Sunday, March 01, 2009

Anne Lindbergh, Part 2 of 3: on Solitude

“How one hates to think of oneself as alone. How one avoids it. It seems to imply rejection or unpopularity… We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen,” says Lindbergh. What do you think? Is this a struggle for you? Do you find yourself filling the space, the silence, unable to bear the risk of boredom or isolation?

“Even if family, friends, and movies should fail, there is still the radio or television to fill up the void. Women, who used to complain of loneliness, need never be alone any more. We can do our housework with soap-opera heroes at our side. Even daydreaming was more creative than this; it demanded something of oneself and it fed the inner life. Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke out the space with continuous music, chatter, and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone.

“It is a difficult lesson to learn today – to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week. ” Gifts from the Sea, pp. 41-42

Now, even more than when she wrote those words 50 years ago, we have that same chatter. I find myself seldom eating, if I’m alone, without a book or catalog or magazine in hand; I constantly check for messages in all the multitude of ways one can receive them these days, and I almost always choose being with people over being alone. Yet even with such a strong preference against it, I need that time alone, I need the quiet.

“Every paid worker, no matter where in the economic scale, expects a day off a week and a vacation a year. By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class. They rarely even complain of their lack, apparently not considering occasional time to themselves as a justifiable need.” pp. 48-49

Again, you who are wives and mothers may find yourselves in these words more than others, but the tensions are not limited to one population, are they?

1 comment:

Dean Smith said...

Doesn't the need or tolerance for solitude have a lot to do with our personality type. Some people process from within and they need solitude to do that. Others process by bouncing off of others and they can't tolerate solitude. I am one of the former. But I have learned to also use the later to advantage sometimes.