. I did a quick inventory of my approaches.
Sometimes I will go inward, I can be present in a room, but thinking of many different things, none particularly practical like, “What are we having for dinner?” Or, “When are we doing a food shop?” I will listen and nod, but don’t hear. Outwardly, I might lose myself in a television series under the premise of ironing, be overly keen to undertake dog walking duties, or try to wake early in the morning to carve out some solitude.
I have built, over the years, a narrative suggesting selfishness. The seed was sewn in childhood and transitioning into adulthood, I have plucked and stored conversations that feed this voracious belief. It comes, in part, from my efforts to escape which can appear anti-social, and hurtful to those who desire my company.
So I have learned to hook my external escapes onto practical duties. In this fast-paced world of demands, and distractions mindful activities like washing laundry, or dishes have been replaced by machines, to give us more free-time. However, this is often consumed with distractions of electronic media, commuting, and general tasks of modern life. I can’t imagine for example, taking the opportunity to sit in silence, look out the window, and watch the rain.