Since the start of this exploration, a lot of people have shared a wish to pull away from social media for an evening, a weekend, or a short bit of time. Others have asked the general, “How’s your summer been?” And because of the whole Love Bites thing, I’m constantly asked, “How’s dating going?”
My answer to all of these: “I’m doing great, actually. Spending a quiet summer mostly by myself.”
I’m a lady of many passions: I love my writing work, and organizing the show, and meditating on my existence, and crafting tiny bits of fiction or essays just for the hell of it. But for most of the past few weeks, those passions have been lazy; happily smoldering like the embers of a summer beach fire, sticky with melted marshmallows, smoke winding merrily up into the sky of a dark, warm night.
I’ve traveled, and walked by the ocean, and gazed out the window, and rediscovered the library. I went to Spain by myself for two days, and let my body take the two weeks it needed to get back to baseline. I haven’t felt guilty for any of it.
This past week, I’ve been watching [my brother’s] house and dog and cats while he and [his girlfriend] travel. I’ve read books from my local library (a collection of James Joyce and a Michael Chabon novel) and many online articles, painted my nails (a medium blue), watched movies (45 Years, How To Be Single, Dead Poets Society), made food (fish chowder, pasta with roasted corn, summer squash meatloaf, perfectly griddled herb omelets), drank wine, and walked the dogs down by the water to feast on soft serve (them) and frozen lemon slushies (me). I’ve gotten up at 6am to write, and gone to my office at my dad’s to balance books. I’ve folded clean laundry and watered the lawn. I’ve occasionally jumped on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but they no longer serve the purpose they once did.
I’ve been happy. I’m good company.
But today, I return to New York for time with friends and to be in my space. There will be the white noise of an urban community where someone is always laughing, giving a friendly hello, walking their dog, honking their car horn, playing music, or vibrating some sort of sound. I’m not anxious about it, but a part of me is a bit sad to be returning to the city I love so dearly.
Why does feeling alone and particularly isolated right now feel so good?
It’s partly because the lower level of stimulation in the country has a direct affect on my symptoms: my joints have been visibly less swollen here, I wake in the morning not because of ambient city sound but because of my alarm, and I move through the day doing what I want to do, whether that’s work, or reading, or cleaning the kitchen, or indulging in another cup of coffee. There is less noise, less movement, and staying inside with central air means my body temperature stays level. There’s less stimulation on my nervous system overall.
But also, being alone here doesn’t feel lonely. Yes, the first day it felt odd to be so alone in a house in the suburbs. But when pondering crude realities (all my exes are now married or in committed relationships, it looks like the shoe-in cookbook I’m a partner on will be delayed by a few months etc.), I find I’m still very much content with the life I’m living.
In reality, I am occasionally lonely. But so are people in relationships and so are people who have full health and so don’t need to spend time alone resting.
In reality, my work is a work in progress. But I wouldn’t be as into it if it weren’t.
In reality, the country life I’m living this week isn’t mine — my life is an apartment in Manhattan. I’ll adapt as I always do upon returning to it.
In reality, I’ll start dating again at some point, because I do want to find someone special and welcome them wholly into my space.
But if I learned anything from going on a social media fast, it’s that the summer of 2016 doesn’t feel that social, anyway.
And I’m okay with that.