Aging and Solitude

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.

6 thoughts on “Aging and Solitude

  1. What a wonderful post. I wish I could respond to your every point you write about.. It sounds like you really found the time away from work recuperating but also stretching emotionally especially the loss of your kitties (I can relate as you know). As you share about being able to do whatever you want when ever you want I think of my mother who never remarried again after my father died. She was 37 at the time. She said she liked being in charge of her own person and not having to account to others. Even when I left home she was happy to be on her own yet I know she felt lonely at times.

    She created a routine for herself, being a creative person, she was most productive in the mornings, after lunch she read, practiced meditation, and walked for exercise. The way she put it was she created structure for her spontaneity.
    I love the way you say that your solitude makes you appreciate the real connections even more. It’s the sort of thing my mom would say. Take care, Morag ❤️💖💐🌷🤗😀

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  2. Thank you so much for your lovely response, Morag. (I would have loved your mom! )
    It has taken me a long time to truly and deeply appreciate solitude and the gifts that it brings. Although I am open to a relationship, if that should happen, the primary one I will work to keep in focus is the one with myself. If not, I’m fine being by myself. With dear, good friends and with people who feel to me like they are of my tribe…. And with furry friends as well, for they love and comfort in a way that is uniquely their own. Thank you again… I appreciate the connection with you and also appreciate your taking the time to read my thoughts…. ♥️ Jo

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  3. Lovely post, Jo, and it gives me hope! It’s been a year since I retired, and I am not yet at that peaceful and calm stage. I understand now that since the first several months were filled with family and feline emergencies, I need to reset my expectations. Now that it’s only me (my neck to be specific) that I’m worried about, I’m starting to feel like I can settle into this new phase of my life. You raise so many issues that are on my mind too, like estate planning. But the most important one is to allow myself to sit and not do anything sometimes, instead just watch the birds or look for insects among my potted plants. Life is too short to rush it.

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    1. Sitting, watching the birds, doing “nothing”…I think that those are the times that there is a lot going on inside…. Healing, consolidating, being,…. All so very vital. I’m glad that you’re letting yourself do this, Marie…… This is much needed time to heal, rest and reset….♥️🙏. Time to let go more of all the “pains in the neck” that you’ve been dealing with…..

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