It’s my first winter as a homeowner, and it’s the stormiest winter in recent memory. In other words, I’ve been spending a lot of time shut in with my new-found peace and quiet. I’m not used to such serenity. For the most part, the only noises I hear are the ones I make, or that my partner makes, or our cat makes. He travels for work, and her meow is very small, so small that sometimes she opens her face and no sound comes out.
So, it’s very quiet in my house, and it’s got me thinking about how we spend time with ourselves, in our homes, and specifically about how we entertain ourselves.
The sort of weather we’ve had in recent weeks has an isolating effect, or ice-olating, if you will. Any form of travel is hazardous. Last week, the ground was so thoroughly ice-slick that I had to boil water to thaw a path out the front door.
Lately, I’ve been holed up for days on end, and although many folks still need to get to their places of work, I know I’m not the only one hibernating through the worst of the winter onslaught. I also know that being stuck at home, especially alone, can elevate feelings of depression and frustration.
In our tech-based society, we often try to combat loneliness with easy-to-digest entertainment — TV, movies, video games — anything that makes noise and distracts us from the ticking of the clock. (Oh right, the clock. For some ungodly reason, I have two clocks that tick in opposition. I haven’t yet bothered to take the batteries out of one.)
But what if, instead of constantly trying to mask our solitude, we embraced it?
Something fascinating happened when I decided not to put a TV on the main floor of my house. Guess what happened. Just guess.
That’s right — I started to watch a lot less TV. We didn’t get rid of the TV. It’s in the basement. I simply no longer have a TV in my main living space, waiting to distract me from myself.
I think that what we believe soothes our loneliness in fact hinders our ability to be alone in the first place. Don’t get me wrong — I am not claiming any superiority, here. I am still wont to put Netflix on my iPad while cooking and doing housework, but my comfort with being alone has significantly increased since designating a separate space in the house for television and video games. It now seems like more of a hassle than a quick entertainment fix to get myself all set up in the basement for a TV show binge, and a lot easier to slap my iPad case shut in the middle of a show, when I’m ready to do something more productive.
I’ve been reading more, which can be difficult when you have an aversion to quiet. I’ve always been a reader — a passion for reading is nigh indivisible from a passion for writing — but in recent years it’s been more challenging to stay focused. My attention span has increased along with my tolerance for silence and solitude, a tolerance which I forced upon myself in the layout of my home.
TV shows and movies are wonderful things, but with increasing investment in fictional characters, we seem to become more alienated from ourselves. I’m a self-identified independent introvert, and I feel like, by distancing myself physically from my television, I’ve taken a step forwards in reclaiming the joy of my own company.
I’ve always been one to take solo walks out for coffee and errands, to take the time to reconnect with myself, but these are not the days for neighbourhood jaunts, unless you want to strap on a pair of skates. I don’t skate. I find it far more dangerous than it is fun. So, in the midst of our collective winter-imposed isolation, I thought it apt to share my strategy for happy house arrest.
Now, pardon me while I go pull the batteries out of one of those damned clocks.
Laura Furster is a Hamilton-based writer and artist. Twitter/Instagram: @laurafurster. Visit: www.laura-furster.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.