Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Occasionally I am given the opportunity to be completely alone. Not just an hour snatched here and there – but the opportunity to be alone for a long stretch of time. I almost always feel guilty about claiming that time. There are so many things that need doing, so many ways that the world tells me to just join in, to make friends, to stay busy, to return that call, to send another email. It is surprisingly hard to claim the right to solitude. The poet David Whyte has written in his poem, “The House of Belonging”…
“This is the temple of my adult aloneness
And I belong to that aloneness
As I belong to my life.”
Claiming the need for solitude feels sometimes like nearly a matter of life and death to me. I have a happy life, a good marriage, wonderful children. My need for solitude does not deny those things. It lives alongside of them. Stretches of time to follow my own muse, on my own time table. Not necessarily to meditate for hours on end, or to write the great American novel, nor to write a list of resolutions. But simply to see again who I am when I am not responding to the world around me. What are my desires? How DO I want to spend time? What touches my heart? What am I really hungry for? Such questions as these arise from within during times of solitude. They are questions that take stretches of time to answer or to even begin to answer. Nor do I mean to use my precious solitude to find “Answers” – but, even just sometimes to find the questions that nag at me under the radar. Here is another poem by David Whyte which has touched me deeply over the years, addressing all this.
SOMETIMES by David Whyte
Sometimes if you move carefully through the forest, breathing like the ones in the old stories, who could cross a shimmering bed of leaves without a sound, you come to a place whose only task is to trouble you with tiny but frightening requests, conceived out of nowhere but in this place beginning to lead everywhere. Requests to stop what you are doing right now, and to stop what you are becoming while you do it, questions that can make or unmake a life, questions that have patiently waited for you, questions that have no right to go away.
Especially in this time of trouble that we are living through, it feels important to somehow carve out a niche of time, however small to be alone. To follow your own muse… maybe just to nap, read a novel, listen to some music, cook yourself a good meal…. May you find your own “temple of adult aloneness” and may you learn to worship there.