“There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall.”
Colette, Earthly Paradise, 1966
This quote introduces the Four Ordinary Women chapter titled “Solitude: Finding Self”. I want to share what I wrote.
“Solitude is fluid, sometimes even tidal in the rhythm and flow, and all about expectation. The frame of solitude has little to do with shared or empty space. The shift from being alone to being lonely is but a shift in expectation.
When life has emotional and spiritual richness,it is possible to list tens of ideas for renewal, for moving from loneliness. Yet there are the times when there is little need for renewal, when loneliness is close to an abstraction. These are the times of honoring the spiritual and emotional self.
When solitude is comfort, I can relish time wrapped in the quiet cold of the ice rink, my hours at the River Walk, the comfort of rereading a favorite book.
If empty days congeal a shell of isolation, no matter the people and demands of time, renewal may seem impossible. There is no effective act of renewal. There is only getting through it, clinging to deeply held values and persisting–time for the 15-minute Rule of Life: Anything is possible for 15 minutes: just persevere.
Theses are the times of needing to be lost in physical work, cleaning physical space to hide. Intense exercise is another escape, a form of running to keep myself at bay.
A holiday, any holiday, can tick off the seconds dragging towards some tomorrow if I am emotionally alone, feeling abandoned by circumstance. Holidays carry such an unfair burden of expectation.
Ironically, this kind of emptiness lays the welcome mat for spirit-growth, the opening to new understanding and acceptance. Forgiveness is probably the hidden passage from loneliness, a process that heals the silence. Still it is so very dark in that passageway.
Forgiveness of self is most neglected. By early training, many of us have learned to hide hurt and anger, ensuring that a huge portion of self is left untended, unrecognized. Intimacy dies in the place of neglect, and loneliness fills the void.
At this moment, I believe that the stages of love and trust influence the comfort of and the need for being alone. When intimacy and trust are richly honored being alone is often welcomed. If either intimacy or trust stand betrayed loneliness is as dark as any heartache.”
I would write Solitude: Finding Self differently today.