On Solitude and Isolation
I love to be on my own. I enjoy time without conversation or human interaction, time walking or swimming alone with only the rhythm of my own movement, my own breathing, my own thoughts. I’ve been known to say my idea of heaven would be a natural outdoor heated swimming pool just the width of a lane.
Such time, on retreat or snatched from the interruptions of daily life and work has become essential to sustainable living. Solitude, privacy, self-determination.
I struggle when I’m lonely, when the absence of someone I love enables me to share the highlights and challenges of the day. When long stretches of time when the only human contact I will have will be work or some other intervention like a visit to the GP remind me that I feel without love or friendship. When there is no shoulder on which to rest my weary head.
Such time feels interminable, tiring, depleting and undermining of fuller living. Isolation, abandonment, loneliness.
There are worlds of difference between Greta Garbo’s ‘I want to be alone’ and being seen or described as a loner. And there can be solitude in crowds and loneliness amidst a multitude and contentment in solitary as well as partnered living. I ponder the loneliness of those who at work or home have responsibilities and take decisions that are unshared. I contemplate the joy of being unencumbered when making decisions about which way to go, what to eat, what task to complete.
There is a vast universe of different experience between feeling isolated and enjoying chosen solitude. How do we find ways to seek solitude and reduce isolation, to develop the resilience of contentment alone and easing the pain of feeling unseen and alone?