Since our down-sizing relocation six years ago, I’ve spent huge chunks of my days alone. Working at home as a freelance writer and graphic designer, and for most of four years as a student, quiet time in my office space is the norm. I have my routine, the dogs know to be persistent when they really need to go out, and I live inside my head. I guard my time jealously, almost forcing myself out the door for errands, volunteer work, committee meetings, even lunch with friends.
So why did this week alone, while hubby is off in San Antonio teaching the next bunch of Certified Ethical Hackers, cause such turmoil? I was given my answer in Monday’s article “The Power of Lonely” by Leon Nevfakh: “in order to get anything positive out of spending time alone, solitude should be a choice: People must feel like they’ve actively decided to take time apart from people, rather than being forced into it against their will.” We didn’t get to choose this week apart, it was thrust upon us, at the last minute, and I rebelled mentally and emotionally. I recovered quickly enough, but the turmoil led to an awareness of how the universe had prepared me for this week even though I wasn’t paying attention (as happens far too often).
Just last week I started re-reading Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self, which is referenced in Nevfakh’s article. Only a few days prior, The Atlantic published “Caring for Your Introvert,” by Jonathan Rauch. All these pieces have come together to provide yet another lesson of personal discovery, and it appears I am not alone (!) in my interest of this topic.
As a fiction writer, I dwell in made-up worlds with made-up characters. It’s easy to get lost in those worlds, to find those people more comfortable to relate to than the flesh-and-blood characters I meet when I push myself out the door. I have a semblance of control that is quite naturally lacking in the ‘real’ world. In some small way, that make-believe omnipotence eases the anxiety raised by the horrific headlines of strife and tragedy, even while my fictional worlds deal with some of those same issues. At writers group last night, several of us agreed that while we don’t necessarily write ‘happily-ever-after’ endings, we do prefer to end on a hopeful note, a bit of an inspirational upbeat. For me, that’s one of the attractions of writing. It’s not delusion or denial of reality, but it’s hope for a better tomorrow in whatever world I find myself.
There are reasons for my solitude, my preference for quiet, that go beyond my work. But there are also reasons for me to step outside my comfort zone and experience the wider world. My life, and my writing, will be the richer for it.
How do you handle solitude? Do you embrace it or run screaming for the madding crowd?