July 25, 2016
Maybe it was the image of sitting, still in my nightgown at 10 am, on a private green patio, fresh pot of tea at hand, book on my lap, staring off into a lush green valley.
Envy to the point of obsession has gripped me ever since a friend told me about the weeks she spent alone in a cottage in Italy.
No husband, family or friends (much loved as they are), completely alone. Sigh! Imagine the delights! Waking up when you want, doing exactly what you want to do – for the entire day! Some place where not everybody – perhaps nobody! – knows you. I envision long walks, quiet glasses of wine under a blossoming wisteria, dinner that might consist of nothing more than a ripe tomato with basil, no one to give you a hard time about going to bed at 8 pm – or 2 am!
Most importantly: time to revel in SOLITUDE!
The values of solitude for our mental, physical and spiritual health are much touted. Growing up as the oldest of 6 children, I had little chance to find solitude. But I do remember how much I loved those rare solitary rides on my horse when I got to think about all the things that got no chance of air time otherwise. Most of the really big decisions got made then. Deciding on what I could authentically speak about in the regional elementary school public speaking contest. Deciding that yes, I am going to go to journalism school. Yes, I could figure out a way to spend 6 months in Europe.
In the intervening years, the need for solitude has come up often, been realized much less often. Now, in the maturity of my years, I find myself yearning for periods of solitude again. Don’t get me wrong, the sheer pleasure of the company of my husband, family and friends is something I could not live without. But…
It is surprising how difficult it is to carve out pure solitude. My frequent bike rides provide a couple of hours of it. Summer hammock sojourns serve it up in delicious doses. Weeding the garden can be another time of solitude. But I find myself craving vast stretches of alone time, not just an afternoon.
Why? Here are the benefits that I see – let me know if you see any that hit a chord with you, or others:
• Honesty – There can be no better time to be brutally honest with myself than when I am alone. A time to challenge the scattering of thoughts and statements that pop out of my mouth and test-drive them round my brain.
• No thinking – I think too much. Not a rare trait but one that I readily acknowledge has as many down sides as up. I have been told that it is impossible to completely turn off “monkey brain” but I need to give it a shot.
• Listen to my body – Another one that is easier said than done. I think I listen to my body, and then my left hip screams “it’s a lie!”. What does my body truly need at this stage in life? Beyond the obvious of more exercise and less gelato, what does it need?
• Consider the spiritual – I am not a disciple of an organized religion or of any particular brand of spiritualism. While I do consider myself a spiritual person, I would be hard pressed to articulate what that means. I would like to dig around in spirituality for a bit.
Here are the things I am going TO DO TO ACHIEVE SOLITUDE this summer:
1. Set aside one day a month for pure aloneness, solitude. Book it off in my calendar, manage expectations of others. Start this month.
2. Find a meditation course – one that is not too woo-woo, works for my lifestyle and schedule. And then give it a fair shot, not a one time only. Start by September.
3. More hammock time, less office time. Enough said.
4. Start planning what the equivalent of a few weeks alone in a cottage in Italy could look like for me. Make it happen in the next year!
Happy summer everyone! Rock your solitude!