For some time now I have battled with loneliness. I thought the answer was to increase my social life and make new friends. Although this helped, it only alleviated the problem temporarily. I had to learn to be comfortable in my own skin. I recently discovered that loneliness is less to do with being disconnected from others and more to do with being disconnected from one’s self.
Earlier this year I read and completed “Calling in the One – 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of your Life”, by Katherine Woodward Thomas. Of course the old adage came up that no-one will love you until you love yourself. This is something that everyone parrots and let’s face it, we all know that. The question is how do we learn to love ourselves? That seems to be where I get stuck.
Thomas quotes American poet Marianne Moore, “The best cure for loneliness is solitude.” Thomas goes on to say, “many of us who have come to know solitude have done so with great reluctance and resistance.” We dread being alone and instead we drug ourselves with distractions and addictions to food, TV, internet, games, sex, alcohol and more. Thomas reports that after practicing solitude for a while, “one day the loneliness was gone. In its place was a sense of peace and stillness. She continues, “I wasn’t thrilled to be single and alone but ultimately I was OK with it, because I was OK with me.”
Thomas suggests taking between 5 and 15 minutes every day just sitting in stillness; with no TV, no book, no journal, no phone or anything. On top of this she suggests spending down days or time with the TV, phone and internet switched off for a day or a few hours and pass the time in solitude, walking, reading, writing, meditating, playing soft music, doing light exercise or playing with pets. Now I have to admit to having some resistance to these exercises. I reasoned with myself that as I spent time in meditation most days it was unnecessary to sit in stillness on top of that. I spend half an hour in the car without the radio on and counted that as my down time. Deep down I knew that my resistance to solitude indicated that it was exactly what I needed but still I put it off.
It seems the universe had other ideas and a few weeks later I found myself without my laptop for a week. My laptop, which doubles as my TV and radio, had gone to be repaired. During the week it wasn’t so bad as I was working and commuting to London and I didn’t have much time to get bored or lonely. However as I got the train home on Friday, the weekend loomed over me like a big, black cloud.
I spent Saturday morning with my Grandma and Auntie and then returned home to my empty flat. I was exhausted from my week of commuting so I went to bed for a nap. When I awoke I felt terrible. I was incredibly tired, depressed and lonely. I had a date planned for the evening but I cancelled it as I couldn’t face it. I lay in bed for 45 minutes with thoughts chasing around my head. Eventually I began sobbing. I was at the depths of despair. Then I smiled through my tears as I remembered Lee Harris’s April energy forecast. Harris recounts a time a few years ago when he was so depressed that he was suicidal and what kept him from committing the act was the certainty that after the darkness comes the light. He had experienced low times before and they had always preceded something great. He had never been as low as this before and he was curious to see what was coming next.
As I tasted the salt of my tears on my lips, I remembered that salt water is used to cleanse negative energy. I had the option of a date and I’d also been invited out by friends, and I was lonely. Nevertheless I wanted to be alone. I decided it was time to face my fear of loneliness and “invite it in for tea” as Thomas suggests.
I got up, dried my tears and cooked a healthy dinner. I burned incense and took a cleansing sea salt bath. I spent the evening reading, “The Way of the Essenes. Christ’s Hidden Life Remembered.” As serendipity would have it I read about Simon, the lead character, coming face to face with solitude and dealing with his inner demons. I enjoyed a lovely, peaceful evening. The next morning I awoke feeling a little apprehensive about another day of solitude ahead but as I got up and starting preparing my breakfast I felt my anxiety slipping away. I spent the day reading, writing and meditating. I did break my solitude a couple of times to check my emails and Facebook on my phone and I also called a dear friend.
Usually in such circumstances I would have turned to food or alcohol for comfort however the most I overate was a couple of handfuls of Pringles and no alcohol passed my lips except for a glass of wine on Friday evening.
The result of my time in solitude was that I felt amazing. I was refreshed and rejuvenated and I had an amazing inner peace. At 4pm on Sunday I was actually disappointed that my weekend of solitude was coming to an end. The weekend was a blessing and I intend to create more opportunities for solitude in my life.