Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lonely People -- Surviving Solitude

Because I live alone, people assume I’m lonely. But most of the time, I’m not.

I like creating and following my own schedule: eating what and when I want. Watching and reading what and when I want. Taking walks whenever. Driving up into the mountains, or not. Plus, I’m a writer. Writing and the pondering that precedes it, is a solitary pursuit. And when it clicks, writing is an all-consuming joy, barely interrupt-able. Energizing and enormously satisfying.

I’ve lived alone for more than 20 years; since my younger son moved out. For many of those years, I was working – part of an organizational community for a good chunk of every day. Alone, only in the evenings.

Then I retired.

It became essential to develop routines that balanced solitude and community. Now I can go for months using my standard survival techniques.

One of them is my system for eating alone. I take two papers: one local, another national. I read the local at breakfast; the special sections of the national paper (art, science, dining) at lunch, and the first section (international and national news and editorials) at dinner. I rarely read books at a meal. Soiling a book’s pages is too great a risk.

I deliberately build encounters with other people into many of my days – going to a store, or the library or a restaurant for lunch – any place where I will talk to other people.

Belonging to a group is important. Especially if it is a group comprised of people with a shared purpose, with whom I can be completely honest. I am part of a writers group.
I am also part of a congregation. Going to church on Sundays is actually the easy part. I also have responsibilities that permeate my weeks. Sometimes they are overwhelming but mostly, they are rewarding. Often I discover myself energized when I am with people who share similar perspectives on the sacred and the decidedly un-sacred.

And I volunteer for one or two community service projects.

It’s a matter of balancing solitude and society. As long as these are balanced, I survive and even thrive.

And I am not lonely.

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