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Solitude

01/05/09 5:55PM By Leora Dowling
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(HOST) Commentator Leora Dowling has a New Year's resolution that doesn't involve food, money or even giving up a bad habit.

(DOWLING) The house guests are gone; so are the leftovers; and there are no more dinner parties on the horizon.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s 2008 are over and have been pressed into my memory.

What a relief!

Don’t get me wrong: I love entertaining.  And celebrating the season with family and friends beats anything Santa might leave under the tree.  But I still find the holidays draining.

I never thought it would come to this - or I would admit it publicly - but the new "older" me prefers life on the quiet, even predictable, side.  When my schedule is out of whack, I’m out of whack.  To feel balanced and be productive I need time alone.  Yet with all the responsibilities, obligations, and pleasures that accompany the holidays, I find it hard to justify taking time for myself, or to say "No" instead of "Yes."

I relegate alone time to "later," but "later" never seems to come.  (And driving around doing errands does not constitute quality alone time.)

I think a lot of us Vermonters appreciate solitude.

Whether we were born here or have chosen to move here, there's something about the nature of our state that appeals to people who enjoy their own company. We like the quiet that is found outdoors: the sound of dancing birch leaves or the silence of snow. And I suspect most of us don’t really dread winter because there are few things more satisfying than to sit by the fire with a cup of coffee and a good book.

How fortunate I am - we are - to live in a place where we’re rarely assailed by sirens, trampled by crowds or frustrated by traffic jams.

But during the holidays life gets hectic even here in Vermont. That’s why I’m glad they’re over for another year.

And why I resolve to take more time for myself in the year to come - time to recharge my batteries, clarify my goals, relax my body, and calm my spirit - especially when the pace of life picks up.

The writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh understood my dilemma - and the value of solitude. Long before cell phones and email she wrote: "If one sets aside time for business engagements, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement, or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour to be alone, one is considered rude, egotistical or strange."  She knew what she was talking about when she said, "What a commentary on our civilization when being alone is considered suspect: when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it - like a secret vice."

In 2009 I resolve to spend more time with myself - alone - happily and without apology.
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