Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Joyful Angst of Solitude

Call it joyful. Call it angst. Call it what it really is ... a frightening, overwhelming aloneness ... a howling wolf in the dead of winter trying to chew its own leg free of the steel trap that binds it in the dark night. Its blackness stretches endless before me obliterating everything, blinding me, deafening me with its endless message of pain, loss and abandonment. Translation: It sucks ... big time. After a lifetime of companionship and longing for the joys of solitude, I now have solitude and long for the joys of companionship. Be careful what you wish for.

Rilke says:
"Don't be confused by surfaces; in the depths everything becomes law. What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. Walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours--that is what you must be able to attain."
I say: Rilke sucks. Yesterday I had lunch in a lovely park filled with families and children and dogs chasing each other in circles. Togetherness, family and friendship surrounded me but did not include me or invite me in. I am on the fringes looking in ... just like the lonely little girl of my childhood, nosed pressed to the screen doors of the neighborhood asking if there were any children there who could come out and play. Now I'm expected to look in the screen doors of my own soul and ask if there is anyone there (here?) who wants to come out? And this is supposed to bring me joy?

I turn to a more modern source and Wikipedia says:
Solitude is a state of seclusion or isolation; i.e., lack of contact with people. It may stem from bad relationships, deliberate choice, contagious disease, disfiguring features, repulsive personal habits, mental illness, or circumstances of employment or situation (see castaway).
Castaway ... that's what I feel like. I've been cast away by death, by rejection, by circumstance. I would like to take my solitude in small doses, thank you very much. A day here, a week there. Not this life sentence of aloneness, not this loneliness that seems to be stalking me through the long night.

Turning to what others say about solitude, I find:
"There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall."

"When we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death - ourselves."
~Eda LeShan

"The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude." ~Voltaire
And, while reading Thoreau on Solitude, I find that he, at least briefly, questioned the value of solitude and wondered if the near "neighborhood of man was not essential to a
serene and healthy life." But he goes on to recognize a pattern in his own thinking, "But I was at the same time conscious of a slight insanity in my mood, and seemed to foresee my recovery."

I recognize that "slight insanity" in my own mind. I am the wolf chewing away at my own leg to get free of this dark sense of loneliness ... but I am also the wolf roaming the quiet, moon lit woods called ever forward by sights and sounds of the world of freedom and solitude.

I foresee my own recovery. I foresee a time when I can be "alone without being lonely" as a dear friend who learned this lesson earlier in life describes it. I foresee a time when solitude is more joyful than angst. And, I remind myself to relax and breathe in the joy of each moment. I remind myself to follow Voltaire's advice to create a life of "busy solitude."

1 comment:

  1. I'm truly enjoying your writings. This one especially spoke to me. I too am learning to be alone without the feelings of being lonely. We have that in common right now. Your pics are so beautiful. I envy this opportunity you have to travel and explore and photograph your life as you go along. I'm following along with you. Talk to ya soon.