There are a couple of different ways to run the trail at Mitch Park. There are some arrows and distance markers, but contrarian that I am, I often run the opposite direction. That’s just part of the mental game about where's the longest, steepest hill going to appear and kick your butt.
No matter which way you run it. There are sections that feel secluded, where your jog feels as though you’re the only one in a wooded landscape that just happens to have a nicely paved path for you to run upon.
That, for me, is the best part about running — being alone. Even inside the Y on a treadmill, no one bothers you. It’s you and whatever’s going on inside your head taking 30 minutes to work it all out. The physical exertion is good, but the mental cleansing is better. That can also be true on my sailboat, where long days of single-handing Incipient are neither lonely nor boring; they’re emotionally refreshing.
If you’ve done the Meyers-Briggs personality test it will not surprise you that I’m an I, for introvert. An INFP if you’re into it enough to care, “The Idealist” as the personality type is often described. The woman sitting alone at Starbuck’s reading a book? You see lonely, I see happy and content. She’s part of my tribe.
Freelance journalist Micaela Marini Higgs had a piece in The New York Times this week that is typical of our cultural aversion to introverts. In nearly 1,400 words, Higgs lets us in on a huge secret: Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lonely! In fact, if you can force yourself into this uncharted world, there’s some evidence that it might even be beneficial! Who knew?
Well, 50.7% of the population knew and has known their whole lives. The problem isn’t that a majority of us like our alone time, it’s that the other 49.3% of the world has not only failed to discover the benefits, but also they’ve failed to notice that the other 50.7% of the population is there.
Hint: We’re the ones quietly noticing everything that’s going on in the room while you’re spilling the Chardonnay on your shirt and telling another story about yourself that no one’s listening to.
Heather Lisle was laughing on Facebook this week because her 9-year-old was excitedly telling her about multiplication tables as though it was a brand-new galaxy no one — certainly not his mother — knew about.
Hey! Guess what! You won’t believe this! When you multiply by 10 all you have to do is add a zero!
“The problem is that we forget solitude can also be a choice —,” Higgs wrote, “and it doesn’t have to be full time.”
“No, no, no!” I thought. “You highly social extroverts forget that. We introverts, who recharge by being alone, do not.”
Of course, I didn’t say that out loud, I just thought it to myself, because, well, I’m an I.
Higgs gave evidence of her discovery: “Our aversion to being alone can be quite drastic: A quarter of the women and two-thirds of the men in a University of Virginia study chose to subject themselves to an electric shock rather than do nothing and spend time alone with their thoughts.”
To which all introverts quietly thought to themselves: “Hahahahahaha.”
We’d all love to know more about this astonishing discovery that alone and lonely are not synonyms. We’d appreciate it if you’d keep it down, though; we’ll read about it on our own, thanks. At a table for one.
© 2019 Ted Streuli