VICTORIA SARNE: Solitude - alone or lonely?

By Victoria Sarne

If you ask a dozen people whether they feel lonely or comfortable about spending time alone, there will probably be a dozen different answers. I have found that very few people are comfortable with spending a lot of time alone; most will say they like to or wish they could spend some time alone but on a limited basis. And there are a few who absolutely dislike being alone and need a companion for everything.

There are no right or wrong answers as we are all individuals, but I personally hold the view that solitude plays a vital role in creating equilibrium for ourselves, and for me is an absolute necessity for drawing breath. But I understand that it may mean different things to different people. So the question arises: when you are alone, do you enjoy the solitude? Does it bring you peace? Does it make you creative or thoughtful? Does it give you room to parse and analyse the contents of your emotional library of memories and experiences? Does this give you time for true reflection thus increasing awareness and wisdom? Or, does it become a time or space to avoid, feeling like a bit of a nightmare evoking perhaps un-nameable fears?

As a child, solitude became a natural refuge for me from the chaos of life. It became something I actively sought – a space to unravel strands of anxiety or chaos. I understood very well at a visceral level, that my way of dealing with my young world was to remove myself to a distance from it; the only way to deal with a physical world and a family world that inflicted wound after wound. Wounds that needed but did not get attention from the people around me. They were not necessarily uncaring, they simply didn’t know or didn’t know what to do. I don’t know the the how or why, but

I reasoned very early on that in order to deal with a life, that at times seemed not only dangerous but full of fear and confusion, in my mind alienating me from everyone else, that the answer would be to withdraw and find the nature, the root of fear within myself. To find peace. To unravel bit by small bit, conflicting information. Luckily I seemed to have been gifted with an intuitive sensitivity to situations and people. At the same time recognising the fact that I had virtually no armour, emotional or psychic, with which to defend my apparently fragile self. But in the initial years of adulthood and marriage, I pushed that need to be alone to one side because I was too busy ‘housekeeping’ the lives of husband and children, as well as my own professional life, on a very practical level.

Later, as a single woman again with children grown and gone, I could once more spend time alone. I luxuriated in the long, delightful times of alone-ness like a wanderer in the desert who finds the oasis and the water. Solitude has worked very well for me for the last twenty nine years. I enjoy being alone and not lonely. Not that it was easy in the beginning learning to find a balance between the emotional states of the dark days of despair and the carrying of losses. It sometimes seemed an impossible burden for my narrow shoulders but the fact is we all have to find our own true balance in order to interact with the reality of life. And I really wanted to create a good, happy and harmonious life for myself just like everyone does.

Essayist Agnes Repplier wrote: “Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.”

Find your true balance and discover happiness. More solitude, less solitude? It offers space for exploration and reflection. There is nothing to fear and it is still an essential ingredient for that recipe.

• Victoria Sarne is an entrepreneur and writer. She headed a team to establish a shelter for abused women and children in Canada and was its first chairwoman. You can reach her at victoria.conversations@gmail.com, or visit www.lifelineswritingservice.com.