I have been craving a bit of solitude.
It should come as no surprise, I suppose, after six months of nonstop activity. As a wedding officiant, May usually kicks off a brisk season that lasts well into the fall. But the warmer weather — spring and summer are undeniably my favorite times of year — also unleashes an abundance of energy that keeps me in full-tilt pursuit of every possible joy.
Concerts, festivals, dancing, trips to the beach and other adventures with friends and family fill many a week until the cold begins to set in, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s in my nature to meet life with such engaged exuberance. Sustaining that pace leaves little room to ponder how exhausting it can be, and even when I do press the pause button, I’m like a kid pushing against bedtime, reluctant to let the next moment of wonder or fun pass me by.
Friends often say they don’t know how I do it, working full time and performing weddings while still having a social life. The truth is I could probably set better boundaries for myself, learn to honor my body’s wisdom when it wants more sleep, tamp my own insatiable restlessness when my schedule teeters toward slitting its seams.
It is only in the last week and a half, after performing my final wedding of the fall season, that I’ve acknowledged how worn out I feel. And though this time of year is bittersweet for me — despite its profusion of beauty and my love of all things pumpkin, I will always regard it as a dreaded harbinger of winter — I welcome the slowing down it inevitably forces. As the days get darker and the chill deepens, I seek more quiet, more stillness, more quality time with loved ones than the constant reach for entertainment.
Last Saturday, after a dear friend and I spent most of the afternoon at a Lehigh County winery, we ended the day at her house, sitting for hours in front of a fire, talking and laughing over a leisurely dinner, with her dogs curled up at our sides. Her company is always restorative, yet as I thought of the options I’d also considered that night — a concert in my neighborhood, a multidisciplinary performance in the city, a book-signing and discussion at a local, independent store — I realized I couldn’t have been more content with the thrum of lazy pleasure between us.
I know I’m not alone in my tendency to want to hibernate when colder weather comes. But what I’ve come to appreciate in recent years is how the passing of summer, in all its brazen expansiveness, naturally gives way to a more reflective season. While we gravitate toward external activity in the warmer months, fall and winter carry a more contractive energy that turns us inward. Just as the bulbs and seeds lay dormant until they begin to stir, and ultimately blossom, with new life in the spring, I welcome the opportunity to be gentler with myself, to rein in my commitments before warmer, brighter days again hold me in thrall to a social surfeit.
I admit it can be a struggle sometimes for someone whose tendency is to go-go-go, but I’ve also come to realize I’m not the extrovert I once thought myself to be. That I in fact ever considered myself one makes me laugh given I was fairly shy as a child. (My mom even got me a Little Miss Shy sleep shirt, and my dad would remind me to smile at gatherings and functions that weren’t filled with family as I was rarely comfortable in such crowds.) Somewhere between high school and college, I began shedding that shyness, though the quality is not necessarily associated with being an introvert.
But I possess neither the gregarious nature nor bold decisiveness of its counterpart. And while I am energized by being around other people and all the external stimulation I seek out — usually sure signs of an extroverted personality — I actually prefer one-on-one and small-group interactions. I tend to listen more than I speak, and I definitely need my “me” time.
I suppose, like much of the population, I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. But sometimes, it really does take a change of seasons to help me appreciate that I can also be energized by being alone. Time on the couch with a good book or movie, a solitary walk in nature, even going to see a film or play — activities for which I would ordinarily want company — connect me with a deep and vital part of myself I don’t get to tend when I’m ingesting life at a clipped pace.
And when I am yearning for something more than the cozy, candle-lit confines of my own home, moments like the deliciously unhurried hours I spent with my friend last weekend or the movie night my family and I recently enjoyed after our routine Sunday dinner together are just the things to savor while restoring my energy reserves.
I will never like winter. All these years of living in the U.S. have done little to soothe this island girl’s resistance to any temperature that dips below 60, let alone to snow. But I have come to embrace its gifts of rest and introspection, knowing that just as nature retreats to gather strength for its next cycle of growth, I, too, need that quiet gathering of energy for all that will lure me come spring.
– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times