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Secretly Seeking Solitude: Face Your Pace

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SLOWING DOWN
alamy

One of the greatest things about solitude -- be it an hour, be it an island -- is the opportunity to finally move at your own pace. Pace is as individual, I think, as a loop-de- loop of DNA. It takes -- oh, I'd say about 50 to 60 years --to slow down long enough to recognize and honor your own.

I was in New York recently. How Country Mouse does that sound? As soon as I typed it, I heard a Beverly Hillbilliesvoice in my head, more Granny than Elly May, but you knew that already. I was dazzled, overstimulated, curious, envious in the big city. Who wouldn't want to see a passing parade every time they stepped to the stoop?

While there, I went to an exhibit -- really cool exhibit -- and even though I had asked a friend to come along, I was exceedingly satisfied to move at my own pace. I didn't feel the need to comment. I didn't have to follow my friend, zig - zagging wall to wall to wall , hurrying to get to a painting before other gallery-goers formed a line. I could spend time with some of the work, while hardly acknowledging others. I usually feel guilty when I do this, as if I were hurting the painting's feelings. This time, I just thought, What the hell.

Pace is a part of you; in a gallery, in a Target, in the amount of time it takes you to get out of bed in the morning. Spring up at 5 a.m. to get that run in, or hang out with the newspaper, laptop and dog until you ease it on into into Starbucks? My favorite family story comes from an in-law's grandfather. The man could not hear anymore, or hardly see, but when people asked him how he was doing, he defined the greatest personal pace of all.

He used his arms to swoop in low, like an airplane landing.

Comin' in smooth, he'd say. Comin' in smooth.

The epiphany of pace takes place in the oddest of spaces when you aren't raising kids or grandkids, or taking care of an aging parents anymore. When you are alone, you begin to notice.

Or you begin to notice when you are not alone. When you are shopping with someone. In a grocery store. And you feel as if you're dragging around an artificial heart with opinions about the cookies.

I can be a meanderer or I can be a beeliner. When you are shopping with another, a meanderer and a beeliner don't mix. I once wandered off to the milk department and angled off for a moment to ice cream. That was considered a meandering felony by a strict and serious beeliner.

I beelined out of the relationship, and vowed, like Scarlet O'Hara, that , with God as my witness, I would never change my pace for another.

Except, maybe, when holding hands.