I grew up in a very large, loud Irish-Catholic family. My mom is one of 7 kids (13 after her father’s second marraige) and my dad is one of 6. Every holiday was filled with noise and people and moving parts – overflowing tables of food, loud laughter, games and traditions. As the oldest cousin, and oldest of three, I was right in the mix of all of this craziness. I will often share with people that I am actually the quietest person in my family. They do not always believe me.
This week I am joining my AMAZING friend Deb Runs Fit for her Wednesday word. This week the word is solitude.
Throughout high school and college solitude was something I struggled with. I hated being alone, even for a moment, because it left me trapped in my own thoughts. There was always a friend to hang out with or a party to attend. Sorority sisters, dorm mates, boyfriends and friends were a constant presence in my life. But part of me knew, enjoying my own company was critical and would serve me well in the future. As someone who likes to face challenges with as much muster as I can put behind me, I decided to attack this particular area head on.
The second semester of my senior year of college I signed up for a five day silent retreat just after new years. For five days, in the woods of Wisconsin, I was almost completely silent. We ate meals together, passed one another in the hall, and medidated together without saying a word to one another. We did spend an hour a day with our spiritual advisor who would help us direct our time and make certain we were doing OK. 15+ years later, I still remember those days with distinct clarity – smells, sounds, the look and feel of the retreat center.
Somewhere between my family gatherings, silent retreat and becoming a grown up, I realized I am an extroverted introvert. I love other people and enjoy company, but it is critical that I spend time alone. My batteries need recharging without the noise, hustle and bustle of others.
Today my solitude comes primarily on my solo runs. At least once a week, I try to head out for 3 miles alone. I find I listen to my body more and either push my boudaries, or shift into a contempltative run. I have also added meditation to my weekly calendar and those moments truly change my thinking – short and long term – for the better.