I spent a lot of time by myself last year. The pandemic and recent arctic blast of subzero temperatures has assisted this decision. But I’m an introvert, not a loner. I know how to be alone. I just don’t like feeling alone.
The sum of my life experiences add up to the whole of the man I am today. One of those many experiences includes my childhood heritage. As a young boy growing up in a rural area of northeastern Oklahoma, I didn’t have many options for social interactions. As a result, I learned how to keep company with myself. I would have preferred hanging out with kids my age, doing the things kids did to entertain themselves. I just didn’t have that option.
I taught myself a number of skills that would come back to serve me in my new season of aloneness. I learned that complaining had no value and would not net me anything I desired. So as a boy, I retreated to my mind for companionship. My imagination kept me company. Even as it does today.
I choose to see these days as a season of time that I may never have back. I may not have the opportunity to travel at the drop of a hat or to write as freely and often as I am now. I may not always have the freedom to turn up the music at 3am when I can’t sleep or to let the dog sleep at the foot of the bed.
I may not always have the time to watch all the old war movies that I never saw. I may never have a garden as beautiful as the one I have planned this year. I may not have the liberty to take long walks in the middle of the afternoon because it’s finally sunny and 68 degrees.
I may never have this same chance to record the music that is hatching in my head. Or to archive my thoughts of faith and hope in audio for my family and friends to know more about me. I may never be able to bang on the drums in the basement as loudly as I do now.
There is a time and a season for everything. My dad taught me the value of this wisdom by reminding me to stop and smell the roses. He was a certified rosarian. Growing roses was his hobby. He gave me my green thumb. I loved walking with him through his multiple rose gardens, listening to him describe the latest cultivars and varieties he was enjoying. I’ve since taken that wisdom and made it my own. Enjoy what’s right in front of me. Right now.
In 2009 I had the opportunity to take my family to Ireland. I could not pass up this chance to get my kids to an international destination and show them another culture and way of life. In preparation, I made a checklist of three essential items; coat, backpack and suitcase. All four of us had these three pieces and every member was responsible for toting their own. Anytime we were moving to a new area, I would ask Coat? Check. Backpack? Check. Suitcase? Check. And off we go.
I came up with a version of my dad’s roses advice on that trip. At each city, I would ask the kids, “did we do what we came to do?” Meaning we may not ever get back here, so speak up now if there is something you want to see or do.
I may never get this kind of time to myself ever again. Instead of wishing things would get back to normal, I don’t want to miss what is available in the abnormal. Am I doing what I’m supposed to do with the time that I have?
Am I doing what I came to do?