I’m equally afraid of and drawn to solitude. Being alone can feel both terrifyingly empty and blissfully restorative. I have fantasies about living like a hermit in the woods. I have fantasies about living like one of the main characters in Friends.
I have struggled to go outside on my own. Not to run errands, but to spend some quality alone time in public – to go to the movies, to sit in a café, even take a walk around the neighbourhood. I can feel self-conscious about being by myself. Do others notice my lack of a companion? Do they judge me as ‘unnatural’? Mark me a ‘loner’ to avoid? Do they pity me and hope they never have to be alone like I am?
Most likely, no one notices; we’re all too involved in our own stories. I know when I see someone out alone, I admire them for their confidence and independence. They look like they are enjoying their own company, making the most of having some time to themselves.
But this still makes something unnecessary out of aloneness, like it’s medal awarding courage rather than simply an act of living that transcends any kind of judgement, good or bad. When did aloneness and togetherness become values on which we measure each other’s and our own integrity? Why are they often seen as mutually exclusive; one isolating the other when sharing the same space? How come being alone is often confused with being lonely?
Spending time on my own helps me to be more connected to others. For me, being alone is a reminder of just how not alone I really am. I am surrounded by good company and I can be good company for myself.
“The necessary thing is after all but this; solitude, great inner solitude. Going into oneself for hours meeting no one – this one must be able to attain…Your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.”
~ Raine Maria Rilke