“Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.”
― Honoré de Balzac
Are you really alone, I wonder as I glance around the room. There are no other living creatures here with me. No dog to beg attention, no spouse, no screaming children, no living organisms (besides perhaps what’s growing in the refrigerator). I’ve got groovy tunes playing, I’ve got the fans blowing fresh air in my face, and in all honesty I feel like crap. I’m okay with that, and I’m taken back to my more literary days and a quote from perhaps Shakespeare “let me pine away in my own anguish.”
Being sick in the past, I thrived on having people dote over me. As a kid my mom would nurture me with all the things she thought would feel better – I tried some of those things, they didn’t quite work, they just made me miss my mom. Laying in bed the other day, sick as a dog, I realized I was alone, but only on a cellular sense, and in more ways I have more company being completely alone than I ever did in my adult life with people actually “being there”. Sure it would have been nice to have soup delivered to my bedside (which can turn into a messy event – not that it happened – but I can put two and two together).
The act of someone actually being in “solitude” in these modern days is almost unheard of. With so much technology swarming throughout, it takes two swipes and you can have almost anything that you want through your smart handheld device. Grab your phone, open your last couple of windows, all of that denotes non-solitude. Be it social media, text message, phone calls, hell, even checking your bank account conjures up some sort of non solitude. In a social media experiment I grabbed my phone from my pale face sick state and posted on Facebook, not trying to be a narcissist, but to see what happened, about my state of being.
It wasn’t because I was looking for sympathy, as much as it might seem that way. I just wanted to see who actually pays attention and to see how long it takes a person to read their news feed and to respond. I was honestly expecting at least an hour before any sort of reaction, knowing there are a few people, whom I love dearly, like just about anything I put out there. It was incredible in less than a minute I had this vibrating smart phone next to me in bed alerting me that I wasn’t alone. From that second my phone kept buzzing – people giving loving advice, people I hadn’t seen in maybe a decade, people that work with me, the entire gamut.
Beyond that, as superficial as social media can be at times, I was also getting messages from my dear several states away on an hourly level making sure that everything was going okay. Between the phone calls and messages, it was almost like he was right here with me. The technology bridged the gap of distance and made solitude something that seemed like it couldn’t exist. Although he wasn’t physically there, neither were any of the social media people, but I sincerely felt that they had their thoughts, prayers, and love right there with me. Instead of being in bed sick, feeling alone, I felt like there were so many cyber people (not total strangers in a chat room sense) right there with me.
It helped me in so many ways, but there was an entire other aspect the the solitude spectrum that never came into play until I got sick. Perhaps it was the fever sweats, puking, and loss of oxygen to my brain because of that that made me finally realize that solitude and loneliness are two totally different things.
“To everybody I replied, “Go away, you’re making me nervous.”
-Jack London from John Barleycorn
For years I tried to surround myself with cellular beings, not knowing that you alone can be your own best friend, and only after being sick and thinking back to the book John Barleycorn did things start clicking. Looking back at the text (Kindle is amazing, you can highlight passages and stuff) I made notes on so many things that I wanted for myself but wasn’t able to provide. Sure, the book is about overcoming alcoholism, but it’s also more about becoming more empowered. You can take care of yourself, you shouldn’t have to rely on something else to do it for you, in the book it was his pension for drinking, for me it was needing someone around me all the time.
I want people around me, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time solitude has been a peaceful event for me. I can ignore the outside world and get lost in my thoughts, enjoy myself and surrounding, even watch the dumbest tv shows in the world without worrying about judgement or fear. Most of the time I get lost into my old psychedelic rock and hippy jams and draw parallels between the tunes of yester-decade and today. It’s one of those things that I can typically only do in solitude, nobody else would understand.
Like…the version of “Feelin’ Alright” by Traffic – fronted by Dave Mason is a less superior version than the version of Joe Cocker BUT I like Traffic better
Perplexed…The album “John Barleycorn Must Die” and the fact that the book John Barleycorn are two of my favorite pieces of work by – um – writers of some sort, but ironically they both carry very different messages.
Or…Neil Young performing “Helpless” on the last waltz might be my favorite tune to cry to, but I hate the Band, but I’ll watch the video anyways.
And…why exactly do I hate The Band, what did they do to me anyways”
Or…Lou Reed was an amazing talent, why was he tossed around as much as Eric Clapton, was he sort of a legend in his own mind too?
Moral of the story, loneliness is your decision. If you feel you’re alone, you’re not really, not by a long shot. You might be experiencing solitude, which in and of itself is a peaceful, loving embrace that you should make the most of…unless you’re in solitary confinement….but if you were, chances are you wouldn’t be reading this anyways. Besides, you’re not really alone, there are always”But the the guards.
“But the real and lasting victories are those of peace and not war”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson