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.
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.
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.
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.”
Not 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.
Somewhere in the depth of the abyss
is something you’ve held so close
You heart beats only to hold it.
Your buoyant spirit pulled you to the 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.
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.
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer
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?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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Image Night Reflections displayed with permission of photographer
Image of mermaid courtesy of Mollamari Creations.
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