Solitude is a gift to me. Solitude is the place where I can sit, listen and actually hear myself (and mySelf), and replenish my spirit and soul. It is something that I require in order to sustain myself and in order to also be able to relate deeply to those with whom I choose to relate with. I am particular about who I choose, but that topic is for another post.
This pandemic, although I would not wish this on anyone, has brought several gifts to me…..one being that since I retired (right after the pandemic started, as luck would have it), I have spent much time alone in solitude with no pressure to do anything or be anything more than what I am in the quiet space of my own home.
I am lucky (at least in my value system and life) to live alone and feel comfortable with this. Living alone gives me the space and time and quiet to rediscover who I am. Rediscovering the parts of me that had been set aside during all the years of working in my career and the fatigue and exhaustion that sometimes accompanied that.
At first I wasn’t sure how to navigate this whole new life where I was completely responsible for the daily structure and purpose. It was another added blow to lose three kitties (two of them had been with me for 17 years) in the first year after retirement. It became a bit confusing just what I was grieving at which particular moment. My beloved kitties and companions…..my entire life as I knew it and my definition of self as I knew it….my sense of purpose…..waves of grief would flow over me for all of these things….and more. Grief for my youth. Grief for what society defined as being “productive”. Grief for my sense of belonging to a group of people who became my family, given the hours we would spend working together at the job. And in the pandemic, grief for the world as we knew it. Everything changed, and I lost my sense of direction.
So here I am now, almost 2 years post retirement (it will be 2 years in May)…..and I am quieter, calmer, more pensive, and so very grateful. I now can write more (although it becomes increasingly clear to me that I need to set up a bit more structure to do that more consistently), I can paint (and this can now be an obsession revisited and delighted in), and I can exercise when I want (repeat the line here about needing to set up a bit more structure to do that more consistently), go out for walks when I want, have coffee when I want, do nothing when I want (I consider it vital to have times where I simply just sit and let things flow through me to see what comes up), go to sleep when I want, get up when I want, (although again some structure seems helpful. I just don’t need to be rigid about that.) Such gifts.
Is there pain and sadness also involved in the gifts of solitude? Absolutely. I feel such deep sadness at times, and loneliness that cannot be soothed by another human. I feel fear and quiet amazement at the realization that this body that I have been loaned really does have an expiration date. I will die. Of course we all die, but aging makes that fact much more real and in your face (and body, and functioning, and mind, and in all sorts of ways….). I find it strange as I take care of estate planning and am thinking about what final arrangements that I would like….it feels strange to plan for your own demise.
Yet that also brings gifts. How much more precious each moment becomes. And how important it is for me to not rush to try and necessarily fill it with adventures (although some of this, of course, is fun and good to do), but to rather focus on how much to more fully live this life in each moment. To appreciate each breath. To take delight in watching a bird take a bath and let myself enjoy that moment and all of its beauty.
I am lucky enough to volunteer at our local zoo, observing our elephants. I spend two hour shifts simply watching and recording their behavior – and being with them. How little, I realize, we do that with each other and at times even less so with ourselves. To simply allow ourselves to be….to be alive to each moment and each breath.
I am grateful for this chance and space to share some of my thoughts with those of you who may read this. I am grateful for your time, your attention, and for sharing a moment connected in time. My solitude helps me appreciate real connections even more…..and appreciate each of you. We are still here – still expressing ourselves – still very much alive.