Understanding Solitude.

‘What I take from my dad’s ‘I don’t compete, I complete’ quote is, when you are complete (meaning you feel whole, and at peace with who you are in life) you don’t feel the need to compete with anyone for anything because you have and are all you need. You are complete.’ Jhene Aiko

In studying things that would otherwise be seen as unnecessary to most people, I have deduced a few things about solitude.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. We can feel overwhelmed because we want to share time, space and longing with other people, but who can you pour to if your cup is empty?

I have been thinking about aloneness, loneliness and solitude of late. One of my goals working with people as an emotional wellness coach is to further understand loneliness and its causes.

I have spoken in private circles about loneliness being the art of not being able to live with oneself, apart from people. The act of wanting to compete with the world instead seek completion in self. Since the lockdown has started, we have been inundated with things that have impacted our way of life. For some, this has come in the form of people wanting to know how people are dating during the lockdown. I find this a very interesting intrusion into people’s psyche. Who says that people want to date during the lockdown, if at all? Personally, I would like to date - but it is not the nexus of my being during this lockdown, and the idea of having a partner is romantic and uplifting for me, but I also get to questioning whether there is lack of understanding how to be with oneself when it comes to relationship. However, I can’t help but think that we are struggling with understanding our own solitude. With understanding what it means to be alone, and the difference it has to loneliness.

Solitude is the journey to finding who you are. Learning who you are. Learning oneself.

I found an interesting, yet rather long, article on Paris Review called ‘Loneliness Is Other People’. Of course, I clicked it and began to delve into the piece. It’s a very interesting account of a young woman’s fledgeling love life in this age of Corona. All the dates she had planned, the time to spend with the person she was seeing, all went down the pan because the world put everyone on punishment. What I found most interesting about this piece, though, was the clarity acquired as she navigated through the lockdown. It’s a clarity that I am sure many of us could be feeling at this point.

We are missing people, but in healthy ways.’ - Alex Reads

The thing is...I am missing people, but not in the way that I was at the beginning of the lockdown.

The need for relationship with one another is human. It is natural. Yet, we forget all of this when it comes to be being in relationship with one another.

One of my favourite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke, returned to me through the On Being podcast, with a quote about marriage and solitude.

A good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of their solitude. And thus, they show each other the greatest possible trust.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter To A Young Poet

I was so consumed by my own ego and wanting to escape into my friends, distractions via dates and other things, I was neglecting the true cause of loneliness: the lack of belonging to oneself, or belonging to myself at all.

There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.

The quietude of being alone is sometimes edifying enough, while loneliness requires a need, want or craving for attention. What are we doing that we can’t give the attention to ourselves, our environments, or our internal spaces?

What do we need to clear up, rearrange and put into order?

It’s not about the things we produce in this lockdown that will complete us or put us up for the best competition when we are released back into the world. I honestly believe that the way the ideal world we step into will be down to the kind of people we are when we rear our heads into the sunrise of the future, and gather our collective consciousness to impact our inner kindness and gratitude, to bring forward a new vision for life here. Let’s spend some time going inward, addressing the things that make us understand ourselves a bit better (because let’s face it, we will never truly know ourselves) and focus on how we can make one another feel as if they belong in the world.


Alex Reads

Suggested Reading list:

Letter To A Young Poet - Rainer Maria Rilke

The Art of Solitude - Stephen Batchelor

Find them, and others, in good company within the Time to Talk Books Reading List.

Thank you for reading.


©2020 by Alex Reads.