Archives for posts with tag: solitude

I am sitting quietly at the end of my work day, listening to rain falling into the trees and onto the pavement of an untraveled roadway. The sun is streaming through the window of my studio. These things exist because they can. The rain is falling on video, a pleasant enough way to drown out background noise during the work day, but now, at the end of the work day, it’s not necessary. I turn it off, and take off my headphones. Still a sunny afternoon beyond the window. Lovely hints of spring all along the boughs of the pear trees on the other side of the fence. It’s quiet here. I am actually entirely alone for this moment; my Traveling Partner has made a rare trip out of the house during this pandemic, and with great care. He needs the social time with a friend (who is not me) and I need the solitude every bit as much. It works out well.

…I breathe… exhale… sip my water… relax…

The heat comes on for a few minutes. It reminds me that beyond this window and these walls it is still (what passes for) winter here. I smile and listen to the quiet, feeling it sink into me, filling me up with softness and peace. I let my mind wander, and bring it back to my breath. I breathe awhile, then wander the house on soft feet, feeling the sensation of being in this place, wrapped in silence and solitude, and everywhere I look reminded of love.

…I breathe… exhale… have another swallow of cold refreshing fizzy water… I relax as this moment becomes the next…

…How satisfying and comfortable is solitude? I smile, and my mind veers off that path and onto another. The work day is ended… the sun is shining… maybe a walk? A soak in the hot tub? Quiet time with a good book?

…What a lovely gift this solitude is… and a choice moment to begin again. 🙂

This cup of hot coffee tastes well-made, and satisfying. An early hour for it. I woke this morning, ahead of the alarm clock, alone. The morning unfolds quietly, gently, without any fuss. It could be any morning. How does it feel so very different, simply lacking the (sleeping) companionship of my Traveling Partner? The subtle shift in my awareness accounts for that, I suppose; I am not dedicating a portion of my awareness to continuously maintaining consideration for another human being, asleep in another room. I sip my coffee, contentedly. No loneliness this morning, just quiet.

He departed yesterday, some time after I left for work. We’d had our morning coffee together, quietly, contentedly. There wasn’t much to talk about; the planning had been skillfully done, the car was packed, the day was ordinary in most other regards. We sat together, waking slowly, gathering our thoughts, forming our intentions, sipping our coffee. I enjoyed the moment a great deal, and it became a happy platform upon which the day ahead would be built. After an ordinary enough work day, I returned home. All so very beautifully mundane, so easy to overlook the tremendous warmth and affection that infused it, like the strawberries in the infused water in the office – subtle and mild, and quite lovely.

Work was work. Summer flowers are blooming everywhere. The day passed quickly.

…I’ve no idea how any of that was so tiring, really, nonetheless; I had little energy or interest in doing things after work. I got home, more thirsty than hungry, and after quenching my thirst with many glasses of water, and enjoying a few minutes of conversation with my Traveling Partner, (once he arrived at his destination, for the night, moments after I got home, myself) I went to bed. I don’t think it was even 7:30 pm, yet. lol I didn’t “read awhile”, or meditate, or toss and turn; I was sound asleep within some few brief minutes after laying down. My sleep was deep and satisfying. I woke gently – to the sound of a chat notification on my phone, of all things (had I really left the ringer turned up??). When I checked my phone, there was no message, no notification, no sound – and the ringer was off, phone set to Do Not Disturb, for the hours between 11pm and 6am. lol I dreamt the sound. Just time for a new day, I guess.

It feels luxurious to get up, turn on a light without concern about waking someone else, and move through the details of my morning routine unconcerned by clumsiness, or someone else’s needs, just focusing on starting my day well, and caring for myself. I make a point to savor the things about living alone that I enjoy so much; there will be ample time to “appreciate” the things about being alone that are less pleasant, and I will make room for them in my heart, too, and hopefully grow from those experiences, and learn more, better ways to love and to share space. I sip my coffee, and consider the differences between living alone, and living with someone. I take a moment to fully appreciate having a partnership that so skillfully supports my need for solitary time. My Traveling Partner “gets me”, and I feel very loved.

…I take a moment to appreciate the way we “choose” this partnership, every day.

Sometimes our path is illuminated. Sometimes we walk our mile in darkness.

….Mmm… This is a very good cup of coffee. I find myself hoping my partner’s morning cup of coffee is similarly good, and smile at the first hints of day break showing through my studio window. So far, a pleasant morning. 🙂

There’s little truly shareworthy content in this quiet morning, beyond the quiet itself, and that’s only worth sharing if I consider it in the context of yearning for quiet and not finding it, or lacking any conviction that the quiet is worth experiencing, or… well, it’s all very subjective, I guess I’m saying, and not exciting, or the sort of thing that great adventure builds from. I’m just here, now. It is morning. I am content. By itself, quite worthwhile, and exceedingly achievable, with some verbs, and open communication, expectation-setting, self-care, and a well-chosen partnership. Nothing about that is “easy” or without effort. All of it is within reach, based on choices, generally. Real life happens. That’s a thing. I remind myself to be grateful for these easy-feeling moments, and to savor this quiet morning; life can be chaotic. Struggle is real. The wheel turns. This, too, shall pass.

…My coffee nearly finished off, I notice I’ve let myself become distracted by thoughts of work, already. I breathe, exhale, relax, and let that go – it creeps back, anyway. I sigh, and laugh out loud, disturbing the stillness. I check the time, and decide to get an early start on the day; this moment is as good as any to begin again. 🙂

I spent last night sick, and disinclined to write. Tonight, although I was in quite a lot of pain and my traveling partner was feeling somewhat unwell, we spent a handful of hours hanging out. I am still smiling. I’m inclined to say more – certainly the evening is on my mind. I don’t know that I have the words.

Sometimes when I hang out with someone, I walk away from the interaction still feeling very much that we are strangers. Other times – other people – it is easy to connect deeply, to be open and comfortable, to be easy with each other, and walk away afterward feeling closer, and feeling connected. This evening was more than just a pleasant good time together. We spoke intimately on difficult topics, shared our emotions comfortably, and gently, and when we said good-bye at the end of the evening I felt heard, and I felt I knew a little more about my partner’s heart than I did before. I even felt a little more well-understood, myself.

It was an ordinary enough evening when it started. Then, somewhere midway through some possibly completely unrelated bit of conversation, he said…something.  My eyes filled with tears, and his filled with puzzlement. “You said the ‘L word’, I replied, trying to smile. “Loneliness,” I continued, “I’m not very good at talking about it.” I struggled to regain my composure (there really wasn’t anything wrong at all) and explained that for some reason, just hearing the word “loneliness” has the potential to cause my eyes to tear up. He looked at me with such love and empathy. There was no hint of awkwardness, or strain. We talked awhile about loneliness in general, and in our own experiences in life. We talked about solitude, and the things that differentiate those experiences one from the other. It was beautiful. I feel comforted, and supported. I feel loved.

The listening thing is huge. It wasn’t obvious whether or not my traveling partner felt it too. I’ve been practicing ‘listening deeply’; I find the most elegant and lovely explanation in a favorite book on mindful love (How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh).  The extraordinary intimacy of the conversation, and the evening, was quite wonderful. Comfortable. Easy. The result? A very secure feeling of loving and being loved.



I don’t have much of real value to share about tonight; I am wrapped in love, and inclined to relax, feet up, just smiling. Maybe for a while. Some evenings, I sit in the twilight and I wonder. Tonight, I sit in the twilight and marvel.

I like the comfortable safety of solitude. I know being alone is a different experience for each of us; for me solitude feels safe, calm, and vastly soulfully nourishing. The few times my anxiety has found me when I was solitary, it has been likely to be driven by fearfulness of others in my periphery, undetected, or uninvited, or imminent. In my worst freak outs, the best thing that can be done in the moment is provide me with solitude and stillness; for years I did not understand how easy it could be to calm me. I have the weekend to be solitary. I need this time very much right now; grieving is hard on the one grieving, and harder still, perhaps, on those near who are not themselves grieving, but cannot stem the flow of tears. I prefer to grieve in solitude, although… I like hugs a lot, when I’m crying…so…there’s that. Human beings are social creatures. I am, myself, even fairly ‘extroverted’…but I do love solitude, and crave substantially more of it than many people seem to…and rarely have enough.

This weekend my partners are away at a festival. I find myself smiling and wishing them well; I hope it is amazing. Work changed my plans and I am staying home. At this point in the week, I am not regretting the change. Festival attendance hardly seems appropriate to grieving – at least not for me. This week the world lost a young woman with all the potential in the world, and an entire future ahead of her. She was just 13. My cousin’s daughter. Yesterday, an Army buddy moved on to something beyond his mortal existence, at 60-something, having completed his mission in some sense, I suppose. I am not ashamed to grieve these losses. I still go to work. This is my way; in the midst of grief I grab onto what is practical and routine, and hold on to it. I tidy the house after work very attentively and mindfully, cherishing the sensations of touch, the subtle feel of space I am in, the motions of cleaning, straightening, moving from task to task. I commute, enjoying the sensations as summer shifts gears to fall, and people-watching with a curious and open heart. I work. Task after task, I follow each small routine of work and life with greater than usual care, walking a sort of emotional balance beam. As I do, I consider life and death, and grief, and honor the departed in my own way, silently eulogizing them, honoring the memories of shared experiences, questioning, reflecting, and celebrating what they brought to my experience. I am very aware of my mortality and the brevity of life when I grieve. This is my way. There are highs and lows, of course. It’s a process. There are tears. These are emotional experiences. It’s difficult, but feels fairly natural to me, the sense of loss, the hurting, the contemplation…and the pain diminishes over time. I am satisfied with the way I grieve. I suppose, now that I’m over 50, that’s going to come in handy.

Here it is the Friday ahead of a solitary weekend. Here in this still moment I am content and serene. This ‘now’ is just fine, thank you. I will be, too. It’s a choice, and there are verbs involved.

Grieving is a very human experience.  Detail of "Emotion and Reason" 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow, photographed in dim light. 2012

Grieving is a very human experience.
Detail of “Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow, photographed in dim light. 2012

My sleep this past few days hasn’t been great. It’s been restful enough, which is sufficient, but it has been interrupted, each night, with periods of wakefulness of varied length, sometimes resulting in actually getting up, puttering around the house quietly, or writing. Last night I woke, at 2:33 am, and after meditation didn’t return me to dreamland, I got up, had a cup of tea, touched up a couple of the new paintings, and went back to bed. I never really went back to sleep, but found letting my consciousness wander in and out of brief dreams adequately restful. By 4:42 am all I could think about was having a cup of coffee, and got up ahead of the alarm.

The solitude doesn’t cause me any stress. I enjoy it a great deal. My recent camping trip, too, it was the solitude – when I had it – that seemed to meet my needs. On that occasion my usually-at-home partner had expressed concern that I might not enjoy being alone out there in the trees and assured me I could ‘call any time and get picked up’. I remember being quite astonished, and as the conversation continued, it was clear that somehow my partner didn’t ‘know me’ on the matter of solitude – and we’d been living together for some time. She directed my attention to that first month or so we all lived together, and the occasion that she and my traveling partner had gone to San Francisco for a couple of days, shortly before or after New Year’s Day, as I recall.  I had a bad time of things and was mid-freak out, when they called to inquire if I would mind if they came home early – out of boredom.

Moving along past ‘how does someone find boredom in San Francisco?’ to the point I’m actually getting to… We really are each having our own experience. My partner stored the recollection of those events as somehow indicating I had difficulty being alone. My own perspective is very different, because I was there. I desperately needed the comfort of solitude on that occasion. We’d all recently moved in together. All my routines and habits were completely disrupted and I wasn’t sleeping much. My PTSD had flared up partly due to the disruption of the move, partly due to finding out about my TBI – and what a big deal that has actually been all along – and partly due to the heinous gang rape in New Delhi that December that set the media on fire with some unstated competition to report as many rapes as possible, in as much graphic detail as culturally permitted; I could not escape my own history and I was in incredible emotional pain and feeling suicidal despair. As if that weren’t enough, the emotional volatility in the household in general resulted in receiving no emotional support for the state I found myself in, no one to talk to, and lacking any tools to really do anything about it. I was at the breaking point of what limited emotional resilience I had to work with. They went on their trip. I found myself alone ‘at home’ in what was at that time still ‘a strange house’ – everything in disarray from the work of moving two additional adult humans and all their accessories into space fully occupied by one. In the moment they departed, I took a deep cleansing breath and began to relax. It didn’t last. In the next moment, it was clear that I didn’t know how to operate the stereo. Or the video. At the time I didn’t have a laptop of my own, and couldn’t access the household network. My phone wouldn’t connect to the internet over wi-fi, and I couldn’t recall the password. The frustration of not being able to simply turn on some music launched me into a private emotional hell built on the hysteria and pain of a lifetime of chaos and damage, and lit like a bonfire soaked in gasoline with that tiny match of pure frustration, and the shame of being utterly incompetent at 49. I spent the next 24 hours in tears, aside from a couple of hours of fitful napping.  I soon found I didn’t know where much of anything actually was – including most of my own stuff, and didn’t know how to work the alarm system in a house I just moved into. For hours I stalked through the house screaming at myself, crying, storming with frustrated child like rage… because I couldn’t find a pen, to write with. I felt trapped, and frightened.

At that point in my journey, I knew nothing of stillness. I didn’t understand meditation – my only experience with it was intended to increase focus and concentration, not build awareness and mindfulness, and it hadn’t done anything whatever to address the needs of my heart. I had no way to move past my rage. I was trapped. Desperate. Unwilling to reach out for help – because not only did I not know where to turn, I lacked conviction that any help was even possible.

When they arrived home, prematurely, I was relieved.  There was music. There was order. Things could be found. I didn’t understand at the time that my partners – neither of whom has been with me more than a small number of years – didn’t understand what was going on with me. (The weeks that followed developed in a painful way for many reasons. I went from ‘feeling suicidal’ to sitting down and planning things out, and making a list of ‘loose ends’ that needed to be wrapped up ‘before I left’.  Their emotional experiences with me over issues that developed around differences in communication styles and practices resulted in behavior that I try to avoid thinking about these days, it was that damaging and hurtful. I was battling coming to terms with my TBI, and doing so mostly without any help or support beyond a casual occasional brush off intended to reassure me that ‘it doesn’t matter’, and prevented further conversation about a topic that was uncomfortable for them, too.)

What got lost in all that was what was up with me, why, and some really important things about my experience, and who I am. I enjoy solitude. I don’t enjoy frustration. More importantly? I am the sum of all my experiences and choices – not just the ones any one friend or loved one has been around for.  Looking back it is more obvious, at least to me, but as with any small review mirror – I am the only one who sees that view.

Today, as I look ahead into a future that doesn’t yet exist, and enjoy the stillness of a quiet morning of solitude, I gently explore that past hurt in my rear view mirror. Something to share, a matter of perspective, a past moment that so clearly illustrates that however close we are as people, whatever our intimate relationship with each other, however connected we are, our perspective and understanding is filtered through our own experiences, our own choices; we create our view of the world using our own limited understanding of events and people. We don’t just create our own narrative, we create the narrative we use to understand others, too, and sometimes without getting input from the main character of the tale. A poor strategy for compassion, or understanding. The Four Agreements nails this one too, with “Don’t Take Anything Personally” and “Don’t Make Assumptions”.

So basic.

So basic.

Today is a good day to ask caring questions. Today is a good day to be compassionate. Today is a good day to recognize we are each having our own experience. Today is a good day to remember that investing in joy and contentment requires acts of will, and choices. Today is a good day to change the world.