A Solitude That Leaves You Less Lonely

The worst is over now, I think. It’s been a rough summer (for many of you out there too!). A rainstorm washed out my living room, left me uprooted and homeless for a couple months while it got cleaned up and put back together again. It’s funny, before this disaster I was getting restless, felt the need for a shift, contemplated moving. This house and this life is the longest I’d been in one place since childhood.

Well careful what you wish for, moved I was. And though I’m back in my home, it feels different, I’m different. Like a house plant, root bound and quasi-dormant, I think I needed shaking up at bit so roots could grow in a new direction. God I hate being uprooted, naked and exposed, unsure of where I am or where I’m going to be. It is not a peaceful or restive state to be in, I longed to be back in a pot.

It totally killed my writing. I have really come to understand this year, where the writing comes from, how much stillness and solitude I need for it to arise. I spent a lot of this summer being mad about not writing, angry at being dropped down into survival, with no sense of value or productivity beyond that.

Having my life completely interrupted has left me questioning a lot about who I am, what I want, what I do in this world, why I do it. Not being “productive” pisses me off, hung up on a western ideal of what is important, I guess. A dear friend (and lovely nerd) observed: from an evolutionary standpoint, survival is success: and if you looked at the massive number of factors that have lead up to your mere existence, it is staggering; you’ll never pay that back, so just be grateful for the gift and get over it. (I am also grateful for friends who’s advice sometimes includes: get over it)

So I’ve spent the last few months just dealing with survival stuff, moving from place to place in my reluctant nomadicy while trying to get my home put back together. And though most of the pieces are the same, what’s come together is different. A place that used to focus on space and openness had gotten a little more homey, cozy, a little softer. And maybe I have too.

I was really lonely a lot this summer, exhausted from all the stress I wasn’t up for going out much, and most of the people I know well enough to just flake out on the couch and not talk to are far-away friends now. I had lots of solitude, but it was not comforting, it was full of work and stress and worry trying to deal with my displacement.

Well my place is back together again, and in a completely irrational move I have taken flight from my new cozy home to hang out on the couch with one of those far-away friends. Voluntarily displaced this time, and it’s doing me some good. Away from my own life and all my things-to-do I suddenly have a lot of alone time, entirely unproductive alone time. It is delicious. I spend a lot of time just curled up in a chair staring out the window.

I’ve got a lot to ponder: Feeling stuck health wise, what I really want out of this life and is it actually achievable. A big “what the hell” re relationships – as I’ve seen one come and go this summer too. I learn a lot about who I am and what I need in the back and forth that comes from that, and every end seems to require a spiritual debriefing of sorts. I’m looking at my friendships and what they mean to me and how they work – suddenly going through a very difficult and vulnerable time puts all your relationships in a new light, who you can count on, who you can’t, what different people offer in times of stress, what I can still offer (’cause there be poo all around for my circle this summer) even when my own life is in turmoil.

But something about this uprooting has changed things for me, in some ways I feel more connected. At least I do now, when my alone time is no longer focused on getting stuff done, but instead is self indulgent, nourishing. Of all the friends that got neglected this summer, I think the worst is the quiet, clear part of myself. Dragged around the chaos of my life this summer, I finally feel like I can sit down with that part of me and say, “Hey. How you doing?”

We’ve got a lot to talk about, a lot to ponder and share. But I’m not troubled by all the questions rolling around in my mind, no compelling need to “fix” anything. Just a lot of juicy fodder for me and myself to root around in. Explore. Being by myself and being with myself are two very different things. I don’t know how I lost track of that, but I’m glad to have found it again. Found the solitude that isn’t a withdrawal from people, but the place where I really connect.

4 thoughts on “A Solitude That Leaves You Less Lonely

  1. As Valerie and some of you know my last two relationships have been somewhat unusual, in that for different reasons, both men have arranged their lives with considerable time away. This means I have considerable time to be with myself too. But if I compare these two relationships, my reaction has been worlds apart.

    The previous relationship started when I was emotionally immature and wounded causing some wounding to others as well. Not a very healthy way to start a relationship with some one I cared deeply about. I was panicky, clingy and distraught every time he decided to disappear for a while. And that reaction not only filled me with fear and anxiety but it also drove this man away. You might say that I fought tooth and nail, not to be alone.

    I took the time after that relationship ended to reflect on my responses, my emotions, my not-very-healthy state of being. I took advantage of the time alone to learn and grow. I took the time that I had being alone to create and nurture a relationship with myself. This was my version of Valerie’s “Solitude that leaves you less lonely.”

    Lo and behold, I fell in love with another man who needs time away, needs solitude to be healthy. We’ve had some bumps and dips in trying to figure out how having space and time away from each other can actually be a healthy part of our relationship. Although I feel sad when he leaves, I’m not desperate. I actually enjoy the time by myself and the gifts that quietness brings. I think that this time alone allows me to be empty in a good way. I feel pretty darn peaceful and feel rooted in freedom.

    I find that I’m calmer, and able to handle little crisis much better. I don[t take my teen daughter’s slights personally anymore and we are enjoying each other in small ways every day. My sons sense this calm and are more likely to talk openly with me to get advice.

    So yeah, I get what Valerie is writing about. It’s another one of those taoist paradoxes. Solitude doesn’t necessarily lead to loneliness.


    1. I love that you posted this Donna. Another reminder we can deeply connect with each other, but still have our own space and individual lives. The two are not mutually exclusive.


      1. Which reminded me of this Khalil Gibran verse:

        “Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”


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