Solitude and Cookies

During Girl Scout cookie season, I like to quietly buy an extra box of Thin Mints. I place it in the freezer behind the hot dogs, tator tots, frozen vegetables and stale loaves of bread. That box of cookies belongs to me—not my husband, not my children, not my dog—me. I don’t think about that box for hours, days, even weeks amidst my hectic schedule, yet it’s never completely forgotten, and I grab a cookie when I get a chance, relishing each bite of chocolaty, minty deliciousness before I’m back into my daily responsibilities.

Solitude is also a hidden indulgence in these packed years, full of unending meals to prepare, dogs to walk, clothes to wash, sermons to write, people to visit, and meetings to attend. My tasks take long hours of time and attention; I’m left to grab brief moments of quiet and calm. When I do find solitude, it quickly crumbles when a child whispers in my ear, the dog licks my toes or a congregation member struts into my office.

When the responsibilities overwhelm, I convince myself to forget about solitude for hours, days, even weeks—that it’s an unnecessary guilty pleasure. Finding it feels like too much work—rearranging schedules, finding babysitters, giving someone else my duties while I take a break. Yet the cravings consistently gnaw at me. I manage them by rationing out small bites of quiet moments; a book on the deck while the kids nap, a prayer in my office before worship begins, a run in the morning when my husband gets breakfast ready.

Yet small, sweet tastes of solitude don’t satiate or nourish me. I’m appeased for a time; soon I’m hungry for more. I desperately crave long mornings over a cup of coffee, slow weekends with nothing scheduled, quiet retreats for days at a time. As I manage my blessedly full life, I’m slowly realizing that rather than an indulgence, my solitude is a necessity.

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