Be Still and Know That I Am.
Growing up with four siblings – five after I got married – as well as living near cousins. You would think there wasn’t much time for being alone. But I lived in the country next to my grandparents’ farm in a time of no cell phones and no TV until I reached my teens. Although I spent a lot of time with the brother closest to me in age and various cousins who lived near, much of it spent on the farm, I still had alone times; times I cherished. I was a reader and often curled up in a chair reading alone in a room. Sometimes in the summer, I’d climb an old hollow willow tree beside my grandparents’ house and in the crook of that tree, I’d read out of sight of everyone. As a teenager, my group of friends and cousins were often together. We played softball, kick the can and other games. My girlfriends and I formed a group called “The Crazy Teens.” Not that we were crazy by today’s standards. But I also took solitary walks through the fields resting on a log at the top of a rise in a boundary line of trees. There as a teen, I wrote poetry. Or in my room I wrote short stories.
|One of my gardens where I work in solitude.|
Today people live in a busy connected world; a world of cell phones with people constantly talking to others or texting or tweeting. How often in a store have you turned thinking someone was talking to you when they were on the phones or even more the person walking around seeming to talk to themselves when they have a blue tube in their ear? And if we’re not talking on our phones, we’re emailing others or checking Facebook. Those who work with others are even more connected with little alone time.
I am a social creature. Most of us are. I easily chat with people I don’t know in line at the grocery store. I’m interested in people. I enjoy getting together with others at my book clubs or writers groups. I like my Mobile Meals people; both the other volunteers and the people I deliver to. Sunday Mass is special to me; sitting with people I know, the music, the rituals that I’m comfortable with as well as the sermons and scripture readings. I enjoy when my siblings and I get together for a meal, maybe a DVD and always the laughter and talking. I enjoy my children and grandchildren, and reconnecting with old friends. That’s why my siblings laughed when in a previous blog I mentioned that I’m a bit of an introvert.
|A morning walk with my Maggie|
However, the times I’m most at peace and content are when I’m alone. I like my quiet morning walks in the woods in mostly silence except for the sounds of birds, the rustling of leaves by my feet in the autumn, the occasional bark of my collie when she’s treed a squirrel, the sound of traffic in a distance with no horns honking on my country road, but only a soft swish coming and going like the sound of waves on a shore.
Today solitude is becoming rare and appreciated by only a few. Many people equate solitude with loneliness. They think those who embrace solitude are sad, depressed or antisocial. Alone has a negative connotation for many. Society sometimes scoffs at the loner, but, in fact, solitude can be healthy both physically and psychologically. It’s important to our well-being. Being able to enjoy and appreciate solitude is an important skill to possess.
|My little goldfish pool near my patio is soothing|
Studies have shown that periods of solitude are strongly beneficial to personal development. Author Susan Cain found that people working alone often tend to achieve better results than those in groups because original ideas get lost in groups. Researcher Bethany Burum of Harvard also found that simply being around other people causes our minds to become preoccupied with their thoughts as we wonder about what they think of us, etc. She also found that those in her study tended to have stronger and clearer memories when alone than those with other people in the room. Other things discovered in her study found that cognitive and emotional processes benefited from solitude, too. People, who had more solitude time, showed more empathy for others. It is also important for finding one’s self when everyone else is gone.
The most successful painters, musicians and writers often find or found their inspiration through solitude. That’s why I can’t understand those who find their best writing is done in cafés on a laptop surrounded by people and noise. It must work for them, but I need silence. I turn off the radio after the morning news and work and write in silence. I know I’m luckier than most because I have that option. I’m retired and except for assorted critters, I live alone so I’m blessed with the solitude I need to write. Does it make me a great writer? Smile here. No, but it makes me better than what I would be if I had to work around people. In fact, when I’ve been in a writing class or a workshop where the participants are given a prompt to write to with other people around me, I freeze up. I’m lucky to come up with one pathetic paragraph when the time is up. It only makes it worse hearing and seeing other people scribbling away putting lots of words down.
Do you treasure your times of solitude?
Are you able to concentrate and work well with others around you?