It is a magnificent, bright, beautiful, sunshiney, breezy Monday afternoon here in Cobourg. The humidity is gone but it is still hot – the most perfect of Ontario summertime days! Mine was made infinitely better by sharing a visit and lunch with a special girlfriend. She’s kind, supportive and funny and time with her is always like walking directly into that sunshine — all smiles and hugs but, today, a challenge…
“I read your posts about community, but I wonder if you are able to write
about being alone with the same degree of honesty?”
Yikesabee! This is the part of my story I usually elide, the part I’ve never been comfortable sharing. I am aware that some folk not only detest being alone themselves but find those who do enjoy alone time to be eccentric at best and weird at worst. Me? I need and cherish those interludes but, balanced nicely with a little social time spent in good company – this is the multiplicity of me, I suppose.
Before starting this piece, I began as I so often do, with my well-thumbed copy of Walden where sage advice literally falls off the pages into one’s lap.
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.
To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating.
I love to be alone.
I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
That’s it! In a nutshell. Solitude! Not alone, not lonely – solitude.
Time apart from community is not considered ideal, is not celebrated by vast swaths of humanity. From the time we are toddlers, we are taught to form and maintain social connections. Wanting/choosing to be alone runs against the grain; we humans are, after all, meant to be social animals hence the negative stigma associated with wanting that time apart. Solitude is not won without judgment; it conjures words like introvert, hermit, recluse – each with its own particular negative connotations. There is also the disparity, confusion and misuse of the terms alone and lonely which is why Mr. Thoreau’s choice of word – solitude, resonated so strongly with me. I think solitude means being alone without feeling lonely. It means being able to enjoy that special brand of peace and calm without the need to share it with anyone. Solitude for me means feeling happy and content when I am alone. I certainly don’t feel lonely but I do understand that for many folk, the question of being alone without being lonely is the ultimate Gordian Knot.
Many’s the time I’ve been told that my time alone is reflective of my sense of entitlement. That “alone time” actually means “laziness”. That I really ought to be productive and busy, just like they are. That my choice is distasteful to everyone else. I’ve been judged by some and found to be lacking, or wanting – “less-than” in some way – perhaps even offensive.
Setting aside time to be alone is a privilege and, I suppose to some, also a small offense. Yet for me, being alone, doing things by and for myself was a well-planned and intentional lifestyle change;. I made friends with and learned a lot about myself. I now understand that I am enough and, like all life’s experiences, this has only added to the texture of my story.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- I am now at a time (and for “time” you ought to read “age”) where my normal is calmness; and
- being comfortable on my own, not hankering for company has been liberating; and
- when I am alone I feel very relaxed and better able to process my thoughts and feelings; and
- time alone affords me the serenity I need to meditate and update my journal; and
- time alone always boosts my creativity; and
- solitude is the perfect opportunity to minimize my social media time; and
- best of all, having spent time alone I always return home refreshed both mentally and spiritually.
If longer stretches of solitude are something you’ve never tried but are considering, please know that my comfort at being alone did not come naturally nor quickly. My first experiences occurred back in 2014 when I began going to Presqu’ile alone whilst Cam was golfing. With complete candour I’d say that it took me the better part of three years before I was truly relaxed and sanguine with my solitude. But now, without a doubt, it is time I crave and I take every possible opportunity to create for myself. If you haven’t already, you should try it!
For R.H. with so, so much love.
’Til next time, y’all…