A love letter to solitude

“You’re gonna have lunch alone?”

“No plans this weekend? Aaaaw…”

“Look at you, sitting here all by yourself.”

They say it as if it’s a bad thing

Like it’s by accident that I sit by myself or spend time alone. My responses are automatic at this point:

“No really, it’s okay. I like eating by myself.”

“I know, really looking forward to the peace and quiet.”

“Yeah, I just need some time to relax.”

Explaining and defending my chosen solitude is second nature for me. I’ve had to do it all my life. 

And I’ve gotten used to the puzzled look on people’s faces when they hear my answer. In their world, solitude can never equal fun. Loneliness can never be one’s honest preference. Not really. Right?

I’ve always enjoyed spending time by myself, ever since I was a child. I would sit for hours in my room, talking to myself and playing with my toys. I would go outside and just climb trees, sitting on a branch observing the other kids below. I would enjoy playing with others, but I would always do it even better on my own.

There are no restraints when you’re playing alone. No need for rules or roles. No group decision making, no conflict, no hurt feelings. 

Solitary play is fluid and limitless. I can still remember the thrill of having the whole school yard or play room to myself.

It’s the same thrill I feel as an adult, being alone at the office early in the morning, or coming home to an empty apartment.

Excitement. Freedom. Endless possibilities. 

Alone is when I am the most myself. No mask, no inhibitions, no effort.

It’s such a relief to let go of these things for a while, since I rely on them so heavily in my everyday life. 

There is always effort involved when there are other people around. There is always some amount of performance.

When I am among large groups of people, I feel uneasy and vulnerable. Like my skin is so thin it could be punctured by the smallest touch. I am aware of everyone around me and all this awareness is draining me. I have no energy left for thinking, talking, let alone “enjoying myself”. I just want to get out of there as fast as I can. I feel like a soldier in battle, running for safety. 

For me, there is strength in solitude. 

There is inspiration, creativity and brilliance. 

There is clarity, insight and wisdom.

And there is love: for myself, my family and friends and the whole of humanity. 

I can go all day despising people. They are too many, too loud and too annoying. I watch the news and I feel nothing but hate and hopelessness for our kind. 

But when I sit in stillness, all that melts away. I’m filled with forgiveness and compassion. I remember how we are all just humans doing our best amidst fear and suffering. I think about all of the amazing people I’ve met in my life and my heart just swings open. 

Ironically, it is in my loneliness that I love other people the most.

And I love that feeling.