Food for the soul: Balancing Intimacy with Solitude

Solitude is something I crave.  I know now at this point in my life that I need it almost as much as I need water.  Yet when I share that thought with others I find it is greeted with suspicion, at best well intentioned enquiry that borders on the edge of ‘over-care’, for people genuinely seem to find it difficult to accept that I can be happy alone.  Am I an oddity? I don’t know.  Does it matter? probably not.  What matters is that we can accept that ‘solitude’ as a concept means different things to different people.  

According to the Oxford English Dictionary Solitude is a noun, ‘the state or situation of being alone:’ ora lonely or uninhabited place’.  Solitude, for me is a conscious choice, it is not the same as being or living an isolated life.  It is a place of positive intent.

Solitude offers me opportunity for introspection, time to develop mastery and self awareness, time away from the hurly burly competing demands of business, family and friends, time away from being available to others or sapped by them.  But choosing solitude does not mean that I am rejecting people, I am not a hermit, far from it, I like being in the company of others but just not all the time.

I have learnt that solitude is vital for my own renewal and I have learnt to make that clear to those I love.  I have also learnt that time away from people needs to be balanced by time spent with people.  So in my next couple of blogs I am going to consider the value of both, beginning with what time away offers me and would invite those of you reading our blogs to do the same.

For me solitude is food for the soul, a time to savour.  A time to be alone with my thoughts, often in quiet contemplation, a time to open myself up without fear of being judged.  To admit and accept mistakes, acknowledging the learning they give me.  To explore my longings, to cry and not feel I have to wipe the tears away, to sing music that stirs me and reach for notes that I cannot attain in the company of others.  To soar and be free and in that moment of freedom to dream, to think the unthinkable, to laugh at my own, often foolish musings because I know I shan’t feel obliged to explain.  

That is solitude, that is being alone and comfortable to be, well comfortable in my skin.  I am neither lonely, nor abandoned.  It is a happy place wherein I take solace and heal.  For me it is a place of reflection, of planning, of consummate wisdom and startling discovery.  It is a place of inner smiles, of endless, exciting possibility, and creativity, of asking ‘is there any other way?’

My need for solitude is something that I do not feel guilty about, in fact I view it as my ‘guilty pleasure’ much the same as some would view a bar of chocolate of a glass of good wine.  There is a ceremony attached to it.  It is planned for, eagerly anticipated and days often counted down to achieving it.  And encompassed in the planning is the chance to celebrate the fact that when I am alone, no one need know what I am doing, where I am going, what I am reading or what I shall eat.  

Solitude provides an opportunity to break free from the busy world wherein we are required to juggle multiple demands, providing a space to let go of loneliness and truly examine our beliefs about being alone, about we feel and think about aspects of our life alone.

And on the other hand, balancing solitude and avoiding loneliness requires contact with people and that means learning how to be around them in a way that is true to who I am and will also be true to who you are.  We all have things we value, things we hold to be important and which cause us to behave in ways which on occasion may mean that we say or do things that get us into trouble.  It is not our intention to cause harm or hurt, sometimes it is merely a lack of thought, a lack of empathy on our behalf, a haste to judge others, often in order to fit in with the crowd, for our survival fundamentally revolves around approval.  

So how can we spend time engaging with others in a way that does not sap us, that enriches and inspires us instead?  

Firstly I believe that we must learn to be curious and learn about ourselves for only when we are comfortable with ourselves can we become comfortable in the company of others.  That requires two things; Trust and Acceptance.  Before we trust others we must first learn how to trust ourselves and that means being comfortable to sit without judgement on ourselves and that in my opinion is best undertaken in quiet solitude.  And it begins with a question, Are you ready to be your own best friend?

And in the words of the Fritz Perls (1893 1970):

‘I is I and you is you

I am not in this world to live up to your expectation

And you is not in this world to live up to mine

You is you and I is I’

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