I began a conscious love affair with solitude five years ago.  I’ve been apologizing for it ever since.

I wrote the notes for this post on the backside of a final letter from my ex-husband.  A letter I found in a bedside drawer as I searched for a blank piece of paper to capture my early morning thoughts.  One of the reasons my marriage ended was because there was a disconnect between our views on solitude.  He saw my need for alone time as rejection of him.  I saw it as expansion of me.

Self-Preservation Not Personal Rejection

Personal expansion isn’t narcissistic.  It’s growing into your best self.  It’s hydrating a dying bloom so that it may provide joy naturally. Granted, there is such a thing as too much self-absorption. Loved ones must be nurtured as well, but in my case, time alone gave me light and energy that I never would have had if solitude was completely denied. I tried to take my solitude breaks when everyone was away at work or school. I always felt bad about needing personal space in the marriage.  The guilt caused me to second-guess my parenting style. My kids were taught that the best kind of parent was one who was ON 24/7. I fell short. If only my children understood that solitude helps mom love more deeply and more freely…

I had told people of my intention to be alone for a time. At once I realized they looked upon this declaration as a rejection of them and their company. I felt apologetic, even ashamed, that I would have wanted such a curious thing as solitude, and then sorry that I had made a point of announcing my desire for it.                        

~Doris Grumbach, ‘Fifty Days of Solitude’

My daughter’s eyes widened with hurt and confusion.  I had just told her that I would NOT be helping with her third grade Valentine’s Party.  I had stayed home with her four out of five days last week when she was ill. There had been lots of bonding and mutual enjoyment. I had been home for two days this week with her brother and his turn with the flu. I was taking them to History Day at the middle mchool tomorrow. Evenings are almost exclusively devoted to their homework and needs.  I wanted the afternoon to myself. What I was failing to relay was the fact that my need for time alone was not a rejection of her company but a desperate need to explore my own essence.

I also know that if I do not take time for myself my presence becomes muddled. My thoughts are gridlocked and my demeanor is zombie-like.  I come across as there but not there. That in my opinion, is not good enough.

Most people come alive in relationships.  The more the better.  I am fed by relationships but inspired and transcendent in solitude. I need both.

In her book, Introvert Power, Dr. Laurie Helgoe shares her husband’s experience of dealing with her introversion and need for space. He likens it to a light being removed or a projector stopping during a feature film. I try to keep that in mind when requesting time to myself.  It helps me understand my loved ones’ reactions and feelings.

One of the primary missions of space2live is to explain and create understanding between introverts and extroverts when it comes to recharging and solitude requirements.

Introverts need space to live as their true selves.

We unfold like old road maps — creases released and possibilities endless —when immersed in open-ended time.  Extroverts need hits of attention and interaction to stay energized.  Different methods, neither better nor worse.

Effects of Solitude on the Introvert

I spent the morning reading quotes on love and solitude that resonated so deeply I felt at home and peaceful for the first time in months. I entered a state of flow that was so delicious and nourishing I didn’t want to leave.  I found a place to rest in the words of famous loners like Henry David Thoreau and Charles Bukowski.  It had been so long since I felt this belonging.  Like a parent’s lap or a lover’s embrace, the acknowledgment that solitude cravings are not selfish or bad, enveloped me in warm acceptance. It was like still_water_lake_tahoesitting late at night at the kitchen table with my dearest friends.  There was a feeling of freedom and shimmer.  I felt my inner creativity begin to stir.  She had been dormant for many busy and over-populated months.

Clarity arises in unstirred pools.

Now, more than ever, we need our solitude. Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives. It can teach us fortitude and the ability to satisfy our own needs. A restorer of energy, the stillness of alone experiences provides us with much-needed rest. It brings forth our longing to explore, our curiosity about the unknown, our will to be an individual, our hopes for freedom. Alone time is fuel for life.

                           ~ Dr. Ester Buchholz

I am most alive and myself when I am alone.  That sounds strange and un-American but I feel all of my loose ends grow together when I reside in a healthy space of reflection.  Ideas spark and surface when there is room between thoughts.  My whole demeanor shifts from raised shoulder blades, frantic answer searches and obligatory action to easy breathing, expansive thinking and thoughtful action. I become me, in the truest sense.

We Network, Therefore We Are?

The general belief in this culture is that if you are not interacting in a relationship you hardly exist.  We rely on others to shape and prove our existence.  They talk to us and touch us, therefore we are.

Introverts dig deep into their inner worlds to find existential confirmation. Too much external stimulation and interaction and our inner voice is muffled. We are lost.

Most of the time I feel more connected to others when I am alone.  I am able to ponder the universal through the lens of my own specifics. I have time to miss others or wonder about their feelings. A desire grows to love and engage with them.

The Acceptance and Benefits of Solitude

My wish is for solitude to be an encouraged and accepted state.  Those who crave it should not be ashamed or misjudged as selfish.  Many of our greatest inventions and works of art were born out of solitude. The benefits of making space for reflection are endless but below are a few of the key ones:

  • Less anxiety
  • More interpersonal understanding
  • More intuitive decision-making
  • Appreciation of beauty
  • Creation of art
  • Universal awareness
  • Thoughtful actions and reactions

Alone time should not be looked down upon.  It should be respected and understood.  Maybe someday we’ll talk of solitude breaks openly and encouragingly rather than with hisses and shakes of the head. In the long run humanity will benefit.

How do you feel when you immerse yourself in solitude? What are the results? Do you have a hard time asking for alone time? Does your inner circle celebrate solitude or group activities?

Further reading on solitude:

My Introverted Love Creed: If We Can’t Be Magnificent and Independent Together I’m OK Alone (space2live)

Famous Solitude Quotes (Lonerwolf)

Melancholic Quotes on Love (Lonerwolf)

Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto (Anneli Rufus)

There’s Nothing Wrong With You.  You’re an Introvert. (space2live)

Introvert Relationships: Love Me or Leave Me but Please Don’t Need Me (Too Much) (space2live)

In Defense of Introverted Parents  (space2live)