A recent blog post by author and career coach Fiona MacKay Young had me nodding in agreement. Young, best known for her inspiration journals, is concerned because when we’re alone we’re not really alone.
“If we’re not with others, we are texting, phoning, e-mailing,” she writes.
Not to overstate the obvious here, but Young does not see this as a good thing.
Stepping away from all of it, even briefly, she writes, offers us a break from having to perform, as well as the space to tap into dormant creativity and the freedom to sort through daily annoyances.
In short, the time to calm the heck down.
Young’s sentiment is shared by Ellie Krug, whom I profiled in my column last week. Krug, an inclusivity champion, notes that 20 minutes of time alone each day is something we all want, regardless of our political party, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.
I don’t know where you find your 20 minutes of Zen, but as we celebrate our collective independence, I hope you find your independence in a favorite chair with a book, or in a bathtub or on a bike or on a horse or in a canoe or in a coffee shop.
I found mine in a surprising place:
My front yard.
There are no ornate rock gardens there. No lush landscapes. No soothing, gurgling waterfalls. Not even a chair.
Just a lawn mower.
My supremely satisfying solitude sessions started last summer when the teenagers under our roof suddenly felt unwell around this very machine. I watched the grass grow tall as they slinked out the back door and into cars to go wherever with whomever to do whatever until whenever.
My tidy and kind neighbors said nothing, but I grew increasingly aware that I would soon need to purchase a machete to find the mailbox.
My brothers, one older, one younger, always mowed the lawn when we were kids but, really, how hard could it be?
And why was this considered guys’ work? Besides, my S.O. was in the basement trapping mice with peanut butter, which is guys’ work in my book.
My first attempt to cut my lawn was pretty good — because I didn’t lose any limbs. The grass got shorter, the bag filled with clippings, I worked up a sweat.
Best of all, I realized that no one — and I mean no one — approaches you when you are pushing a lawn mower.
Want 20 minutes of solitude? Trust me. This is the way to get it.
That summer, I got out there every week or 10 days, happy to embarrass my kids by wearing shorts, an old T-shirt and my fake Uggs.
I smiled at neighbors, but didn’t wave because I wasn’t sure what might happen if I took my hand off the handle.
Mowing became a game. How straight could I make my lines? How many different ways could I traverse my little front yard? Sometimes, I couldn’t help myself and ended up mowing some of my next-door-neighbor’s lawn before her professional team arrived, and probably cursed me.
Once, I even mowed the lawn of my young neighbors two doors down when they were bone-tired after the birth of a new baby. They gave me a bottle of Champagne, which was way more than I deserved, especially since I didn’t secure the grass bag correctly and the clippings ended up in their grass.
Sorry. I already drank it.
Weirdly, I now worry when I’m traveling that I’ll arrive home and someone in my house will have taken care of the lawn while I was away.
Kids! Don’t you dare cheat me of my 20 minutes of mow!
Then I pull my car into the driveway and see it: long, unattractive grass, waving to me with an enthusiastic welcome matched only by my whippet, Penelope.
Silly of me to have worried.
I put on my shorts and my boots. I pull the cord.
And I get lost in the whirring sound of happiness.