Solitude and Strength
My girlfriend is currently starring in a film here in New York City. It’s all very top secret and I’m very excited for her and the opportunity it represents for her artistic career. But, it also means she’s not been around much these past weeks and won’t be for a few more. I miss her, a lot, and that got me thinking about whether mine is simply a healthy feeling of her absence or some kind of co-dependent angst or existential loneliness.
So, I’ve interrogated my feelings these past few days and come to the conclusion that what I’ve got is a healthy dose of plain ol’ missing my gal: the thrill of her flirty, filthy or informational emails, texts and phone calls; the feeling of her warm, sexy body against mine; having regular sex; playing together in NYC and being available at random times when we might call each other to meet at Union Square for coffee or Greely Square for the same or just hook up for dinner somewhere we are both near–or can get to with a Metrocard. Or even staying over at each other’s apartments. We still do that, but all sleep and no play makes Stephanie (and her girlfriend) a little pissy.
I hear and see a lot of lesbians being—single and not—feeling lonely, both in and out of relationships. And, I think there is a distinction that needs to be made between being lonely and being alone. Loneliness is, as defined by Miriam-Webster Online, as “producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation” while alone is defined as: “considered without reference to any other.”
The difference between the two, often confused, is a major one. In her article, "The Difference Between Solitude and Loneliness," Dr. Jackie Black (whom I am not in any way endorsing, by the way) writes:
According to Richard J. Foster, solitude is an inner fulfillment, while loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is a voluntary retreat from the company of other people and loneliness seems beyond our control. And Paul Tillich writes, "Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone."
To me, these are both apt descriptions that deserve a closer look. Today we live in an economic depression where finances, employment, housing, healthcare—and relationships have become tenuous. People are feeling the pain of many things, not the least of finding out they are in many ways alone. What’s that saying? You live alone, you die alone. I don’t know precisely the quote, but it’s something like that. We live in a social society where we are indoctrinated to believe we always need the assistance and presence of other people to survive and thrive. Well, sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. We are also indoctrinated to believe we need to build an intimate relationship with just one person to be acceptable. I don’t believe it. I also don’t believe that any of us needs to feed her loneliness by beating herself up just because she doesn’t have said exclusive intimate relationship.
We all have (or can intentionally forge) various kinds and types of meaningful relationships not just to abate loneliness, but to enrich our lives. One kind of those relationships is with ourselves. Dr. Black also indicates, in the same article as above,
Solitude is the ability to enjoy inward quietness. Times of solitude are frequently enriching and refreshing if we use them wisely. When we choose times of limited seclusion we often experience new perspectives that help us know more fully the things that really matter. Solitude is the prerequisite for creativity and the place in which we can discover the treasure chest of tranquility and serenity and all their benefits.
I believe we as individuals and a community (or communities), need to take stock, sit back, relax and experience a little solitude, stir up some individual strength and creativity and build a new relationship with ourselves.
I still can’t wait ‘til my girlfriend finishes shooting, but meanwhile I’m being very productive in the calm and creative and realms.
Blogger Bio: Stephanie Schroeder is a dreamer, wanderer and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She likes to exchange apartments with artists and other interesting folks from around the globe and travel in search of new friends and singular experiences. She makes purple a way of life and also fancies green, purple’s complementary color on the color wheel. (stephanieschroeder.com)