When Your Mind is the Only Good Company You Want

8 05 2011

I am taking a course these days (only God knows why). The instructors invariably say, “Read this. Discuss with your partner. Answer that. Discuss with you partner.” So it’s a little bit of input, a tiny bit of alone-thinking time, and a whole lot of pair work and discussions. Here’s where my problem comes in. I generally want to say, “Teacher, can’t I work alone? But I don’t want to work with a partner. I already have a partner: my mind.”

That’s funny because although I do my best work alone, I actually enjoy the social aspect of this class; it gives me a chance to get out of the house 4 times a week and “see” other people. Maybe even get a laugh in. The interaction has done a lot for me over the past couple of weeks.

Today was different.

Zoom-in 1: I arrived early and sat in the student lounge. I sorted out some papers and then decided, “I have at least half an hour. Good. I am alone, at a different place. I’ll try to get some thoughts down on paper. I have to write something. Maybe I will have some peace when I write. I have to release this.” I took out my nice pen, whose glide on paper I enjoyed very much. I took out a blank piece of paper. It was so inviting. I smiled at the prospect. “Go ahead, dear mind, do your thing, let the thoughts flow, start your graceful ballet.”

“Hi,” putting down his bag on the chair in front of me. A very young fellow student.

“Oh no! Can’t you see I have company?” I said, inaudibly.

“Can you I get you a drink?”

“No, thanks.”  In a voice he couldn’t hear, I was saying, “Darn. You think you can sit somewhere else? Really, it’s nothing personal. I just can’t make small talk right now.” But he couldn’t hear.

Usually, I would be very thankful that someone – anyone – would opt to sit and talk with me. My defenses would of course be up and ready, but on some level, I would be happy that a person chose to talk to me. Today, I wasn’t interested in talking to anyone. Not one of the people there could have engaged me. How could they engage me if I couldn’t really “see” them? And I knew they couldn’t “see” me either? Only my mind.

One of the weirdest conversations I have ever had. I was at two places simultaneously: inside my mind, trying to catch thoughts, ideas, live them, and at the same time trying to give coherent answers to topics I couldn’t care less about. Most of the conversation was me going blank, losing my thoughts and him reminding me where I had stopped. “Wait, where did I stop? What was the last thing I said? Oh, yeah. And how did I get on to this? Oh, ok . . . And, . . . I forgot . . . what I wanted to say. . . .”

“Is she high on something?” I could almost hear him say.

My only chance to gather my thoughts before class was ruined. I put my nice pen and my beautiful white paper away. I was forced to carry my lostness with me into class. My mind was going to have to wait.

Zoom-in 2: We had a couple of assignments due today. A fellow student asked me to look over her work and tell her if she was on track. I had been so stressed out about these assignments that I was thankful to get them out of my way, right or wrong, on-track or off. Typically, I would have overlooked my state and just taken a look at her stuff and given feedback. Today, I just couldn’t. And wouldn’t.

Me: “Look, I am so stressed out about this, I can’t deal with it. I can’t even look at my own work.”

She: “But I need someone to look over it for me. I want to know how I have done.”

Me: “Sorry. I can’t help you with that.” (OMG! Did I just say that? Was that me being assertive yet polite?)

I didn’t have it in me to get into discussions and throw myself into more gray. Was she right? Was I right? I had to decline.

Zoom-in 3: As the class started, I realized, point-blank, I did NOT want to work with anyone. I knew it when I first arrived: I need to be ALONE. I didn’t mind being there; I just wanted to maintain my aloneness. I will listen, answer questions, ask questions. I will even make comments, but I will do it ALONE. The instructors usually push us to sit close together so we can “discuss” and collaborate. So I scattered my things all around me in a way that said, “Don’t even think about sitting anywhere near here.” It was a funny sight how the rest of the students were jammed together while I was on an island alone, and happy. Then, later on, a student came in and she sat at my desk, at the opposite end, the wrong way. I was fuming. “God! The nerve of some people!” Needless to say, she was my partner for the day. I couldn’t stand her for the rest of the session.

The first time the teacher said, “Please answer this and then discuss with your partner,” I literally became upset. I picked up my paper and sort of leaned back and away from my partner. I started answering the questions frantically quickly so I wouldn’t hear her questions. I wanted her to understand, “My partner is my mind.”

My mind is my companion. How can I say to my friends, “Look, I really appreciate your company, but I cannot see you today?”

My friend: “How come?”

Me: “I have a date with my mind. We’re spending the day together.”

My friend:  . . . . .

The question is: When your mind is the only good company you want, how far do you go with it where it wants to take you?

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One response

9 05 2011
The Writing Goddess

Sometimes I, too, resent having to be with other people when I just want it to be me and my blank screen – or piece of paper.

However, that’s life – collaborating with people at work, at school, etc. And sometimes when I am stuck with my own stuff, it is very helpful to look at someone else’s work. When you can see where they fell off the track, sometimes you can more clearly see where you did, too.

Collaborating must be a lesson life wants you to learn right now – try to breathe and go with it.

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