Solitude is defined as the state or situation of being alone. The example given in the dictionary: ”she savoured her few hours of freedom and solitude.” I couldn’t agree with more. I find the synonyms (loneliness, solitariness, isolation, seclusion, sequestration, withdrawal, privacy, peace) somewhat difficult to align with my understanding of solitude, especially the first, because I don’t find it lonely at all… However, it is a time for me to withdraw from others and sequester my energy. For me, it’s a being with myself.
As an only child, I grew up with myself. I had imaginary friends. My parents played soccer and catch with me in the yard. We got out board games or cards most Sunday afternoons. They were jokers, thinkers, and talkers. When I needed connection to others and perspective, I was blessed to have them there. (Still do have an amazing family to support me.) However, as a child there were many times spent on my own- thinking, biking, drawing, writing, playing. I was really fortunate to grow up with lots of space to explore on our farm and that I had places to call my own- my playroom, bedroom, treehouse, garage. My parents were around, I was supervised, but they didn’t get in my way. They also didn’t schedule all of my time. They let me be. I don’t remember saying, “I’m bored,” very often. And when I did, I remember the answer, “That’s fine.”
I always loved the opportunities to play with other kids, and for most of my elementary years, I loved going to school. I enjoyed connecting with all the kids in the class, though I had my best friends. I still find myself like that… desiring to learn about other people and share with them, connect and learn from each other, and play sports or games. I also had a whole separate circle of friends at skating and swimming. I had a multitude of cousins who have been like siblings and friends all-in-one. I enjoy spending time with lots of people. However, I need to come home to myself. This has probably been my biggest challenge since becoming a Mom. There were very few opportunities for true solitude over the past five years. And I found that this stretched me.
I can be with others. In fact, many people may be surprised that I’m technically an introvert because I am fairly bubbly. However, I am not content when I am forever in company with others. Even with my most favourite people or doing the things I like best. Not if I haven’t had enough solitude. Sometimes a change of place, space, and/or people is helpful. However, I found most of my relationships suffered under the circumstance of not having my alone time. I’m not at my best. I’m quite easily irritated by basically everyone when I don’t get time to myself.
For the last five and half years, I really didn’t get any solitude. Notta. Like not even 5 minutes. The closest I came to solitude was a no-show at the office, my commute, or if I didn’t fall asleep putting my kids to bed. It’s just not the same. Under those circumstances, there was no freedom to be. I was still on the clock in some way.
I didn’t realize I needed to have this kind of time. I kept trying to change my environment and add in “activities.” Not necessarily bad, and I was definitely craving connection and movement too. It’s very hard to carry on a deep conversation while referring small children. I also didn’t have time to move my body enough when I was working and it caused me a lot of physical pain.
My husband was so encouraging- get a pedicure, go to the gym, have dinner with friends or colleagues, let’s get a babysitter and go on a date. All great, and definitely helped over the past year (because before that I wasn’t doing any of those very often either.) But really, I just needed everyone to get the fuck out of the house, have a glass of wine and a bath. Or binge watch Netflix for a couple hours. Or walk on the treadmill and listen to music. Or clean out a closet. ALONE.
The other thing I realized by becoming a Mom was that I need alone time to feel collected, and then connected. I’m not sure if others find that- or if it’s a different need for some people that allows it. For me, once I have my solitude, I actually crave interaction with others, especially with my family, and lots of it. Wow! I never really knew either of these things about myself until I was totally missing solitude.
Solitude allows me to feel able to connect with my kids during the day-to-day grind. You know, the normal everyday stuff of getting dressed, arguing about socks, sharing a meal, playing at the neighbourhood park. Not the “special” stuff like Disney World. But the day in, day out, gotta do it stuff. I need solitude on the regular to be able to connect in all those little moments as a Mom. Solitude recharges my batteries. I haven’t had solitude in almost a week again, and I’m missing it. I will get some time soon, and knowing that I will get the time, is helpful in the middle of the grind. It allows me to stay connected in it, and not just zone out, because that’s as close as I’ll get for a while. Solitude has become a big part of my rhythm. Thankfully.
I found this whole process of learning about solitude, and my relationship to it, intriguing. I am realizing that in building my business, I have to build with my different needs in mind. One of my “needs” sounds so silly when thinking about productivity and wellness. I need an hour a week completely by myself, at home, to do whatever I want in the moment. I’ve realized that this exact thing is required. There is no substitution. This is not time to meditate, or workout, or clean, or create content for my website. This is something with no easily defined purpose. It is hard to explain to people.
Thinking ahead to the summer, means getting creative. Different parts of life are going to blend, as a primarily work-from-home mom (I’ll still have my office hours and they will be kid-free) but that is not my time or place for solitude, actually. I'm also going to have kid-free time at the Y to workout. Time with friends. Dates with my husband. All kid-free and enjoyable. Not solitude.
I am going to be learning a lot during the season. I’m going to need to be organized and intentional. That’s all given. However, there are some hidden needs. For all of it to flow, I’m going to need to protect that time. My hour of solitude every week. It is as important as moving my body, eating and sleeping regularly, and of course having fun with loved ones.
What’s your relationship with solitude? Have you ever thought of it as a need? What does it look like for you? How much do you need? This was definitely a new one for me and I’m curious what others have found.