Solitude, Singlehood, and Social Interaction

I was chatting with a fella the other night, asking him about how he met his girlfriend (I’m always fascinated by the myriad of ways people come together and fall in love) and he followed up by asking me:

What about you, you’re unpartnered right now?

Unpartnered… I’d never heard the term before and found it odd. My state of being as a state of not-being something else. Peculiar. Particularly for me perhaps; partnered is not a natural state of being for me, with a few exceptions I’ve been single all my life. Not that I’m opposed to the concept, I just haven’t ever felt the need to pair bond just for the sake of it. Sometime in high school I came across one of those inspirational quotes: It’s better to be by yourself than be with someone who makes you feel alone. I guess that kinda stuck in my psyche, and it takes somebody extraordinary, somebody who’s firing on all the same levels I’m firing on, someone who can really see and appreciate ALL of who I am to pique my interest –  my hippie friends can’t comprehend why I’m hanging out at Protospace, and I try not to talk about the ineffable around my cerebral geek friends. Unless I’m with a guy who can get all the dimensions of who I am, some part of me inevitably feels alone.

So mostly I’m single, and that’s cool. One of the things I learned from the big crash I’ve had this summer is my need for solitude – it isn’t just the rest I need because of the illness, but the quiet time to come to centre, to be grounded, the space to create and write. I need to be alone.

But maybe not all the time. As I try and inspire myself to make some dinner (so far consisting of a handful of cashews and a cup of tea) I’m thinking maybe it’s not good for me to live alone. Having a passive presence in the house, someone to share meals with, someone to hang out with when you’re doing nothing, some idle conversation, it’s just not there in my life. For me to socialize I have to be active about it, go out and seek it, or invite people over and make it happen. And for as tired as I’ve been this summer, I just haven’t made the effort, and found anything but really low key stuff too much anyway.

I regret not getting an apartment with 2 bedrooms; an opportunity to have a roommate (financially this would be HUGE), but also to just have another human presence kicking around. And my parents are aging – certainly not feeble – but I think I’d like to have them close, be able to share meals and groceries, just sit beside my mom and hold her hand and giggle in our idle moments.

I think I’d like to have that kind of shared living, but I think that while I live alone and have an over-abundance of solitude. Perhaps with roommates or family about I might miss my solitude or find I have to work hard to seek that out instead. It’s funny, I live in a building with 30 other people in close proximity and aside from one very kick-ass neighbour have very little interaction with them. I fantasize about filling this building with my friends and family – everybody I love, just a pyjama pants hallway journey with coffee cup in hand (though if you live waaaay up on the 3rd floor, I may not visit you as often). The best of both worlds, the home I have now and love, the solitude I need, and social interaction literally a stone’s throw away.

This crash has been a real time-out for me, a time to really look at who I am and what I want and how I want to live my life. I don’t have all the answers yet, and EVERYTHING seems up for review. I can feel my world shifting underneath me, without any certainty of where that’s going to lead. The idea of that is very stressful and unnerving, and yet ripe and exciting and full of potential too.


13 thoughts on “Solitude, Singlehood, and Social Interaction

  1. I somehow relate to this post Val, having moved from another country where everyone and everything is music and laughs, parties, work, family and friends all there, there is always something going on, sometimes I do get these times of solitude… and loved your comment about you dreaming with having your building full of friends and family… that would be awesome, wake up in the morning and have coffee or get together for dinners… heh i can imagine being madness but it would still be awesome :)

    I hope you’re doing well and see ya sometime soon
    hugs

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    1. You are SO invited to live in my building!
      We could share everything from salsa to soldering irons.
      And when we’d had enough geek, we could go out and smell the flowers.

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  2. It occurs to me, considering I’ve been know to take my coffee to the local park while still in my pyjamas, you wouldn’t actually have to live in my building, anywhere in the neighborhood would work too…

    See, I’m being really open minded about this.

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  3. I’m fascinated with how long distance sailors attitude towards solitude. I met one educated nudist who was perfectly content to cruise around on his 27′ boat all year round, most often alone with his books living on his $3k per year he made in the stock market. He would talk my ear off when I strayed too close but I did have lots to learn. He made great rice pudding… anyway; if your looking for something to read I recommend Joshua Slocum’s Around the World Alone.

    It’s here, and at the library.
    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/6317/6317-h/6317-h.htm

    The other thing that I am reminded of, many sailors who die at sea don’t die from a single error or failure. They die because they can’t motivate themselves to get up and change sails, fix the auto steering or make food. Perhaps there is a moral here but not by design.

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    1. Interesting, some hazards to solitude, life threatening ones at that.

      Something that can really hit seniors too – a lack of internal drive and no outside influence to get up and get groceries or go for a walk, or any other life sustaining activities, quietly diminishing…

      Ironically, the severely depressed, also subject to that kind of apathy and inaction, can find it lifesaving, as you just don’t have the gumption to get up and kill yourself. Morbid happy thought that that is.

      Anyway, intersting points Chris. Seems again, it’s about balance – even your nekked happily solo sailor talks you ear off when he has the chance. Even a solitary life needs a thread of human contact.

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      1. It’s a strange balance since many solo sailors seek and appreciate solitude yet struggle with it at the same time. The morbidly obese would also make the same sorts of apathetic day to day life decisions that ultimately kills them. I suppose the difference with sailors is that it is a temporary state of mind, they would not be in that situation if they were not motivated individuals.

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  4. I always kind of dreamed about living commune style with friends. I have a friend who chose that lifestyle back in the sixties. He and a group of about 20 friends bought a farm and decided to share the acreage. I’m not sure if they actually lived in the same building or whether there was a cluster of homes. To this day there are 7 still living on the farm working, living and loving each other. They had there separate lives, my friend being a doctor, but they always returned home to be with their “family”.

    And I’m intrigued by the concept of monasteries and convents. In some ways that seemed like an awesome community. People brought together by a spiritual connection and all their actions stemming from the sacred.

    I’ve always enjoyed my stays/pj parties at your “happy hippy hidey hole”, Valerie. I’ve even enjoyed the times when you needed to keep a low profile. So if you ever decide to live out your dream of a condo of friends, then I’d like to be one of your applicants. Wouldn’t it be a blast to have auditions for a living space in your dream condo? We’d have love poetry all over the sidewalks surrounding the building. And think of all the fabulous potluck meals we would have…mmmm! Drumming, dancing and geek nights. Wow, it does sound like quite the home, doesn’t it. Can’t hurt to dream.

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  5. Valerie. I think you are lucky to have discovered your need for solitude quite early in your life. I did not discover mine ’till I was in my early fifties. I suspect that some of the unhealthy aspects of my behaviour in the first half century of my life related to the denial of that need. Having grown up during the fifties, a time of unparalleled emphasis on family togetherness to the n’th degree, it was not easy to recognized a need for solitude as distinguished from being a hermit or just plain antisocial.

    This is a topic rich with the opportunity for discussion and one upon which it is difficult to be brief. It might be that brevity is difficult for all of us who are enchanted by our own words ‘tho.

    I think there is more danger in enforced sociability than in enforced solitude. If I HAD to make a choice it would be solitude.

    The best partnering relationship for me would be one in which I could experience shared solitude among other things.

    I have spent the past 22 years being mostly unpartnered. Prior to that I had spent 24 years being unsingled.

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    1. thanks Marv,

      “shared solitude” — I am rather fond of what I call: shared separate experiences.

      i.e. You do your thing, I’ll do mine, but we’ll do it in the same room = A nice mix of companionability and alone time all at once.

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