Solitary time: flight of ideas on a long drive

Traffic is a reality of everyday life in Los Angeles. Even at bizarrely disparate times of the day, like 2:00pm, when most average people should be at work, or at 2:00am, when most average people should be asleep, there is traffic. Suffice to say that driving in Los Angeles is one of my least favorite things.

When I was in college, I would drive home on the occasional weekend to do laundry and see my family. And I would make the trek at 3:00am, after church dances (and after-church-dance-dinners at classy places like Norm’s Diner) were over, and traffic was hopefully at a minimum. These would be good times to pray and ponder. I could just think my prayers, with no danger of falling asleep. And I had plenty of time to listen for an answer. It was really good solitary time.

These days solitary time is in short supply. I don’t take a lot of long driving trips. My day to day life is busy. And I tend to fill my leisure time with activity. So I don’t find myself with a lot of “still” time. So when my good friend told me that he was getting married in the Salt Lake Temple, I almost immediately decided to drive. What a great way to get some time alone with myself.

I’ve never driven from LA to SLC solo. When I’m traveling between the two cities, I generally fly. And on the couple of times I have gone by car, there has always been someone else to distract me. But I’m looking forward to some alone time … to just let my mind wander, and sing the occasional show tune.

Despite my best intentions, I get a late start. Concentrating on navigating through traffic until I get past downtown. Then it’s just me, and my thoughts, and long stretches of open road.

Lots of RV’s on the road. Remembering Allen and Rudi. How fun it must be to spend one’s retirement driving around the US (and the world) in search of dancing venues. Allen has got to be 70 if a day, and still one of my favorite people to dance with.

Trucks with dirt bikes. Remembering that trip down to Mexico. We camped on a cliff above a beach, rode dirt bikes on the sand dunes, and ate the most delectable fish tacos. I think it was the first place I’d been where I had to put the toilet paper in a waste basket instead of the toilet. I’ve since been to several places where TP-down-the-toilet is a no-no. And as much as I like traveling to out of the way places, it’s always a relief to come back to the states and sit on glistening white porcelain.

Even bigger trucks. Must cost a mint to pay for gas (for which I paid $2.84 a gallon this morning). I wonder how our country will grapple with our increasing oil demands. I wonder if alternative fuels will be available in the next few decades. I wish I could have bought a hybrid car last year. I start thinking about the Middle East …

Oops! There’s someone getting a ticket. I glance at my odometer. 85mph. I brake until I get down to my customary 75mph. Why do I feel better when I only exceed the speed limit by 10mph? It’s still speeding, and I can still get ticketed. Nevertheless, I always tend to drive at about 10mph over whatever the speed limit it.

Mojave Desert. Joshua trees everywhere. I can’t imagine how the Mormon Battalion conjured up images of the prophet Joshua praying from these trees. The desert is so dry and austere. I cannot love it like Chip Ward and Terry Tempest Williams seem to. Somewhere I see a sign for the California River. We go to such lengths to “import” water to Southern California. I wonder about water desalination. Could it ever be functionally useful?

Las Vegas. It always looks so disappointing during the day. Maybe I’ll check out Fremont Street on the drive back. Or catch the Spamalot show. Or maybe one of the Cirque du Soleil shows. Or Mama Mia.

Saint George. The red rock is so spectacular. And for some reason I start thinking of some old, half-remembered myths of Pele, volcanoes, battles and strong women deities. Very glad to be writing for the Exponent II blog. Even when I stress about posting late … like today. It’s good for my soul to be involved with a community of strong, intelligent LDS women. Very glad for many of the other LDS themed blogs that I lurk on … Zelophehad’s Daughters, FMH and Time and Seasons to name the biggest. I may not always agree with the many voices, but I appreciate the discussion

Remember to drive the speed limit between Cedar City and Nephi. Don’t want to get a ticket like JB. Even though I technically deserve one.

Cedar City. Wouldn’t it be fun to come for the Shakespeare Festival. Wouldn’t it be even more fun if costumes were involved?

And so on. I feel as if I’m living in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Except at a much shallower level. By the time I arrive in SLC, it’s been eleven hours. That’s enough of solitude. At least for now.

I tend to think that LDS women never have enough time. There are so many things that we think we should be doing. I could list them, but I won’t. What I would like to hear, is how do you find solitary time? Time to just hear yourself think. Time to just listen to yourself. And what do you think or tell yourself when you find the time?

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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  1. AmyB says:

    I took a couple of longish solo road trips last year (one to the Exponent Retreat, which was one of the highlights of my year). I was a little nervous about that much time alone, but I made a conscious effort to notice the scenery around me and take the time to enjoy and to be grateful.

    Now I find my solitary time in walks. The rhythm of walking helps put me into a meditative state. I try to focus on my breath and calm my thoughts. I do worry that if I become a mother, my solitary time will become nonexistent. I wonder how mothers, especially with young children, find their own time.

  2. Sue says:

    I get solitary time at night. Our children are up at (and often before) the literal crack of dawn, and we put them to bed early as well – 6 or 6:30 in the winter, more like 7:30 or 8:00 in the summer. That gives my husband and I several hours to ourselves.

    We spend sometime together, and some doing our own thing. It is a lifesaver. I love my children, but need the time to think, to breathe, to decompress.

    I have many friends who let their kids stay up till 9 or 10 every night, then wake up with them at 9 or 10 the next day. I’m not sure how they do it – never having anytime alone. I would lose my mind.

  3. jana says:

    When I had young children, my solitary time usually occurred in those brief moments at the playground when everyone was happily occupied and I could just sit and watch the grass grow for a few moments. It didn’t happen often, but it wasn’t nonexistent, either.

    Now I find much of my solitude in my garden. After I weed or water I always take a few moments just to “be there.” I have a favorite sitting spot where I can just watch the birds singing and bees humming. Like AmyB, sometimes I purposefully walk home from campus by myself in the evening just to have the time to think and reflect. I love that I live on a fairly safe and well-policed university campus where I can go on walks at pretty much any hour of the night.

    Of course, Quaker Meeting is the perfect ‘quiet time’ for me. It’s not solitary, but it still feels that way even though we’re being quiet together in a group setting. Dora, you should join me sometime and experience it for yourself! 🙂

  4. Caroline says:

    Loved reading your train of thoughts, Dora.

    I don’t get much solitary time these days. Baby sucks up most of my time and energy. Even the car doesn’t provide much since I’m now addicted to NPR and have it on all the time.

    But reading your post makes me want to find ways to get some…

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