To go to the woods and walk through its rich air, to cold iron in a gym with sweat on the brow, to a window at sunrise or sunset, or just to an empty room, all can bring the needed rest to the oversoaked mind with daily worries. When in solitude, I enjoy the time of silence, the time of quiet relaxation that, paradoxically, can come in a loud and arduous environment. In solitude, I find a lot, peace, rest, inspiration, understanding, joy, and especially when solitary in nature, I find respect, humility, and awe.
In solitude I have made my biggest decisions thus far, in solitude I have been forging my character, in solitude I have seeked my mission, my direction. Solitude is healing, solitude builds, but for solitude to sustain its upbuilding powers we need a rock, a support, a place to return from solitude, and even more we need at least one partner, a companion, to help us express and understand what we have found in solitude.
Solitude is a two-edged sword that can build things new and good, but at the same time, if we don’t give enough importance to our rock and to our companion, it can easily turn into destructive loneliness.
So what do I mean by these two things?
The place to come back to
A friend once shared a story with me from before his departure to start university in London. Before he left, he lived in Bucharest in an apartment above his grandmother. They didn’t have a strong bond and during his stay, they would hardly meet. However, after a year spent living there, as my friend was saying goodbye, his grandmother began to cry. My friend, surprised by her passionate reaction, asked her why so many tears, afterall, over the year they hardly seen each other. Grandma told him that even though they didn’t meet often, it was enough for her to know he was above her. When she heard the door slam, she knew he was there, and that gave her peace of mind. If she needed anything, it would only take a few minutes and he would be right there. Her rock was leaving, that is why she wept.
Apart from my friend’s not-perfect family situation, his grandmother’s words illustrate how solitude can turn into loneliness. Although my friend’s grandmother often lived alone, she didn’t feel lonely because her grandson was close, that was enough. But as her grandson, her rock, was leaving, she felt the sudden anxiety of loneliness.
Loneliness is a bitch. According to research, it is as bad as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. We are all at risk, but we don’t have to succumb.
So that solitude does not turn into the destructive loneliness, we need support, a rock that we can rely on in times of need and of peace. It will support us even if we don’t see it, a support that covers our backs. It is a kind of psychological assurance, help in emergency and company in times of peace. Going into solitude and finding something good there is significantly easier when we have a supportive place we can return to. This can be family, friends, leisure time community, school, work. Being solitary is not as difficult, because we always carry this support with us in our minds. It is our armor before the dangers of solitude.
We can also be and probably are this armor for others, we can give a gift of peace through our support and company.
A person you will tell
Even more important than having such a rock is to have someone with whom you can share the experience of solitude, the silence of life. As Josef Fousek, a Czech writer and poet, says: “Solitude is beautiful, but you must have someone to talk about it.” You need at least one companion on your walks through life, with whom you will find understanding.
In today’s world, many people feel lonely. It is often not because they have no one around, one can be surrounded by a crowd of people and still feel lonely. Physical closeness of people is not what is missing, it is the closeness of souls that is missing. Many people see it as difficult to find genuine, deep relationships that allow for real mutual understanding, but it is precisely these kinds of relationships that defeat loneliness and give room to the healing creativity of solitude.
Solitude will bring you many findings about yourself, about the world, about your place in it, but you need someone to help you put those findings into solid form, who can understand what you are trying to express and who can offer their perspective, not just listen. Without this person or people, walking through the jungle of solitude is dangerous, it can kill you.
People’s natural state is to live in a community. Most of our ancestors lived in small communities, in tribes that easily offered a common experience, and hence mutual understanding. But people often isolate themselves, either on their own initiative or because of indifference, responsibilities, laziness. But it is not good to be lonely. Loneliness will kill you over time, it will catch you. You need your group, sometimes even one other lonely wolf with whom you can share what you find in solitude will serve the need.
Whether in the crowd or in the thick of the forest, if you do not have your rock, your support and if you do not have a companion with whom you share your experience, loneliness will continue to hold you firm and slowly squeeze life out of you.
If you haven’t yet, find your band of brothers or sisters or create one and thank those who are a rock for you every day.
Until next time.