On being alone, solitude and writing

My children are away at summer camp and visiting my parents in Northern Ontario for most of the summer.  I know, it’s a long time, but before anyone goes and gets all judgy let me explain.

In my culture (Native American, Aboriginal, First Nations) it’s quite common for extended family such as Aunties, Uncles and Grandparents to have a role in child-rearing responsibilities.  When they are old enough, children spend time with extended family members in their communities and it enriches their lives.  I don’t live near my family, so summer holidays is the time that my children get to have long visits with my parents, go to summer day camp and just be out of this large polluted city that we live in.  It’s important to me that my children have a connection to my home community, the culture and my huge family.

But that’s not my point.  How quickly I get off track.

My point is that I have been spending a lot of time at home alone in the evenings.  Up until this summer, it was just my daughter that was spending the summer with the grandparents.  This is the first summer that my son is also up north with them.  They are having a great time and I’m looking forward to them coming home this weekend to spend a few days before they go back for the last three weeks of summer day camp.

I enjoy the quiet, but my missing them comes and goes and I have spent many evenings at home alone not really sure what to do with myself.  I’m used to always being on the go, rushing to my next appointment.  Being alone has been kind of weird.  So, in response to that I have started to indulge myself in two solitary activities – walking, and writing.

I’ve always enjoyed long walks and leisurely strolls.  I’m a walker.  I have been walking home from work, which is a great way to clear my mind of the day, and get some exercise.  By the time I get home, all the problems and dilemmas that I have been dealing with all day at work, are gone.  Walking is my daily meditation.

This summer, I have also gained an understanding and appreciation for the Writer’s need for solitude.  Intellectually, I understood this when I would hear other writer’s talk about it.  But really, my understanding never went beyond that because, well, I am rarely ever alone long enough to experience true Solitude.  Also, I don’t think I ever really understood what Solitude really was.  It’s different from being alone and loneliness.

I get it now.  And maybe that is my gift and lesson to learn from being away from my kids for this long.  I miss them and sometimes it gets lonely in the evenings.  When I start to feel that way, I open my laptop and I write down all the thoughts and ideas in my head that are now magnified by my alone-ness.  Writing keeps me company, and is teaching me that being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely.

Solitude is an under-rated virtue that I am lucky to have been blessed with in these last few weeks.  It is an essential component in living a creative life.

One Echinaccea flower

P.S – I still can’t wait until the kids are back and making noise and a mess of my house.


5 thoughts on “On being alone, solitude and writing

  1. Erin J. Lavelle

    I have encountered the same dilemma when my kids are away (which is rare); I don’t quite know what to do with myself. Wonderful post. Have you read May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude? It talks a lot about this same idea — the need for solitude. Thanks so much for the follow!

    1. callmeshebear Post author

      Hi Erin. Thank you! I have not read Journal of Solitude but I will look it up. Sounds great. I’m loving the solitude but I am also really looking forward to when my kids come home tomorrow for a long weekend. One more sleep. Can’t wait! And thanks for the follow back! 🙂

  2. The Citywide Mental Health Project

    Beautifully expressed insight. Hmm. In my case it’s the other way around: I have spend so much time alone in the last 10 years that, now that I’m involved in social issues in my community, I don’t know how to handle so many people and activities. I miss my solitude and, why not, my loneliness. I suppose that balance in life is achieved by going to the poles; then, hopefully, you find your middle point. Then move to the poles freely, fearlessly and mindfully by your own design, or not. Thanks for the pause.


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