This week I found myself missing the bus. Specifically, the clunky, juddering rattle of the two buses that used to take me to work. Gazing at the lovely mountains that are now the almost-view from my house, I really wanted to sit on scratchy upholstery and watch the empty can someone left on the floor rolling from the back to the front, leaving a sticky trail behind it. Ok, maybe I didn’t miss that bit.
I think part of it is because I’ve started to track my reading this year (thanks to Elaine Howlin for sharing your lovely books of 2021 spreadsheet so I can keep track). Compared to what I used to get through, it’s pretty poor. There’s a ‘To Be Read’ section on each of my bookshelves now – the fiction, the non-fiction and the writing-related stuff, and that doesn’t take into account the impulse purchases that are languishing on my Kindle (only £2.99? Well, why not).
Bus time was reading time. On the way home it could take up to forty minutes if the traffic was bad. A whole forty minutes of uninterrupted reading! The only thing that slightly took away from this was if I didn’t have a seat. Far less difficult to read while swaying. But not impossible.
But I think there’s something else. My travel time used to be pretty much the only time I was alone. And I made the most of it. Podcasts, books, even writing. Back when I reviewed plays I’d spend the tube and bus ride home scribbling the notes that would become my review the following morning.
In the last year I’ve seen less of the people I care about (or frankly, just those who are a laugh) than I have in my whole life. Or, perhaps since I had a newborn. But I’ve also spent less time on my own. Gone are the evenings when he’d be off playing badminton or seeing his own friends and I’d have the place deliciously to myself (sleeping toddler notwithstanding). Gone are the times I’d head off on my own adventures (mostly to the pub) and be completely alone, with no-one to talk to, for the hour it took to get there.
Of course, I know there are many people that have been completely crippled with loneliness in the past year. Those whose isolation from the world has become an awful thing to bear, and I don’t want to detract from that. But for those who’ve been locked in with the same person (or people) for all of that time, I want to introduce to a word I discovered recently: alonely. It has many shared symptoms with its recognisable cousin – general unhappiness, lack of sleep, lack of energy, the desire to binge watch or binge eat. But it’s caused by the exact opposite thing – not having enough time to yourself.
It seems weird that a lack of alone time can be damaging. But at least it explains my hankering after a smelly bus. Maybe I’m just alonely.
I can’t say I’ve turned my life around after this revelation. I did take a walk, for fifteen minutes, all by myself. And it was lovely. I also talked to my partner and said that, while ‘date night’ was something we should definitely keep up, perhaps we should also have ‘anti date night,’ where we completely ignore the other person and do whatever we want.
With any luck, it will have a positive impact on the amount of books I can read. Here’s hoping.
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