This is a blog post by Floh member, Keerthi. Learn more at www.floh.in (a network that connects singles in real life)
“I love people. I love my family, my friends,…. but inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.” –Pearl S. Buck
This line aptly reflects my experience with solitude.
‘Being alone versus being lonely’ is a much talked about concept across cultures especially in recent times. In India, this concept is often closely tied to our relationship status – if we are single, it is presumed we must feel lonely. If we are married, we are expected to rarely feel lonely. Both are, in my opinion, rather limited generalizations. To strengthen the stereotype, single people are often bombarded with contradictory ideologies from the media and social circles.
A famous writer recently said “Books, music and movies are solace of all singles”. The word ‘solace’ here sounds rather depressing – as it hints at an underlying premise that single people have a void, and that this void needs to be filled by certain hobbies. Why are single people supposed to even have a void or feel incomplete? On the other hand, my friends speak the polar opposite “Wow! Being single is the best phase of life, where you have the luxury of time, money and freedom”. This sounds rather exaggerated as well, as I, like most of my peers, often grapple for time and freedom to pursue life’s interests. Secondly I don’t live in isolation – so obviously family and friends are enough to keep me plenty busy!
I had to decide a solid approach to enjoy solitude. It was high time, keeping in mind all the opposing views plus my own experiences. It was time to once and for all cut through all the layers of societal conditioning and to no longer shuttle back and forth between ‘loneliness and aloneness’. Most importantly, build a lifelong attitude on solitary experiences, and not just as a temporary ‘fix’, which would be authentic and reflected reality. So here it goes.
Over the years I have realized being lonely is a bit of an emotional warp – a mix of memories (where we reminisce how good life was in the past and how much we miss our friends/family), some amount of self-pitying (wherein we think that we need more than what we currently do to feel happy) and a genuine longing for an emotional connect with people. I admit to being in this phase several times.
My friend claims he is never lonely – always occupied by hobbies coupled with the presence of a warm dog at his feet, in an otherwise empty house. My grandmother, on the other hand, feels a bit lost after the recent passing away of my grandfather. The Japanese simpletons on Okinawa Island, surrounded by nature and small families supposedly never feel secluded. Celebrities feel isolated despite being surrounded by fame, wealth, family and fans. So obviously, loneliness is an inevitable and unpredictable experience that everyone probably goes through at some point or several points in their lives – irrespective of who they are, what they do and where they come from. The only thing one can do about it is go through it and change one’s lifestyle to accommodate company – the way my grandmother is now reconnecting with her sisters after decades. It is not a void that she is filling, but a conscious shift of her focus.
Being alone, on the other hand, is an absolutely serene and contented feeling. When you can just sit reading a book, enjoy a quiet walk with single, listen to uplifting music, or simply do nothing! When the mind is not burdened with looking for answers, analysis or judgement is when it is at most peace. In fact solitude compelled me to do two things namely, a) To live in the present, and b) To really introspect. Both actually felt strange in the beginning. When you sit by yourself in a restaurant, you realize all your senses have nothing else to focus on – so they focus on the food, which by the way, is an amazing experience. My friends tell me how they love going for movies by themselves – it was not at all as weird a situation as they imagined it would be. Contrary to public opinion, time management skills get better when I one is ‘alone’. Occasional solitary fitness experiments became too intense to be boring. Doing a solo trip for the first time felt scary, but I eventually had a new perspective. ‘More the merrier’ still holds good, but there is a different charm to traveling by yourself. As Melvyn Kinder once said, “Solitude can be frightening because it invites us to meet a stranger we think we may not want to know – ourselves.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Ultimately, solitude is a bit of an acquired taste, which requires practice and patience! Most certainly an art, which once learnt is to be treasured. So if you have mastered this art, you have my respect. And I would certainly love to know how you went about it!