Thoughts on Solitude

I am used to being alone at home, but in the past it was after work. Now there is no work and I am at home for days at a time. I think a lot. At this time of my life I look back. Sometimes I have to laugh at who I was. But what an interesting life.

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In the just past chapter of my life I ran a cafe and so every day I met new people or regular customers would drop in. I cooked and baked and made coffee and tea for people every day of the week. I hosted poetry readings, an amazing variety of music, special dinners, and other events. There was always something in the works.

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Now, however, I live in a small quiet town where I can count on one hand how many people I know. Although I still bake, most of it goes in the freezer or I give it away to, for example, my sister or the lady who takes me to the laundromat. Certainly no one just drops by and most of the new people I meet are not much interested in hearing my Istanbul stories.

So, I am becoming well acquainted with solitude. I am used to being busy, so when the highlight of the day is biking to the supermarket or taking out the garbage, it is kind of sad. I don’t feel very useful and now that I am older and my hair is mostly gray, I feel that I am often dismissed in passing. I stopped in to several shops to give in my resume, but since I am a stranger and there is no one to recommend me, I did not have much luck.

The last time I tried to live in Canada I fell into a very deep depression. I can tell I am a little depressed once in a while, because I tear up at odd times. However, I try to keep myself occupied with reading stuff on the internet, playing games, reading a lot, and watching YouTube movies in the evening as I make baby sweaters or hats or whatever.

I have had a very interesting life and this is a good time to reflect on it. I started a new blog (yani) and use some of my photos to write about my travels and adventures. Although quite a few of the old group emails I wrote have disappeared (these were before blogs), I still have some and post those on the blog. It is akin to slide shows in the past except that people have the option to read them, instead of being forced to sit politely in the dark while I describe my trip to wherever.

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I write about some of the books I have read (though a lot of them are quite forgettable). Reading is kind of a luxury. To do it you have to sit or lie quietly, so it looks like you aren’t doing anything. But reading takes you away into a good story or good characterization. It engages the mind in analyzing the worth of the book or how the story or character relates to me. If the reading is nonfiction, it enlarges the mind. However, just because I am not moving, it does not mean that some part of me is not working.

These days I feel a bit like a bit of flotsam floating along on one of the many lakes or rivers around here. I am a stranger and people in this town don’t take to strangers. I can’t find work because I don’t know someone who knows someone. However, I have developed a routine where I consult with the internet and read a lot.

When I had the cafe and was not busy I could always find busywork. I could do some deep cleaning or bake something, or whatever. Now I have a very small place that I can clean in about 15 minutes, I just moved in, so there is no deep cleaning, and it is too small to wander around in. So when I am home, I am usually sitting with laptop on my lap or sitting outside on the porch smoking or lying around reading or even just thinking. It is a different life, but I have decided that it is temporary until I find other things to do, so I might as well embrace it. If it doesn’t look like I am being busy, THERE IS NO ONE TO SEE IT! Like there was before- ha. But here I can be alone. Sometimes I can be lonely, but mostly I am learning to love solitude.

One of the things that we don’t talk about related to solitude is the freedom to let our bodies make the sounds they do, especially as we get older. Huff and puff, snore and snort, fart and burp. Feels so good. And of course there is the sotto voce talking to myself, though rarely getting an answer. And yes, there are occasional arguments with myself!

I don’t care if I work. In fact, I feel that I have made a conscious decision to not work. I am a retired lady for the time being. I work on whatever I am making, I read, on weekends I usually I get done in a week what I often got done in a day at the cafe. There is no one to do things for, no expectation of another in this space.

I read about the curse of loneliness and how it is a silent killer. But there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. To me, loneliness means that you want to be with another person and you feel the lack. Solitude, on the other hand, means that you are quite content with your own company. Of course I feel lonely sometimes and I miss having friends close by. But it is not the main feeling in my life these days. I like listening to music or TED talks or movies as I make things. I don’t have to entertain people, though I enjoy doing it. I like revisiting old places and people in my mind but I don’t wish to actually be there again.

The pendulum has swung from being social every day to being kind of anti-social. I think part of it is getting older and not needing so much to be looking for new people to get to know. I am not looking for a potential mate and I am not looking for work. I like myself, for the most part, and I am good company. For this year at least solitude works for me.

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6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Solitude

  1. Heartfelt, and well said, Molly. You have come, not full circle, but back to a new/old space, eh? Your approach is admirable. I like solitude, too, which is one reason I went to the mountains when younger. Thanks for the shared insights. & Happy New Year to ya! – – Bruce (Barneyville blog)

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  2. Thank you for this, Molly. I, too, enjoy my solitude, even though I’m happily married to a man I enjoy being with. There are certain things about getting older that aren’t so bad. I still miss being able to see you at your cafe!

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  3. I find much the same, as I was always used to ‘doing’ for family, and now I’m lucky to have kids/grandkids around 3-4 times a year. I love pouring over cookbooks (the new vegan and paleo ones have some fantastic recipes) as we both love food and enjoy cooking. However, unlike you, as an only child, I have always enjoyed and been used to my own company. I am never bored. I have a card with this quote: “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” (John Burroughs) Exactly. I want to write Harvey’s story, I want to knit for the next grandchild, I want to read my book, I want to walk the dogs, I want to go to the gym, I want to go “thrift shopping”, and on and on.
    I volunteer at the Humane Society’s thrift shop one morning a week. As to work, I am now too hard of hearing to deal with the public or answer the phone, so I have totally let go of that. It is frustrating and humbling to not be able to hear well enough to do so many things…. even at the thrift shop I have to explain why when I can’t understand someone. Going to the movie is just too frustrating, so we wait until it comes out on DVD and I can watch with subtitles! I DO read a lot…. I love to read. It is my refuge. All the same…. I love this small town life: knowing the people who wait on you in stores and restaurants; knowing where to go for what; having a group of friends at the gym who know and greet you; walking in the park when snow is falling (this morning!).
    I know you, Molly, and you have always been very social and needed people around you. You will find your niche again, or re-make your life as you want it to be. It just takes time. It’s taken a year for me to feel like this little town is HOME. We are not moving on, we are here. Katy

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  4. Being an Expat / returning home is never easy. Or maybe it’s an age thing and we need to travel down a different path. I love my own company but also suffer from loneliness. What to do?? Bilmiyorum…f**k knows but I keep travelling down my road and try to make peace with it. All I do know is that when I do look back things make sense. Hoping the future will make sense as well, eventually. Be patient, learning different lessons/experiences….all part of life!

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