Going Solo

by | Mar 1, 2021 | Editors Pick, Healthcare, Online Exclusives

Finding “Me Time” During a Pandemic

It’s true: You want what you can’t have. But as you age, what you want becomes more practical – rather than a shiny, lime green Maserati, a realistic dreamer nearing 50 years old may desire new tires for his Kia Optima. They aren’t a fool’s fantasy either; your old tires are bald, so it’s not a shameful, midlife impulse buy.

More than tires, the thing I want right now is solitude, and, clearly, it’s a precious resource. Given the months of lockdowns, social distancing and protecting our bubble, my four-person nuclear family has achieved so much togetherness that we’re busting at the seams over here in Hampstead.

Meditation Topsail NC

I know I’m not the only one craving “Me Time.” My wife and I both work from home now, so there is no office in town offering a change of scenery and alternative cast of co-workers, no gridlocked commute into Wilmington, which would be welcome on most days.

The kids get a few days of in-person education at school, but the months of virtual learning and the adjustment to less socialization and fewer recreational outlets has turned them inward and more dependent on technology than my wife and I would like. Retreating to his bedroom to play Xbox, I’ve heard my son tell his pursuing younger sister, “I just want some time to myself,” as he gently shuts the door in her face.

We all desperately want solitude, and it’s not a negative reflection on the very lovable people we’re trying to avoid.

Being the first one to wake up, I do get time to myself before the rest of the family restarts the routine each day. Yet solitude is more than a half-hour in the morning to check the news on your phone, empty the email inbox of junk, play a game of app putt-putt, maybe retreat to the bathroom with a crossword puzzle.

It’s supposed to be a better reboot, isn’t it, rather than a diversion or way to busy the mind with fluff before shifting focus to the workday? Like surfacing from cool clear water, how do I come out of those quiet moments with a sense of renewal?

Maybe there’s no easy way to get that renewing dose of solitude. I can’t camp on Lea-Hutaff Island for a couple of weeks, stow away on a sailboat, housesit the International Space Station or be cryogenically frozen. I have a family and a job. I can’t just disappear without significant personal and professional consequences, so I’m wondering if the solution is to go within. In the immortal words of a bygone officer and gentleman, I’ve got nowhere else to go.

Invest In Yourself

Although it’s an interesting concept to ponder, I’ve never meditated. I see how meditation may help a person disconnect from a hyper-pressurized life for a few minutes, but I have yet to formally attempt the practice. Since I can’t physically leave the stress behind, maybe momentarily pushing aside whatever is making me stressed and feeling the need for solitude in the first place is a path to the same solution. Peace. Stability. I would get the same result and wouldn’t have to go anywhere.

It seems like a big step and one best taken with a professional guide to make sure immersion is full and effective.

But with COVID restrictions, maybe it would need to happen via a Zoom class or through my television, and I wonder if the introduction of a technical medium would reduce the efficacy.

Could the solution actually be going internal, though? Don’t I spend too much time in my head already? How is it that my brain is both the problem and the solution?

The next step to the decision – try mediation or yoga, finally – is to overthink said decision, which leads many people into a form of paralysis. That’s how a person spends decades pondering something like meditation yet never tries meditation, which is in itself an extended meditation, so maybe it’s time to break the spell.

If Just Breathe Yoga Studio, Yoga Divine, Hamsptead Yoga Studio or any other local master wants to initiate the uninitiated, give me a shout or send me a vibe of affirmation, and we’ll see if it comes through.

For now, I will hang with the fish, and he will be my guide. My son has a betta fish tank in his bedroom, and I used to think that was a pitiful existence for the fish. Living in that little tank by yourself for your whole life.

Swimming around the same psychedelic world, seeing the same things, the neon pebbles, the fake log, the bubbling apparatus keeping you alive and the slime down. The weird fish-eye lens-walls where you see vague movement, colors, shapes. And the lid comes open and the food rains down a couple of times a day, otherwise you’re just in there by yourself for your whole lifecycle.

And you’re alone because your species is too horrible and ill-tempered to have a companion. I used to feel sorry for the fish. Now I’m jealous. I want to climb in, pull down the lid, sink to the bottom and hide in the log.

This will have to be my substitute meditation until I find a better way and a better guide. My own fish bowl needs some maintenance.

About the author

Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson

I am a previous winner of the Piccolo Spoleto Fiction Open, two-time winner of the SC Fiction Project and former editorial director of Men, Ink. I was also a Cape Fear Dad columnist for the Wilmington Star-News. I live in Hampstead with my wife and two children.