My dad taught me to ALWAYS have something to read. The few times, in my pre-Kindle days, when I didn’t have a book, magazine, or newspaper on hand I experienced miserable waiting and travel times. But right now, with heads in every direction buried in phones and other devices, I’ve found that there is something to be said about being alone with my thoughts.
A short subway ride, a cup of coffee in a window seat of a café, and other similar empty moments are turning out to be good for me. The idea of sitting down and experiencing time that is NOT well spent, time in which I don’t accomplish anything, time frittered away, was once a weird concept to me. I don’t do it all the time, but…
The other day, I wished I could talk to my ‘accomplishment junkie’ father about NOT reading during my post workout coffee. He would be reading, doing the newspaper crossword puzzle, or sketching what he saw around him. His mind, like mine, was restless. After taking his advice for years, I’m fooling around with being alone with my thoughts. It’s weird—and kind of wonderful, too.
The emptiness invites ideas.
Walking is different. Walking isn’t really empty time because there is so much around me. I don’t listen to music, podcasts, or audible books while I walk from place-to-place and, judging from the plugged-in people around me, I may be the only one on the street to hear a birdsong in the din of the city. That’s OK. I’m sure those audible books are terrific and maybe I’ll try one soon, but right now that half hour on foot is like a rush of story scraps and bits. The daydreams in the window seat of the coffee bar turn into source material. And even the previously mind-numbing three or four-stop ride on the N train isn’t feeling so empty!
Alone with my thoughts isn’t so bad.