“Being alone has a power very few people can handle.” ~ Steven Aitchinson
My peace sanctuary’s remodel is almost complete and I’m so grateful. By next week, I’ll be getting my things out of storage and moving out of the guest room that, with a bed and television only, has started to feel like a prison cell. Since I moved to my awesome Ozark hilltop, I’ve had a constant stream of visitors and an art studio filled with potential and in-progress projects to fill my time in between visits. Until my remodel started, I considered myself living in solitude and I was pretty proud of myself for how well I handled it. Since starting my remodel and having little to no contact with others for days at a time and no art projects to keep myself busy, I’ve discovered that I actually had no idea what solitude really looked and felt like before now. And I’m humbled. I am weepy. I am sooooo alone.
One of my dear neighbors and friends is a retired professional chef and an artist. He lives alone in a cabin in the valley below my hilltop and spends most of his time alone; secluded from others with a bed/tv/microwave setup much like the one I’ve been enduring these past several weeks. Last week, after a full three days with zero human interaction, I texted him and asked “How do you do it?” A couple evenings later, as we visited while the sun sat behind us, he told me his secret…it never really bothered him. I have to admit, this secret just made me feel a little worse. If it never bothered him and he didn’t have to go through some personal growth process to achieve contentment in solitude, then maybe I’m just lacking a gene or the personal strength to endure what he makes look so effortless? Am I weak? Am I unable to harness the special power of being alone that very few can handle? Will I always feel so utterly and desperately alone without the company of others on my hilltop?
As I prepare my things for a trip to Colorado to watch the youngest of my nibblings graduate from high school, I’m full of mixed emotions. I am looking forward to getting away from my suffocating seclusion and loneliness but I’m also dreading the idea of being away from my hilltop and surrounded by strangers. What a paradox…what a hapless existence this feels like sometimes. I want to wallow in my confusion and call my friends to hear their voices and reassurances that I’ll be okay and everything will be better when I get back and have a chance to get moved back in and settled with my paintbrushes and canvases. I want to laugh with others, talk with others, and make memories with special people, but I don’t want leave home and that, I’m realizing, is just too damn bad. Because while I’ve found some semblance of peace on my hilltop, the same seclusion that makes me feel peaceful also makes me feel lonely. And if I’m going to life my life well, I’m thinking I probably need to adjust in two obvious ways: I need to learn how to be alone without being lonely and I need to learn how to be away from my loneliness without feeling overwhelmed. It sounds simple enough and I’m sure at some point I’ll look back and wonder what the big deal was. But for now it feels impossible that I’ll ever achieve the balance I need to truly be happy in my own existence – wherever I am and regardless of whom I’m around.
I guess if I had to count even the smallest of victories, I can be proud that I haven’t allowed uncomfortable solitude to lead me into unsuitable companionship just for the sake of not being alone. Maybe that isn’t a small victory…maybe that is actually a huge achievement? Meh. I’m not sure. But one thing I am sure of, as with all the other times in my life when I endured, fretted and eventually survived times that rubbed my soul in all the wrong places, I will grow from this experience in some way and be grateful to have experienced it. Not yet but someday. In the meantime, I’m just going to blow up my air mattress again and try to remember that I’m stronger than I give myself credit…and work on harnessing that power that so few others can handle.
I just pictured myself whipping loneliness like Wonder Woman with my lasso of truth. Maybe I’m onto something here…