Loneliness and Solitude

“In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“When from our better selves we have too long been parted by the hurrying world, and droop. Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, how gracious, how benign is solitude.”

William Wordsworth

We often know what we need, before we think we need it. Let me put that another way. We often know what decision we need to make, way before we decide to take the steps to make it. It’s like our heart (soul/spirit / inner-self ) knows exactly what we need to do instantly, while our outer, overly critical overly thinking self needs to warm up to it.

Sometimes we need space. Sometimes we need connection. Life is a mixture of both.

I have this tendency to check out whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, anxious or under the weather. All I want to do is crawl away from all the noise and find somewhere quiet to be with myself. Vegging out is a tempting mistress (and I find myself marathoning random shows more than I care to admit) but what I’m really seeking is a silent place to be alone with myself. I’m not checking out of myself, I’m checking out of the world. I’m checking out of the external and checking into the internal.

So, I’ll avoid responding to texts. I’ll be more reluctant to answer email, and more reclusive to going to events or friendly invitations. Even if it’s something I’d normally love doing, I’ll avoid it. Because what I know I really need is space and breathing room to be alone with myself. (Note: better to let your friends know you need some solitude, versus ignore them for days.)

Ask yourself, when was the last time you were alone with yourself? No phone. No tv. No distractions. Just you and you. (And maybe a notebook and pen.)

Whether we know it or not. We all need solitude. Our best ideas come from giving ourselves space. That’s why all great ideas happen when you are driving alone in your car, going on an early walk, or standing in the shower as the sound of water drowns out the outer world.

There are other occasions, usually, when things are tough or sour, where all we want to avoid people (particularly the prying people closest to us), and yet we know (and try to ignore) we need help and the only way we are gonna get that help is to be around people (again, particularly the prying people closest to us). We don’t want to show that we are hurting. We don’t want to show our weakness. And yet we all know that’s exactly what we need to do.

Better to rip the bandage and reveal our wounds early, otherwise, they might fester and become worse. Sharing our weaknesses and scars is a part of what being a human being is about. I think it’s a component of storytelling that’s built into our DNA. Your story connects to my story and vice versa.

You might not always get the reaction you were hoping, but you at least likely won’t get the reaction you are expecting.

The difference between needing space and needing people is subtle. It takes some time (and a lot of patience) to be able to listen to yourself and figure out which you need. I think what we are seeking is similar — a level of clearheadedness or balance — but what drives each comes from different things. Whatever you think you need, it’s usually the opposite. Unless you are extremely in tune with your emotional wellbeing. If you are like the rest of us emotionally unintelligent work’s in progress(es), there are road signs you can watch out for —

Loneliness. Isolation. Feeling like you need to do and take care of everything yourself. These are signs that you need to be around people. Ideally, people that are smarter than you, care about you, and what to help and see you succeed.

Overwhelm. Overstimulated. Grumpy and feeling like everyone in the world is an idiot or out to get you. These are signs that you need to be alone with yourself. Ideally in nature. Or in a quiet place, you won’t be interrupted.

Ignore these signs at your own peril.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #841

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