Think about solitude and our culture for just a minute. Do you ever wish things were simpler? In general it seems life, these days, is always so full. Between jobs, appointments, errands, time with friends and family members, where do people find space to be totally alone? Most are bombarded every single day with millions of sounds and images on radio, TV, in check out lines, on billboards, not to mention speeding cars passing us by in our busy lives of work and commitments. People are continually immersed in external stimulus that’s nearly impossible to avoid.
In this society, how do you find solitude if you want it? Really.
I pose this question as one who is spoiled. I’ve made certain choices over the years that have shaped my life. I live in the middle of nowhere—well, in the middle of nature, really. I don’t have TV and I rarely listen to the radio these days so my exposure to outside “noise” is, mercifully, limited. I’ve been happily on my own for many years now. My life is full and interesting and it is also silent and still. Deep solitude is mine every day if I want it, although I’ve had to fight for it some, even in this remote village. I have a ton of time to myself and it’s been easy to forget that not everyone is in my circumstance—in fact very few people are—and more people desire and need it than I think we know.
I have a friend who is in the midst of a major life transition. All of his life he’s done for others—tended to their needs and desires over his. He’s been in two major relationships which were defined, in part, by being always together. Other than when he worked — a job that found him alone a lot — he has never really been on his own.
So now he is seeking solitude and dramatically changing his life in order to achieve it. He’s pursuing a relationship with himself. He wants to learn how to be absolutely alone–to know what that feels like—what it even means. And he wants to be able to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. His choice. How’s that sound to you? Better than you’d like to admit?
I’ve come to understand that, more than his time, I want his happiness. He seeks something I’ve enjoyed for so long that I take it for granted. But it’s not a given — not for him. And it’s not something he can create in a weekend alone, or two weeks alone, or even two months alone. He may need all the rest of his days. And, because he is my friend, I wish it for him: The kind of peace I have found in my years of solitude. Whatever part of that is mine to give, I offer it to him forever.
If you need some time and space alone, it doesn’t mean you don’t love the people you’re with. They’ll understand, I promise. Talk to them.
Love to you all,