tout seul, pas tout la

sunset on the Petersen roof-porch at Glen 2018As of Sunday lunchtime, I’ve ensconced myself at Glen Workshop.

Evidently this afternoon’s work (Monday’s) was all about Thursday: it took me longer than I’d prefer to kite out and back to the AAA for maps, so I had just an hour or two to puzzle out all the various options for driving out to visit Georgia O’Keefe-ness. Well, and to contrast those possibilities with heading to Ojo Caliente with friends for their annual hot-pool full relaxation affair. Early on, we considered a joint proposal—hot pools then tour—but research indicated that I was looking at three separate all-day affairs. So much for my casual, “We’ll swing by!” attitude. After over thirty years in Texas, you’d think I’d know better.

Ultimately, I picked touring and hiking Ghost Ranch by myself. I’d packed all the gear for walking, versus having to track down a swimsuit for soaking. As I’ve woven Glen more deeply into my life, I spend much more of my time here immersed in community, so it feels a little odd to strike out on the road alone.

It also feels like good practice.

Upon reflection, striking out alone is a consistent part of my Glen experience. Usually I’m hiking, though, and return to the fold after a half-handful of hours. This time it’ll be the whole day, and will land me as an only into assorted groups of strangers.

Kinda like a retreat I attended maybe eight years ago.

The odd, interesting, and finally tiresome aspect of that weekend was not that I went alone. It was how my solitude alarmed and agitated my retreating colleagues. Now that I’m considering it, I wonder whether their urgency sprang from a deep worry that they were being unwelcoming, even cliqueish—this was, after all, a retreat full of Presbyterians, who are seldom known for their easy hospitality. If so, the pendulum got shoved in the opposite direction: in each classroom, at every meal, at each plenary a cluster would observe me, ask me where the others in my congregation were, and when I said I was it asked me to join their group. After two-thirds of a day, there were three or four clusters that watched for me to arrive, to make certain I was enfolded.

As an introvert, this constant new-friend-making quickly became exhausting. When my idea of a good time is to sit in well-understood companionable silence, sitting in the middle of these collectives quickly became the opposite of hospitality. Thus the situation stood on its head—I, to be hospitable and charitable, kept outwardly welcoming their welcoming. When I arrived home again, however, I promptly chose to not-attend for the next five years. Safe. Not sorry.

In April, my mother succinctly put it this way: “You ask me to come on these retreats with you so you don’t actually have to talk to anyone. I protect you.”

At the same time, I don’t want to end up fifteen years from now holed up at home like a troll because I don’t want to talk to people. That seems more than a little ridiculous to me.

Next time my friend V. and I take a trip, I’m going to ask her how she does it. She’s traveled the globe alone, and is one of the most solitary souls I know. If anyone has a technique, she will.

In the meantime, wish me luck on Thursday!

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