Don is in the basement working on his model railroad layout. I just awoke from a midday nap. The house is still. Outside the distant rumble of a jet lets me know life continues to have deadlines, boarding passes and schedules. Not me. A soft overstuffed chair hugs me. A summer blanket warms me. We are spending four days of alone/together time, when hours pass without conversation. Restful days.
Sometimes I do not realize that I’m giving more than I’m taking. Oh, there are the telltale signs that I am depleted. Crabbiness, impatience and agitation, feel justifiable when they appear and are warning signs that I am out of balance. Most embarrassingly, they’re familiar, normal somehow. Give me days of quiet when only Don and I stir the air in our nest and something in me settles. I begin to see the error of my ways.
Solitude is defined as choosing to be alone. “I take cave time,” says a woman in the last Saugatuck Unfolding Retreat. She defines it as time without social contact; no phones, media or conversations. Instead she fills her days with walks in the arboretum, meditation and silence. Cave time is a cure for the common malady of a fragmented life that has too much screen time and not enough soul time. To be with oneself heals the soul. More accurately it heals our connection with our souls.
When I talk to women about the importance of silence or solitude I see concern and even fear wash over them. Intuitively, they know busyness and noise helps them avoid what they do not want to see. If distractions are removed what they’ve avoided will be obvious. That is right. What they don’t know is that under what has been hidden is tenderness and a chance to be at peace.
Our soul needs solitude like we need air to breathe. It sustains us. We need times when we forget that the family room carpe needs cleaning, that the dishes are piling up in the sink and that there are bills to pay. We need time to touch the inside of our hearts and explore them as we would an ancient cave filled with mystery and wonder. We need time to meet ourselves without expectation or demands, time to remember who we were before we made everything and everyone more important.
You may wonder why time with yourself is crucial. To the degree we can connect with ourselves to that same degree we can be with others. Every struggle we refuse to see diminishes our sensitivity to life. We become dull. Block our experience of difficulties and we also block our access to wonder. Solitude allows us is to open and clear our channel to be present to life.
Held in the arms of my chair I gather the threads of my soul and weave them back into my nest. My missteps of not caring for myself become clearer. Journal in hand, I explore what is beneath my lack of self-care. In solitude, there is space for clarity and correction.
May you bestow the kindness of solitude upon yourself. Start with a few moments. Choose to be alone because there are places within us that need our attention.