I’ve been thinking about the idea of solitude. Take a minute to think about that word and the image it brings to mind. What does it look like? How does it make you feel?
For me, solitude is the image of a person standing alone in a deserted area; usually outdoors. I have yet to understand the direct connotation of this, being that it is usually a reflection of how I feel in the moment. However, this past year, that feeling has shifted. The word “solitude” is a word I have actually grown quite comfortable with, though it took some work. These past few months have consisted of getting to know myself on a deeper level. By “getting to know myself” I mean re-discovering, exploring, pursuing my passions and creative nature, understanding the layers of my personality, and acknowledging the struggles and setbacks I have yet to conquer.
We tend to underestimate the importance of our passions. When you think about it, these are the things that bring the most joy and fulfillment into our lives, no matter how small. It is important to make time for these. For me, this involved reprioritization. I had to actively take time out of the day to do at least one thing I enjoyed doing. Whether it was getting outside, writing, playing the guitar, or merely sitting in bed with all of my candles lit, I made time for it. And day by day, I slowly began to notice a change. I became more comfortable with myself. I discovered parts of myself that I hadn’t known. I embraced these. I became friends with them. And I can honestly say that today, 1 year later, I am in a much more beautiful place.
However, beautiful does not necessarily mean “happy” or “good”. Another critical element I have learned thus far is that there is no “arrival” in life. There is no point in time in which we can say that we’ve really made it. At least not in the greater sense of it all. There are always going to be ups and downs. Dark and light. We cannot know one without the other, right? That is what makes something beautiful. And the inevitability of this is something we must come to terms with if we are going to continue. The journey towards the great light, as I like to think. And in order to endure this we must acknowledge the dark places we have been. We must accept them. And maybe once we have done these things, we can then try to understand them. So what do you struggle with? What are your setbacks? Who are you when you are in these low places? Yes, honesty is hard. Honesty with yourself is even harder. But how will you grow if you can’t face these deeper parts of yourself? With understanding comes healing. When we try to heal these pieces, we bring them into our journey. Our great, beautiful journey. One that may only begin with ourselves, and more importantly, by ourselves.
So we arrive at a place of solitude. Though at times it may be lonely, it is the best way to get into your own mind. Sometimes this may not be the best thing. We strive so much for acceptance, belonging and even conformity that when we are alone we don’t know how to handle it. We don’t know what to do with it. Sometimes we panic. We look for the next day, the next plan, the next moment. The next something where we can prove to ourselves that our lives have meaning and fulfillment through external connections. The next thing that we can hang on to. Soon enough we find ourselves tangled in the expectations we hold about our relationships with others. How they should treat us, how we treat them; how those two answers are never quite identical. We become lost, thinking that if we don’t have others we are alone. Or that if we don’t have a significant other, it means we aren’t good enough. We aren’t wanted. The kind of solitude that eats away at you until you can actually feel the gaping hole it has created.
This is why I call it a journey. A journey with no destination, but merely a pathway into the light of your self. Your inner-most being. Here, we may find fulfillment. We may find what makes us tick. What lights that spark in our eyes again. Spending time alone is crucial to this process. It’s how we find and befriend the light and the dark within. It’s how we understand these parts of ourselves. It’s a place of beginning. A place of birth and death and rebirth. The steel foundation on which we build upon. How can we expect to grow without a stable platform? What happens when the inevitable hits? We cannot ensure stability, but we can put forth our best effort. We can try to create a sense of self so strong that even the roughest winds won’t budge it. I think that is the most we can ask from ourselves.
But far too often, we build this foundation and still do not feel satisfied. We do not necessarily feel “met” in the expectations and thresholds that we set for ourselves and others. We ask ourselves if it is our fault for setting these too high or others’ fault for not working hard enough to meet them. We fall into the spiral of doubt and insecurity. Sometimes, we stay there. We question parts of ourselves that should never be questioned. If you have been here, you know that this feeling likes to stick around. However, this is where the magic starts to happen. We begin to entertain the idea of solidarity. Of belonging to yourself. We let go of expectations. We let go of attachment. We don’t have much of a choice, honestly. It’s like being thrown into the water when you haven’t learned how to swim. Only when you are forced do you truly see how far you can go. It is our intrinsic nature. And it is only when you are forced to walk the path alone that you find answers you never knew you were looking for in the first place.
So be your own best friend. Be not only content with being alone, but become fulfilled by it. I’m not saying that you should isolate yourself from others and the outside world, but rather find gratification in your relationship with yourself before you build a life with someone else. Ironically (and I can confirm this from experience), good things seem to happen when you are not actively searching for them. Trust that these times will come, but do not undermine the potential of the in-between. Sit in it. Embrace it.
And in the meantime, buy yourself some flowers.