Because we moved so often when I was a child, I was often alone. Summers were lonely before starting school in a new place, and making new friends was not easy for this introvert. I was often alone and lonely, but I learned how to be alone, how to be comfortable with myself.
Over the years, however, I grew to value being alone, and along the way, I developed my contemplative nature. Time to be alone became essential.
It is true I spend much of my day working alone in my garret space, but it is rare I am alone in the house overnight. Now don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. For almost the first year of our return to Minnesota, Bruce commuted between here and Madison. He came home late Thursday night and returned to Madison Sunday afternoons. We were thrilled when that pattern ended, and he started working long-distance from his desk in the lower level.
Still, sometimes it is nice to have a span of alone time.
Last Thursday Bruce drove with our daughter and grands to Cleveland to visit our son and daughter-in-love. I elected to stay home--not because I craved alone time, but because I am in the midst of a consuming writing project. The decision was not an easy one, but it felt necessary. And wise. And, I accomplished so much.
I felt great release. I could eat when I wanted to and what I wanted to and not think about planning a meal. I could go to bed and get up on my own schedule. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I could turn on the light and read until I felt ready to sleep again. I could follow my own whims. All without bothering anyone else.
I turn 69 in a few weeks and more and more am aware of both the gifts and the challenges of being older. This is a time when many of us are more alone than we have been in our younger years. If we are married, we may face the loss of a spouse. Friends die or move away to be closer to family. Our ability to be out and about with the ease of earlier years decreases for a variety of years.
Richard Morgan calls this time "solitary refinement," and encourages us to use this time of our lives "to be alone with God, for what else matters in these years and in the years to come?"
Solitude allows us to be with ourselves, to listen with the ears of our heart, to discover what we know, what we question, what is unspoken within, what needs to be forgiven.
Solitude helps us "find the deep, calm place that makes aging such a serene part of life," Says Joan Chittister.
Solitude helps us let go of what is not necessary, of what impedes our relationship with God. Solitude moves us towards compassion for ourselves and others. Solitude clears the space.
Today is Tuesday and my family arrives home today, and I am ready. More than ready. I have missed them and I am eager to hear all the details of their time with Geof and Cricket.
But I am also grateful for the touches of solitude.
How comfortable are you being alone? Do you seek solitude? I would love to know.