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Is Solitude All it’s Cracked Up to Be?

Solitude. A million dollars.  Which do you believe you have a better chance of getting this year?

I bet more than a few of you would raise your hand for the million dollars. To be fair, I am specifically talking about solitude – not being alone.

What’s the difference?

Let’s use my Friday evening as an example. I live alone.  I am alone – a lot.   Friday evening I was planning on having a massage.  Something unexpected happened and my massage therapist had to reschedule the appointment to the next day.  Now, it was later in the evening, and I was way past any good “thinking” time.  Yet I worked on a couple of things, and then, surfed Facebook.  Yup.  I was alone. I did not take advantage of enjoying any solitude.  In hindsight, I could have turned off the computer and taken advantage of the silence.  Asking myself about my next steps, is there anything I’d like to change in my life, is there something or someone I should connect with? I stayed alone.  I missed the chance to experience solitude.

Don’t get me wrong. Solitude doesn’t have to come with a big epiphany or life changing idea. It is just about taking time for you to think, to ponder, to ask your heart questions – and be quiet enough to hear the answer.

On Sunday, I took a few moments of solitude. It wasn’t a long time and it wasn’t any life altering “aha”.  Well, my neighbours might eventually feel that way!

I have not yet finished my front yard landscaping. I took a few moments to look out the front window, and dream about what I’d like to see there. I imagined the flowers in a flower bed next to the driveway, some hostas further up next to the sidewalk to the front door.  I imagined landscaping rock, a fountain and some small bushes that would add character, and, not block my view of the park across the street.

That was how I used my solitude time.

Those few minutes moved me further on the path to having the front yard landscaped than all those critical thoughts of “Oh – you just have to get that finished!” Or worse “What do your neighbours think?”

Still not sure about the difference between being alone and solitude?

Let’s have a look at the definitions.

Alone means by oneself, separate from others.

Solitude means the quality or state of being alone.

Perhaps I’m splitting hairs. Here is my take on what the difference is, and why it matters.

I tend to think of being alone often as being lonely, maybe satisfied or comfortable, but not necessarily in a state of solitude.

Take the same situation, and add in a state of peace, calm and serenity, and I would suggest that it becomes a state of solitude.

Consider for a moment a busy mom who finally finds a few moments to herself. The kids are playing at the neighbour’s and she is alone in the house.

Or it might be the career professional who has said good bye to her youngest child as they leave for college. Every day she wakes up to the silence of being alone.

Then there’s the woman who couldn’t wait to get to mid-life to retire and enjoy all the freedom that was promised. Kids are gone, she may or may not have a spouse who is working, or who may also retired.  The promise of freedom means she is alone.

I would hazard to guess most moments each of these women feel more alone than the peace that solitude brings.

These examples could span 25- 30 years, or more of a woman’s life. And yet there is something in common.  When faced with being alone, why do they not find solitude?

This question popped into my head when I ready this quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

“If women were convinced that a day off or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it. As it is, they feel so unjustied in their demand that they rarely make this attempt.”

If I were to take a peek into the window of these women’s homes, I suspect I would see them adding to their “to do” lists, catching up on laundry, housework, and meal preparations. The younger moms may be checking homework assignments, school schedules and extracurricular activities.  The older moms may be going through whatever their kids left behind, looking for a course to take, or cleaning out the store room.  Maybe even going through the last 20 years of photographs and organizing them.

Not many would grab the book they’ve been waiting for weeks, months, or even years, to read. Or going to the park – with nothing to do but enjoy the nature in all its beauty.

This is what I think Anne Morrow Lindbergh meant when she talked about soliltude. It’s about being happy with ourselves in the present moment.  Being alone, in silence, so we can hear the whispers of our soul.

In our day to day life there is a lot of noise. Usually it is the wants, needs and expectations of others that is running our show.  Oh yes, we have expectations, too.  Usually they have something to do with living up to those other expectations and our extra super high expectations of ourselves.

Let’s interrupt your show. You can start with a small commercial break if want.

Find some alone time that includes a peaceful state of solitude.

When you are alone and sitting quietly, put your awareness on your heart. Imagine you are breathing in and out of your heart.

Ask your heart what it wants – and then listen. Sit in solitude as long as possible to hear as many answers as possible.

Trust that the answers you receive are the desires buried deep within you – the desires that will light up your life when you are in touch with them, and take steps toward living them.

Here’s the oxymoron part of this whole thing.

We don’t take moments of solitude because we think we don’t have time and that it isn’t all that important. Our family needs us.  Our friends need us.  Our work wouldn’t manage without us. So we give, and give and give.  Eventually we are unhappy and disconnected to what is important to us.  Our relationships suffer.  Especially the relationship with the person we see in the mirror.

By taking a few minutes every day, and even more on the weekend, you will get reconnected to your essence, the real you, and you will be happier, more content and once again be who you really are.

You will feel more fulfilled, happier and enjoy more loving relationships. You will be excited and proud of whom you see in the mirror.

Which life do you want?

A life of sacrifice to make others happy? Or a life where you are happy – and then others around you are happy?

You can take those moments, listen to your heart, rediscover yourself – and it won’t even cost a million dollars.

If you want to know more about you can discover those moments of solitude, peace, happiness and better relationships in your life, contact me at Lorna@TheCaregiversLIghthouse.com

6 Comments

  1. These thoughts are exactly what I needed to hear after the weekend that I’ve had. I will work towards finding that solitide. Thank you.

  2. Hi Lorna, Your voice has turned into a choir in my thinking. I think that you ARE on the right track, because being along may not be invigorating but making time for solitude is. Alone may mean being “without” while solitude is not lacking anything for a few moments. I have been hearing from random sources a call or a plea for people to consider this concept as a missing element to their life and potentially limiting the quality of their life and soul.

    In religious circles it is call “Sabbath” and it is meant to be a gift from our Creator. We on the other hand, try to cram all sorts of things into our free space, then wonder why we are exhausted, feeling unfulfilled. Solitude including Sabbath is more than a ritual to be fulfilled; it is an attitude. It is interesting the difference one letter makes: “t”aking time and “m”aking time for solitude or Sabbath refreshing.

    Some of my most cherished life moments have been when I was on a “forced” 18 hour retreat of silence. I haven’t “made” time for that lately but sitting out in the back yard, a walk in the coulee, has been as refreshing as a visit with a long time friend. Maybe I was with a Friend.

    So good for you for bringing quality to yourself instead of just being alone.

    • Thank you, Bob. It is interesting as I have found that when I take the time for renewal through solitude, that my busy-ness of life seems easy! I’ve seen it said “If you don’t have time for 30 minutes a day for meditation, then you need to do it for 60 minutes.” I think that was Buddha, but I don’t really know. For those who pray, I think it’s the same.

      Thanks for the inspiration and support to carry on in solitude!

  3. When I lived alone after separating from my ex-husband and finally found peace in my heart and soul, I found the value of solitude. My goal became how to become a human being instead of a crazed human doing. Now, making alone time is a precious gift that I give myself every day. I cherish my quiet time because it keeps me grounded. It can be as simple as 15 minutes of meditation, a walk in nature or just doing dishes in a quiet house. When I retired, the freedom of not having to keep to a tight schedule for meals, laundry, house cleaning, grocery shopping etc opened up a whole new world for me. The luxury of a nice long bath in the middle of the day is one of my favourite ‘guilty’ pleasures. Another is getting lost in a craft project where I lose all sense of time. Most people I know have to have the tv, radio or their music on constantly. I think of it as noise addiction. How sad it is that they can’t have a conversation with themselves and get to know themselves intimately. I’ve learned that I really like myself. Of course there are crazy days and I may even go off the rails but I have the ability to get myself back on track much quicker.

    • Wow! You have many great examples of peace and solitude – along with the benefits of spending time alone. You rock!

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