Splendid isolation

Sometimes, I take a little time and go through my unread Pinboard links, and try to clean them up a bit, deleting some if they’re no longer applicable, and maybe reading a few random articles that I’d bookmarked long ago. Today, I stumbled across this one: Splendid isolation: how I stopped time by sitting in a forest for 24 hours, a fairly long article from The Guardian that I’d bookmarked back in January.

I know the phrase Splendid isolation as the title of a Warren Zevon song, but apparently it’s a term “used to describe the 19th-century British diplomatic practice of avoiding permanent alliances,” according to Wikipedia. (And I see I’ve referenced the song previously on this blog.)

Anyway, that article from January predates the pandemic, of course. The concept of “isolation” in general has cropped up a lot this year. I’ve been following Suleika Jaouad’s Isolation Journals, for instance, though I’ve fallen behind in reading those emails, so they’re piling up in my “read/review” folder, along with a bunch of other stuff.

Isolation has come up in some music I’ve listened to this year, including this Music For Isolation project and this Isolate With compilation. I’m also kind of interested in Ulrich Schnauss’ ‎A Strangely Isolated Place. It’s an older album, but I’ve only started to listen to Schnauss recently. I don’t suppose there’s much point in just linking to a bunch of music with the word “isolation” in the title, but it amused me for a few minutes, and it’s all good music.

Anyway, the article I started this blog post with is a pretty good one and has got me thinking about my relationship to time right now. It definitely changes, when you’re home all day and the lines between home and office pretty much disappear. I find myself getting distracted a lot and then feeling guilty for not getting enough work done. And I’m trying to impose some discipline on my “free time” also, feeling guilty if I don’t make some progress in a book I’m reading, or fall too far behind on a TV show I’m watching, or whatever. I feel that I need to try to maintain a certain schedule and a certain amount of discipline to keep myself sane and on track, but it’s starting to wear me down.

I have several vacation days left that I have to use up before the end of the year. I’ve scheduled a full week off in early December. In any other year, I’d have plenty of interesting things to do with a week off. But this year, a lot of my usual options are either closed off or a bit too risky for me right now. I kind of like the idea of disappearing into the woods for a day and just sitting in a circle and doing nothing for 24 hours. But that’s maybe a little too extreme for me. Maybe just having a full week where I don’t have to get through work every day will be enough to let me hit the reset button on my anxiety, at least a bit. Maybe I can relax into some unstructured randomness. (Though I suspect the results of the election will affect my anxiety level, for better or worse, more than any amount of vacation time will.)

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