What feelings arise for you upon hearing this word? Is it joy? Anxiety? Perhaps a mixture of the two? Your initial thoughts that surface when hearing this word may tell a story about your relationship with solitude.
Some people love the idea of being alone, but to others it is a fearful thought. Some think of freedom, clarity and peace while others are reminded of loneliness, sadness and abandonment. Neither frame of thought is wrong, but it may indicate a direct correlation to one’s upbringing.
Accepting solitude has been a struggle for me for most of my life. This story is my personal journey of finding harmony with solitude. I want to share it with you in case you may be in a similar predicament and perhaps my experience can help you see through the cloudy uncertainty.
I have never really given much thought to solitude until recently when I had no choice but to face it head on. My family left on a trip and I thought I was well prepared to spend the following 7 days without them filled with all sorts of social activities. However, my plans didn’t quite turn out as I expected and I ended up walking away with a profound new discovery about myself over the next several days that I got to be on my own.
Moments following the drop off at the airport, I was struck with an intense sense of loneliness. Rain poured down over my windshield while thick grey clouds covered the afternoon sky. It was the perfect recipe for self-pity and self-doubt. I spent the entire ride home feeling blue and lonely, which I reinforced with background sounds of sad tunes. Even though I felt happy for my family to have a chance to get away for a much deserved R&R, I couldn’t stop myself from falling into the trap of crippling loneliness. (Even though it hasn’t even been an hour since they were gone.)
Over the next few days, an interesting turn of events began to take place. Slowly and surely, I began to enjoy my moments alone. I spent a few beautiful hours biking in a park, meditating outdoors, practicing yoga, reading and organizing my home. A sense of ease began to take hold of me.
You see these moments I had to myself, I chose to spend wisely. I chose to either do something productive or do something I love. And as I got to spend more and more time on my own I began to appreciate the quiet and freedom of solitude.
Surely most of us have had an opportunity to be alone, but what do we do with this time? Are we truly embracing the opportunity to go within? Or are we drowning out the quiet with the noise of the tv or the buzz of social media?
In my recent solitude experience, I managed to avoid defaulting to the noise of technology. I surprisingly easily avoided turning to Netflix or HBO to fill the void of action in my day. These quiet moments alone allowed me to work on some lingering projects and helped me become comfortable with solitude.
It was in these moments that I realized that I have been purposely and subconsciously avoiding being alone for extended periods of time. For years, I have been filling my solitude moments with plans and activities in order to avoid the quiet in my own head. And only after some deep self-reflection did I realize that this avoidance of solitude stems back to my childhood feelings of being alone.
You see I grew up in a divorced family where I was a key latch kid from as far back as I can remember. If there was one word I could use to describe my childhood it would be, lonely. My mother worked long hours and my sister had an active social life filled with best friends and teenage boyfriend drama.
I believe these childhood run-ins with solitude have left scars on my soul. This very well may be the reason I have filled my days with plans and actively avoided solitude for most of my adult life. While I was busy avoiding solitude, I’ve been missing all the amazing benefits of quality time alone.
Through this process of self-discovery, I found out that while solitude has not been a close friend of mine, its presence is necessary in order to foster a heathy, balanced and creative state of mind. Going forward I will welcome moments of solitude as much as I welcome moments of dear company.
I ask you my friends, what is your relationship with solitude? Are you fond of it? Afraid of it? Or do you simply avoid it at all costs? It is a thought worth pondering on because you may be missing out on some really important self-care if you’re not making the time to be in the quiet with yourself. If you relate to this article, I urge you to dig deeper to the source of your feelings toward solitude. What childhood experiences could be dictating your current state?
While my new found love for solitude is a welcomed change, I do want to acknowledge the fact that our innate need to be connected to one another is a strong and undeniable force. So if you find, that you identify with solitude more than connecting with others, then I urge you to dig deeper there too. Find out what may be calling you into the quiet so often. What past experiences are drawing you away from connecting with others and preventing you from being an active member of a healthy social circle?
The goal to strive for is balance. Balance is integral in nature and it is integral in our lives. Day would not be the same without night, summer without winter, solitude without company. Are you getting your fair share?
While I enjoyed my time alone, I am now thrilled to have my family back. Their beautiful energy quickly filled our home with love and laughter. I love hearing their voices bouncing off the walls and rejoice whenever I hear giggles and chuckles down the hall. My recent encounter with solitude has taught me a valuable lesson. Being alone doesn’t have to feel lonely. Going forward instead of running away from solitude, I shall embrace it and welcome it with open arms.