One night during my teen years, I found a tattered copy of Kahlil Gibran‘s THE PROPHET in my parents’ bookcase. I read it and understood for the first time one of the reasons my parents have remained together and in love for decades. They love each other, but respect each other’s individuality first.
On Marriage (excerpt)
by Kahlil Gibran
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
I believe that many writers are deep-feeling, sensitive creatures who long for intense intimacy. We seek deep connections with others, the ability to crawl into our loved ones’ heads, to know others and be known deeply. If we aren’t careful, our interpersonal relationships can fall short of such high expectations. And we can appear frustrated, disappointed and overly complex.
I was living in Paris some years back, feeling lonely and hollow in this never-never land I thought would fulfill and “fix” me when I realized that what I lacked was intimacy with myself–comfort in being alone and connected with me, my thoughts and my feelings. Once I began turning loneliness into enjoyable solitude, the world of writing and other creative pursuits drew me in.
(Click here to listen to my song, “Solitude”, about this experience…)
Once we’ve instilled “sweet solitude” into our lives, we can form and relish intimacy within our craft. This can lead to some of the most authentic, connected relationships anyone can have—not only with others, but with the characters, worlds and stories we create. Think about it. Aside from writers and actors, who else gets the opportunity to step inside others’ lives and minds??? And similar to lasting romantic partnerships, we benefit from time away from it all. (For more information, see my post on writing and rest.)
Nine times out of ten nowadays, I find that any feelings of loneliness that pop up are remedied by time alone with my writing or away from it, particularly if I’ve been in spastic overdrive. I spend lots of time alone now and love it.
Simple Ways to Experience Satisfying Alone Time
- Start waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual to journal, sip tea, meditate or walk.
- Start winding down 30 minutes earlier each night. Turn off anything lit up (phones, computers, TV….) and avoid stimulating activities. Do something restful instead–read a relaxing book, journal, doodle, meditate…
- Rather than eat lunch at the office, pack a lunch to eat outside or in your car.
- Declare “social bankruptcy.” Health and happiness expert Dr. Susan Biali suggests saying “no” to most invites and attending only those that mean the most to you for increased alone time and emotional wellbeing. “The more alone time you get the happier you’ll be,” she says.
- Write for FUN. If writing is your job, set aside time each day or week to write whatever the heck you feel like writing. Let it be “bad.” Don’t judge it. Grab a writing prompt or attempt your first poem. And if you’re working on a novel, approaching the plot and overall with a fun-loving attitude can lead to a fun-to-read end project.
- Partake in a cell phone, social media, TV fast for one day or several hours per week.
- Take a bubble bath while listening to soothing music.
- Prepare and eat a candlelit dinner for one.
- Observe and consider giving up your vices. Rather than deal with our thoughts and emotions, we can fall prey to coping mechanisms, such as overeating, over spending, over drinking and flat out avoidance. The first step in undoing these dependencies is awareness. (Actually changing them may take serious and important effort.)
- Remind yourself that you can’t do everything. Ask for help. For more on easing up on yourself, see my post on letting things slide.)
What about you? Do you find solace through writing or other arts? What do you do to practice and savor alone time?