Column: Discovering value in solitude and loneliness
For many years and for many reasons I have appreciated solitude.
My relationship with loneliness was less valued.
For the past 6 months I have been dealing with both. I have learned that solitude is a condition; loneliness is an emotion, frequently rooted in feelings of despair and unhappiness.
During most of the years of my life, whatever creative pursuits I have engaged in occurred almost always when I was alone. It is in the quiet moments of solitude that insights emerged and paths appeared that begged to be explored.
But I am now discovering virtues of loneliness and I was lucky to find a great teacher. Clark Moustakas wrote two superb books: Loneliness, and Loneliness and Love.
He wrote, “There is a power in loneliness, a purity, self-immersion and depth, which is unlike any other experience.”
“Being lonely involves a certain pathway, requires a total submersion of self, a letting be of all that is and belongs, a staying or remaining with the situation, until a natural realization or completion is reached; when a lonely existence completes itself, the individual becomes, grows from it, reaches out for others in a deeper, more vital sense.”
I realize that I am in a state of transition and I understand that to meet the current challenge of loneliness I need to reaffirm that life is basically a series of unfoldings and awakenings. We meet one new experience, confront and assimilate it into our consciousness, then move on to the next.
I am also learning that there are moments where I feel myself assimilating new ways of looking at myself and the “new” conditions of my life. I am experiencing gratitude for all the years My Beloved and I shared and the love that continues to animate my life.
But I am also understanding the need to reexamine friendships and try to focus less on the past and pay more attention to the days and months ahead. This is no easy challenge. My adult life was developed around a partnership that elevated “us” as we both endeavored to keep the “I” in a proper perspective.
Finally, I am discovering that in the depths of loneliness, I am not irreversibly alone. When I reach out, there are friends ready to grasp my hand and share with me their love. I am a very fortunate man.