I am incredibly fortunate to have a job where no two days are the same. As I have the attention span of a goldfish (albeit I’d like to believe one with above average intelligence) and a constant need to be intellectually stimulated this is ideal for me.
Part of my current role means I need to travel around the London and Thames Valley area by whatever means are most cost efficient…I have been on a LOT of trains.
My experience with trains over the years has been varied and I have had my fair share of being stuck under sweaty armpits, prodded by umbrellas, trodden on, endured smelly food (sushi on a packed train…really!!!), had various parts of my anatomy caught in the doors, have been offered a seat (very kind but I’m ONLY 40!!), stood for so long I thought I’d collapse, been almost vomited on, had dirt from under a finger nail flicked at me, given money to the homeless, watched and enjoyed enthusiastic buskers, chatted up and aggressively chatted down, have shared life stories, fallen asleep on strangers shoulders, met old school friends, been dribbled on and (rather scarily) recently was told by a stranger he was going to ‘f***ing kill me’.
However during all of this I have taken comfort in the camaraderie and closeness of my fellow human beings. I have never been alone and everything I have endured or enjoyed has been done with the knowledge that at least one other person has been a participant or witness.
Last week (hot on the heels of my public transport death threat and with a few niggles of uncertainty still clinging on) I found myself, in the middle of a week day afternoon, on a completely empty central London train station.
In all my twenty odd years of travel I’m not too sure this has ever happened before…there was not a single soul present apart from me. As this was an underground train station the emptiness seemed more noticeable, especially as there was no inter-net or phone signal available.
It was three long minutes until the next train was due which gave me three minutes of being on my own in almost complete silence. I wouldn’t say I was uncomfortable although I was acutely aware that should something happen or someone with bad intentions approach me I was completely vulnerable.
Which made me realise I am almost never (if ever) in silence and alone. I am often alone but with the television, radio or laptop on, all of which gives me an immediate connection with others. Or with one of my two mobile phones at hand and usually pinging!
As a Reverend and therefore regular church attender I occasionally have moments of silent contemplation but either with the company of others or ‘meditative’ music playing gently as an aid.
Motherhood started twenty-three years ago for me which means I have been the answer, cause and ‘go to person’ for almost everything for a long while…even the bathroom on occasion has seemed as busy as Oxford Street at Christmas! (This is NOT a moan as if this ever changes I will be devastated!)
I try to have fairly regular massages as they help me relax and reduce the stress knots in my back but even on the massage table silence is elusive as regardless of the masseuse questions are asked or whale noises piped.
I am never silent and alone for any period of time…not even when I am asleep as at least two members of my family snore!
The author Richard Foster is quoted as saying “Solitude doesn’t give us the power to win the rat race, but to ignore it all together”.
I came across another quote recently that stated “It is in the desert that the dew falls freshest and the air is purest”.
Maybe time on our own, without the interruption and opinions of others, allows us the freedom, the space, the time to think for ourselves or to just not think at all.
To relax and switch off, free from the constant bombardment of noise, even seemly insignificant white noise, and just let our body rest and mind roam…who knows where our thoughts, unfettered and unguided, may end up!
Imagine the possibilities of our amazingly creative brain should we give it unrestricted, uninterrupted, unburdened free rein. Our own capability and potential may surprise us!
I challenge you to think back to the last time you were alone in the truest sense, without the physical or verbal intrusion of another human being.
Maybe you found it easy to remember such a time, beside my three minutes on a London train station, I couldn’t think of the last time this happened to me.
As a result of my ‘three minutes of solitude’ I now have a time booked in my diary where I will turn off my television, radio, laptop(s), phone(s) and walk somewhere, anywhere where the only sound will be my inner voice and the only person who will be determining the pace and direction I go in will be me.