“Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone.”Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Yes, I see the irony in talking about solitude at a time when our world is unitedly canceling social events and anything that has to do with other people. But just being alone is not solitude. Even quarantined to our homes, we have relentless opportunity for distraction and noise and the constant lure of “but what are other people doing, thinking, reacting?”
No. We were not created to be alone. But I dare say we were also not created to be so together that we don’t know how to be alone anymore.
I have said many times to other people how external forces like being an expat in a foreign country and motherhood have indirectly led me to create a very small social circle around my weary body. Now keep adding more children to the mix and I feel like my circle looks like I’m tracing my shadow at noon. Anytime I go beyond the lines, my body triggers that I need to do something to catch my breath.
Being vulnerably honest about my own personal limitations and being creative to accept what a breath of fresh air can look like have completely rewired my brain. It need not be a trip to a coffee shop for 2 hours to be a moment of grounding solitude. I want to gently comfort you that it can be made available to everyone in any moment. We do not need a car, coffee shop and music in our ears to catch our breath. We actually don’t even need to be physically alone every time. We need acknowledgement about who we are, and a creative mind to find the oasis where we are.
“In life’s stillnessRosie Wisniewski, A Sweet Repose – Hello Poetry
So sweet in repose
Renewing and filling your lungs
…Take a breath in and wait
It’ll be okay.
In this moment so still and stagnate
But, not stuck
Just paused, soon to move on”
We need not romanticize this pause in our day to be alone with our thoughts or be alone in a moment. Feeling cold grass under your feet while you look up at the trees requires only your presence. Laying on your back and watching as the clouds morph from strips into blobs requires only your presence. Sitting for at least 15 seconds as a wallflower to marvel at your children deep in play requires only your presence. I know saying only your presence feels like an offering as big as the world sometimes. But be brave, look at your task list for a hot minute and say “QUIET!” (audibly if you must).
If we allow the “amputation” as Lindbergh refers to it, even for a moment, life comes back to us fuller and richer in ways that the constant consumption of other lives and entertainment could never offer. She further notes that “even daydreaming was more creative than this [entertainment/social media] because it demanded something of oneself.”
I leave you sweet friends with this continued thought from Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. May we become comfortable in this time of tension where we long for people but also long to know ourselves. Let’s sit here in this space together and allow life to rush back at us moment by moment. Not in an overwhelming tidal wave, but like a waterfall that we can marvel at.
“It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from the people you love. It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger. When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others.”Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From the Sea