I have always appreciated solitude. Yet, many who know me would describe me as a “people person”–not afraid to take the stage, speak to a group of 1,500 people, lead a group of preschoolers through a corn maze, or invite a group of senior genetics students to my apartment to make pizzas and gingerbread cookies.
But I love my quiet time. I was single until my mid-thirties, so I grew accustomed to having quiet time. I grew accustomed to having control of the remote, being able to bask in silence, or crank up Samuel Barber or Eric Clapton (depending on my mood), or go on a cleaning binge at five am. I could create whatever environment I needed, when I needed to write. If I had insomnia, it was ok, because my wakefulness did not result in anybody else’s wakefulness.
Fast forward to mom-hood and wife-hood. I no longer have control over the TV remote, ever. If I suffer from insomnia, I have to be quiet about it, lest I wake up a child. Often, if I am up in the middle of the night, my husband will wake up and check to make sure I am okay. And, frankly, as the mother of a small child, sometimes it’s hard even to find solitude in the bathroom.
Last week I traveled to North Carolina for the Science Online conference. This is a dynamic, energy filled, face-to-face meeting of an online community of science writers and bloggers. It’s fun; it’s educational; it’s science outreach at its best. I came to this conference fully prepared for the excitement of meeting the writers whom I read and admire. I came fully prepared to learn inspiring new ways of communicating science information. I came fully prepared to experience new technologies and social media in entirely new ways.
I didn’t come prepared for the pleasant surprise of solitude. On the flight from Milwaukee to Atlanta, as I watched the landscape change from farmland to foothill below me, I suddenly realized that between work and family I had not experienced so much uninterrupted time inside my own thoughts in years. Slowly, much like the first few rays of the sun creeping under morning’s clouds, the thought that I have not spent much time considering the blessings of the harried and busy life that I lead crept into my mind. I am indeed truly blessed to live the rich life of wife, mother, writer and science geek.
On a business trip, thirty thousand feet off the ground, I found solitude. I need to find it more often because I tend to appreciate best what a blessing this full and harried life is when I look at it through the lens of solitude.
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