Finding Solitude Within the Noise: Week 1.

8 01 2018

January Goal: Talk to People Less, Find Self More


Lone tree, hometown, Kansas, 2013.

After reading The Stranger in the Woods, I have been diving deeper into concepts of solitude discussed throughout the book.

In it, Michael Finkel writes:

“People who live in cities experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones. These hormones, especially cortisol, increase one’s blood pressure, contributing to heart disease and cellular damage. Noise harms your body and boils your brain. The word “noise” is derived from the Latin word “nausea.” (pg 113)

This stuck with me. I live in Denver and though it’s not as bustling and loud as some places like New York or LA, I am in the heart of the city where there is constant traffic and construction projects. In fact, they’ve been building a new house across the street from me for the last several months, and let me tell you, jackhammering at all hours of the day is definitely nausea-inducing.

There was a moment in the book when the author reflected on how long he had ever gone without talking to a single other person, including texts and phone calls. His was half a day. Mine? I couldn’t even think of a time. Had there ever been a time when I actually experienced ‘solitude’? Maybe once for a day in high school when my parents were gone before I had a cell phone or working internet and I decided to stay home “sick” from school, but that’s not a solid memory, just a thing that may or may not have happened.

Because I am so drawn to these ideas of quiet and because I can’t really leave everything behind and run away to the middle of nowhere to live in a tent (for one, I wouldn’t survive). I decided to attempt Solitude Sundays.

Through January, every Sunday (starting Saturday night before I go to bed) I am turning off my phone and my computer and I am spending the entire day alone.

It’s impossible to escape all of the noise, particularly when one has roommates, but cutting off technology at least gets me halfway there.

Baby stepping toward solitude.

Here are my thoughts from Week 1 of Solitude Sundays.

I went to bed early for a change on Saturday night shutting off my phone around 11:30 pm (this is early for me on a Saturday as I often stay up until 3-4 a.m. drunk socializing like an asshole).

I did not set an alarm.

I woke around 10 a.m.

Of course, one of the first things I normally do when I wake up is to look at my phone to see how popular I am based on how many people sent me texts and memes and shit (usually not very) but my phone was turned off and hidden from me.

Separating from my phone was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I knew I was addicted, but I didn’t know how bad it was until it was no longer there. It is my crutch. If I leave a room, even for a minute, I come back and check it immediately just in case I may have missed something or to see the time or to check the weather or to get on Instagram to depress myself by looking at how much fun everyone else seems to be having.

I had to rely on looking at a clock (shocking), stepping outside for a second to see how cold it was (wow!), looking within myself for entertainment or lack thereof (gee whiz!).

What did I end up doing all day? Not scrolling through Tinder I’ll tell you that.

I read.

I read a fuck ton of words.

I read short stories by George Saunders. I started Ape & Essence by Aldous Huxley. I went through my stack of magazines and separated everything I had read, didn’t want to read, wanted to read. I finished several Glamours. I read half of a New Yorker.

I re-read the entire introduction and section 1 of a book on Hedgewitchery.

I may or may not have done the first rite from that book.

I meditated.

I drank a cup of coffee.

I took out the recycling.

I planted herbs into a flower pot.

I finally raked the lawn.

I did nothing.

I longed to do more.

I had all these thoughts about the things I wanted to do with my phone, with my computer; ideas I wanted to look up, people I wanted to talk to. I even longed to call my mother to tell her how difficult it was to not talk to anyone all day.

I wrote down everything I wanted to do with the technology I chose to hide from myself onto a piece of paper so I could do them later if I deemed them worthy.

It was the smartest move I could make in that regard.

I journaled about my feelings (or lack thereof).

I went for a run. I took a bath. I ate some fancyass healthy food that involved quinoa and kale and tofu. My roommate came into the room and I had to say hello, which ruined the entire thing.

I didn’t let her get me down.

I stared out the window.

There were times of tremendous struggle. Times when I thought, “well, what if I just turn my phone on for a minute?”

I persevered.


By the end of the time, I actually became anxious. I thought about how lovely it was to not have to talk to anyone and how the following day (today) I would have to start talking to people again. I begin to wonder how many days I could actually go before I went crazy (my guess is 11 days).

I wouldn’t necessarily call what I did “practicing solitude.” But it feels like a good step in that direction. My goal for next Sunday is to do less. I want to dive in deep to the inner self, see what I’ve been missing that’s been with me the entire time.



Not when I have myself.

P.S. I woke up, turned on my phone. I had missed three texts. One from a friend who called me “lame” for turning my phone off. And two from some fuckboy asking me to “69.” 

In other words, I didn’t miss anything (which makes me glad and sad at the same time).


My Favorite Books from 2017

3 01 2018

Short Reviews of My Top 3 Books of 2017

In 2016 I read 21 books, including the dense and quite long Infinite Jest (which is worth it, even in its intensity. I suggest going to Infinite Summer for tips on making it through). In 2017 I upped my total slightly and read 28 books– that’s an average of 24 pages a day.

The way I’ve managed to get this much reading done and still excessively binge television shows and have a social life and do the whole work thing is by waking up an hour earlier in the day and reading before I do anything else.

When I do this I get invested in the book and am then able to get my page count done in a timely manner on the regular. Of course, some days I read more pages than others, but the system seems to be working.

My friend has made the resolution to read a book a week this year and I plan to steal this same idea because reading takes me to much better places than most of my other daily activities seem to do. Sometimes it’s better to replace one habit with another one instead of trying to remove the old habit altogether.

Here are my top 3 favorite books from 2017, if you’re looking for something to fall into this year.

1. Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh


Ever feel like a terrible human being? Never fear, you are probably not as terrible as the characters in this collection of short stories. Moshfegh has the ability to succinctly capture the essence of a person (the good, bad, and ugly of a person) always leaving you wanting more, but happy to have experienced the little bit that you did get.

I also read her novel Eileen, which was good but felt more drawn to the collection, as it was able to show glimpses of the humanity in all its fucked-up-ness that we often rarely get to see in creative form (which is a much more pleasant place to experience it than in reality).


2. Theft By Finding Diaries 1997-2002 by David Sedaris


Even in his own diaries, Sedaris knows how to reveal the humor in the mundanity of everyday life. There were moments while reading where I literally spit out my drink because I was laughing so hard. Right when you think the moment can’t get any funnier he hits you with an even stronger punchline. If you can’t laugh at your own life, start with someone else’s, I suggest his, because humor is the best medicine for getting through the bullshit.

3. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel


Ever have the desire to desert everything and everyone you know and go live alone in the middle of nowhere? Well, one guy actually did that, not just for a day, not just for a month, but for 27 years. If he hadn’t been a thief, he probably could have gotten away with it until he died, yet, that is not quite what happened.

As someone who is pretty introverted, what I found most fascinating about the book was the exploration of solitude–the attempt to understand why someone would not want to be around any other people.

Something happened during this book, something that caused me to suddenly finally feel okay for a day. Okay that I don’t have to want to be around people. Okay that sometimes I’d rather hide and not talk to anyone. Okay that I don’t have to like all the things other people like. Through his extreme outlier lifestyle, it helped me to see the facades of our daily existence and to look at solitude as a positive solution to the noise aka nausea of modern society.