There are times when we feel especially ready for the company and attention of many others. We dress up in our best and pay a visit to our stylist for that party of the season. Then turn to the left (or whichever is your better side) when the paparazzi snap.
Glamorous: An old meaning of the word relates to magic.
There are other times when we might shut the door and retreat to a special room by ourselves. Sometimes, some of us simply need quiet time to reflect on things and our place in the world – far away from the madding crowd and the busyness of our schedules.
Me time doesn’t mean undergoing psychoanalysis or attending lectures on philosophy. It could just be cancelling meetings to carve out an afternoon off from routine. One friend mulls things over while he does laps in an empty pool. Another swears by pedicures.
There are more elaborate arrangements. It could be a favourite retreat in the hills with morning yoga classes or finding a beachfront villa with a view of an uncluttered horizon. Once, up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont where I was writing, I loved the routine of chopping wood and then firing up the stove against freezing nights.
Simplicity, rather than opulence, should be the organising principle. There is no standard programme or dress code. Time for yourself need not be a monastic vow. Yet, if you were so minded, entering a monastery or convent can be considered.
The fervent might take up the Buddhist tradition of being a monk for a limited period, complete with rites and head-shaving. Otherwise, simply book a stay in a monastery or convent.
In traditionally Catholic European cities or outposts like New Norcia (outside Perth) and even Big Sur California, you can make a small donation for a simple, spare room. There are invitations to chapel services but attendance is not compulsory. There are rules set in respect of the monastery’s quiet and order; these might assist you in setting aside time for contemplation.
What does one do exactly to contemplate and mull, and what kinds of questions does one ask and explore? Responding to what’s been happening and where we are in that moment of our lives is necessarily an individual choice.
I suggest you try writing. Even if nothing will ever be published or shown to another person, there is power in penning down our thoughts (use a pen here, rather than type). In the midst of all that is in flux and swirling around us, writing is a process that can help bring focus and stillness.
If you need inspiration, begin by thumbing through a book of essays. Try French Renaissance thinker Michel de Montaigne, who wrote about himself as a mirror in which others might recognise their own humanity, and speaks to us from 16th-century France in ways that are still relevant and vital to how we live and think of life today.
The fact that he was a nobleman, rather than a hermit, illustrates the importance of taking time out for contemplation. These quieter hours are not starkly opposed to our moments of glamour and the clamour of our busy schedules. There need not be an either/or choice.
Unless we are Jekyll-and-Hyde sociopaths, there is a flow between our engagement with the world and the contemplative moments when no one is looking. When the camera is on us, the best smiles are not simply flashing teeth recently whitened by dental process; they come from something within.
Be a nobleman, like Montaigne. Nobility is not a birthright, nor a costume for a lavish gala. To aspire to nobility is to develop that quality within your self. If that’s something you want to try, look for touchstones with substance and a sturdy quality beneath a glittering surface.
Besides that book of essays and a pen, a watch could serve to mark and measure times for both glamour and solitude. For me, it is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual that my late father left me. This was a daily watch for the office – indeed, it was given to him by his government colleagues. Today, that same Rolex may seem a bit too small and utilitarian for a gala evening, but personal history justifies it for me.
Otherwise, I would eye something like the Cartier Tank. Designed in 1917 by founder Louis Cartier himself, the Tank holds the distinction of being one of the earliest watches made that is still in production (albeit with some models updated).
There is elan in the face and lines that befit a stylish evening out. Yet, during quieter moments, this is a watch – with its large Roman numerals and a comfortable fit around your wrist – that has quiet dignity and reassurance.
A third thing is a special someone with you – someone who doesn’t distract you or get bored when you pause to delve deeper. A companion for those hi-so events, whose company puts the “our” in “glamour”. Such companionship would be beyond purchase, priceless.
Picture a quiet cafe where a couple sit sipping coffee or a nightcap after a red-carpet evening. She’s in a killer dress but, perhaps, has her heavy earrings taken off and placed on the table. He has his tie loosened and top button undone. They talk quietly and laugh with intimacy.
Glamour and high society, and hours in solitude, or perhaps with only one other: Both are times and experiences that take us beyond the routine of the everyday. If we are to fully live life, treasure them as true luxuries.