Solitude, Fairies and Mermaids

I have recently been engaged in quite a few discussions about loneliness. The discussion of solitude has been broached. Solitude is a common feature in the poetry on M3. While we have discussed marital/relationship loneliness before, especially loneliness of abandonment (The Leaver), we have not looked into solitude.

Solitude is much more than loneliness. Although defined as being remote from society or a lonely place, it means being out of the presence of others. Even if this alone is the same alone which engenders loneliness, it does not have to be. How we fill the space surrounding us when we are alone determines whether or not we are lonely.


One of the most common fillers for solitude is work, whether paid or not. Workaholics tend to thrive in solitude, as no one is there to undo what is accomplished. Hobbies rank a close second. Hours can be fiddled away tinkering with contraptions, clocking miles with a (vehicle, pedometer, treadmill), cleaning, getting to the next level of a video game, flipping hundreds of pages or writing until the hands revolt.

Distractions can be rewarding, especially when they produce results. Sculpture, crafts, cuisine, art, gadgets…all take time. These things do not negate the alone nature of solitude, but they distract from focusing on the mere fact we are alone. The acts engage our minds similar to the way conversation and company do.

Not the time for these things.

Destructive Behaviors

Some behavior exacerbates the loneliness. Alcohol and drug use make the loneliness more pronounced. Depressants slow down our perception of the world, so we focus on the alone time. Stimulants rush us, but the crash behind the high pinpoints precisely how low the loneliness is.


Despite our social natures and our enjoyment of others, we do need some solitude. We need some time without the pressure of living up to others’ standards and expectations. We need the figurative space to spread our mental puzzle across the floor to find the pieces which fit together without the fear of someone else stepping on it.

Describe It

Solitude means many things to different people. Often, the differences in the description come from our levels of acceptance of the benefits of being alone versus being lonely. The two are not synonymous.

Below, I give you the description of my solitude, given when asked by Lizzie: Can you be alone and not feel lonely? First, look at the picture John entitled Night Reflections. It is one of my favorite photographs from his vast collection, which has waited years for me to associate with words. Think about solitude both with the photograph and the words.

Compliments of John McDevitt ~ The Aware Writer

I have spent a large portion of my life alone. The loneliest place for me is in a room full of people I love who are so absorbed in the excruciating minutia they have no concept anything exists outside their own skins.

My solitude is warm. In it are my memories of the triumphs I own because I am here, not gone. Is it the same as the warm of arms around me? No, but it is knowing I do not have to have them to be whole.

My solitude has music. No one else hears it. I have to remember this is my theme song. If I listen closely enough, the words are a poem awaiting my pencil to meet the paper to be born.

My solitude has grace. It never leaves me. When I am in an anxiety-strickened throng, it reminds me calm is a few deep breaths away. When I am in the stillness of the witching hour alone, it reminds me I survived one more day. When I ask why, it lets me know I have a purpose, even if I do not have the wrapping paper off of it yet.

My solitude knows my loneliness. They are colleagues. It is a relationship of tolerance, for one does not exist without the other. They know no competition for they compete for different attention. One wishes for me to long, the other to be fulfilled.

In the end, being my own friend is the answer. I have two generations following me. In time, I will be there for them again, as I have in the past. In order to do that, I have to remain true to myself, respect myself and love myself. If I cannot do it for me, I shall never be able to do it for them.

Tonight has been lonely and wistful for me. It is how I came here. Between the pages, the posts have called. Knowing I have something to share is a comforting reward which sends loneliness to sulk.”

Mantra’s Poem

MantraNot to be left from the mix, Mantra has also being pondering loneliness and solitude. In the following, simply named The Rock, she explores the subject, resolving sometimes solitude is a self-preservative solution.

The Rock

Somewhere in the depth of the abyss
is something you’ve held so close
Your heart beats only to hold it.

Your buoyant spirit pulled you to the
Surface where you drew in a breath,
My perfume’s scent mingled in it.

You swam back into the frigid water
To tug on your treasure, caught beneath
Storm-tossed hulls and broken dreams.

The breath you expended swirled
One last time, the fragrance you
Remembered as you clutched at the beams.

Consciousness slipped from your mind
And you floated to the surface, where
I held you to me, shaded your eyes.

They fluttered open and focused on mine
And softened into glinting, cerulean pools.
Dark clouds soon blocked the sun from the skies.

As the raindrops fell, the shimmer faded.
You turned back toward the bowering sea.
I watched you sink into the surf, silently.

Nemide ~ From the Mollamari Collection

I know not how, or truly even if,
You rose from the tempest’s crests
The last time you swam from me.

Here upon my rock, I remain
Looking far across the ocean’s breadth,
Lulled by the tide, coaxed to endless repose,

My heart in shards like the baubles,
Beneath the sunken flotsam buried,
Its treasured worth never for you to know.



What is solitude to you? Can you separate solitude from loneliness? What did the writing of the answer and the poem say to you? Have you been in the photograph of solitude? Can you find comfort in solitude?

© Red Dwyer 2012
Re-Blogging of this or any other post on The M3 Blog is expressly forbidden.
Image Night Reflections displayed with permission of photographer
John McDevitt.
Image of mermaid courtesy of Mollamari Creations.
Copyright and Privacy Policy available in The Office.
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  1. Hi Red, nice post. As you well know, I am a big fan of solitude, though it tends to elude me. It appears to me that most people suffer loneliness so much, that when you’re trying to enjoy solitude, they wonder what’s wrong with you. Luckily, I have school and WordPress. After everyone else goes to bed, I retreat into solitude to study and blog. Well, you know, you take what you can get. Right? Catch you later, Grant
    Grant Helms recently posted..8 Gorgeous Nature Blogs for Earth DayMy Profile

  2. love solitude some days red peace quiet and you can feel your own heart beat xxjen

    • Red

       /  April 22, 2012

      So very glad to see you today, Jen. I love mine as well. More than a quarter of my life has been spent in it. It helps me be creative.

  3. Mia

     /  April 22, 2012

    Hello Red… I’m here just to state my ‘intent’ of participating, but that is a road I don’t want to go down… If I were to reflect on this for a little longer I’d be left with no option but to recognize again (and again and again) how messed up I am – in this case, the five years I spent studying Psychology for all the wrong reasons, really do not help at all 🙂 I am sorry I can’t engage in constructive commenting, Red!

    • Red

       /  April 22, 2012

      But you know, Mia, you already have. We all survive at our own level of comfortable dysfunction, we frequently mistakenly call it personality. So very glad you came by today, Mia. xxx

  4. I restore myself when I am alone ~Marilyn Monroe

    Lately I have put much thought into the difference between solitude and loneliness. I feel as I expressed that solitude is calm and peaceful and loneliness is hurt and pain..but to expand on that a bit, I can not say that solitude is a choice, although some people do choose it I suppose, but an acceptance. Of yourself, of just being. Every aspect, even the ones that don’t quite measure up …to what or whose standards I don;t have a clue but in solitude even the pursuits that are for the betterment of the soul or being are done just for the want of it… without any standard or measure or goal of change. A place to follow the heart and mind, the whispers of the soul where ever they choose to take us with out worry of expectations of others to meet as you pointed out. It would seem that being a better person, among others when we are not alone, just follows naturally because if we follow where we lead ourselves it is usually self restorative which can only be better for us all around, yet since it is not what the end goal is….. hmmmm don’t know where to go with that.

    And what if that is where loneliness.. the kind that intrudes on solitude..I do believe it is different all together the loneliness that is felt without the understanding of solitude… but the loneliness that intrudes suddenly on our solitude ..maybe that is comes from those whispers of the soul saying that what we want, the path that is most desired, is to be a part of anthers life, to share ours.. to be touched or present somewhere else…. and if we can not follow.. then we are not restored and thus…it becomes lonely..a need.

    I picked up on the part about substances, not for any reason but the depressive and stimulant response you describe is much like my illness…and upon reflecting, I can see a relation to when my loneliness is the worst. It hits me out of the minute I am fine and content the next just wanting to not be in that place alone..which maybe is a desire to escape myself – (although, no more is it denial, or lack of acceptance or trust in myself ) – because.. I don’t want to face what I must..and I can not distract myself from the discomfort of it… The last time, when I wrote that post, I was on the downward slide..not there because once there I would much rather be alone, loneliness and all I don’t consider the difference then I just am grateful I can wallow in my own thoughts and mull my existence over with no intrusion… my depression has the racing thoughts aspect sometimes that makes company, counter productive. When I am on the up side, manic I don’t have time for loneliness, I have a gazillion things to do that I think about friends family and interact and pay attention when I get a chance to but I am fine on my own.

    The poem was, as I have found all that I have read of yours, beautiful. I felt it, what I can not really say, sometimes I just feel with no way to identify it….

    I too believe solitude is the difference between likeing yourself, accepting yourself as youa re and all that you are..cracked broke…. whatever… if there is no peace in solitude it might be the way you are being told something needs to change. We don;t like to be around things, people we don;t like…don’t choose people we don’t like to hang out with… if you can;t be around yourself and find some comfort calm and peace…. I dunno..maybe its saying something..

    Me? I think I am a whole boatload of fun and totally dig hanging out with me. 🙂
    Lizzie C recently posted..Friends, Mid-Afternoon Mental MomentMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 22, 2012

      I love you, Lizzie. Yes, you are a boatload. It is saying something if you cannot like yourself when you are the only one in the room. And if this keeps up, we may just have to open a forum.

      Betterment: It has to be standing beside our own measuring stick, for to compare ourselves to others’ standards is a false reading. Solitude cures this when you recognize solitude for what it is: being alone. The reflection should not be tainted by another opinion. In putting the details into the frame, we blossom and do become whole, which is far more attractive than the alternative.

      Loneliness: That is precisely what it is…when our inner desire is to be amongst others, or at least another. The solitude is not designed to restore it. It is why I added they compete for different attentions. Solitude seeks to self-fulfill. Loneliness seeks to need.

      There is a similarity between substance use swing and BPD. I have seen them mistakenly diagnosed in patients who were not honest about one or the other. I understand the not wanting solitude on the slide. Gives legs to Misery loves company. You recognize the self-healing need for solitude at the bottom. Innately, I believe we all do, even if we cognitively dismiss it as misguided.

      I am glad you liked the poem. Some of what I will post in the upcoming weeks are social outcries, as this one was.


  5. Mia

     /  April 22, 2012

    Thank you for making me feel welcome! Mmmhh ‘comfortable dysfunction’, I like it!

  6. Solitude is a time of being alone. It can happen in a crowd, but usually not. Loneliness is a feeling some have when they experience solitude. I know a few who cannot tolerate solitude without feeling lonely and seeking to get out of it.

    I loved your answer. You had quite a few good things to say about the issue. I personally NEED solitude. When I have my grandchildren for a week or my mother-in-law for a week, I DESPERATELY NEED solitude and quiet as neither will leave my side or shut up. By the end of that time I want solitude more than anything. Now, should that solitude extend for too long a period, I would long for company again. My “too long” is probably a bigger length of time than many others, but there does come a time. I guess I am one who slips into the people, noise, non-solitude place as often as needed, but slip out just as often, even if only for a few, because solitude is something I need.

    I find that loneliness doesn’t haunt me as it does others. When I feel it, it is often in the middle of a crowd of people who swirl around me, but don’t really see me or my need.

    I love the poem, but can’t really put my response into words right now. I guess I need some solitude to digest it 🙂 I do find comfort in solitude. Angie
    Angela recently posted..My Favorite Lady FriendMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 22, 2012

      I have it in abundance. I know it comes to an end, which helps me fight the loneliness which can plague it. I, too, need it. I hope you do digest it and come back to tell me what you think.

  7. I like solitude probably more than most. It certainly doesn’t make me lonely. But being around others is good, too. At least when they have chocolate to share.
    Binky recently posted..Social BeesMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 22, 2012

      Social animals all need interaction with their peers. Solitude should not make you lonely.

  8. I do like my times of solitude. I will seek it out if I go too long without it.

    At the family cabin, I can sit by myself for hours, enjoying solitude in front of a fire, either outside or in.
    Good post and great poetry Red.


    • Red

       /  April 22, 2012

      Thank you, MJ. I have those places, too. The joy of them is I can turn off the brain completely and just bask in the quiet.

  9. Solitude is delicious. Solitude is being alone with your true inner being which paradoxically connects you with the entire universe.

    Loneliness is painful because not only have you cut yourself off from your true inner being, you have cut yourself off from the entire universe.


    • Red

       /  April 22, 2012

      Very poignant explanation of loneliness. I like it. Good to see you tonight, John.

  10. Bear

     /  April 22, 2012

    As always a great post, beautiful, but sad in a way. I do not need a crowd of people. I like solitude. It lets me think of solutions to my life’s concerns. I do not like lonely. There are certain people I need in my life, and when I feel that lonely feeling, all I have to do is think of you and my sad, lonely feeling goes away. Again, beautiful poem.


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