The air of solitude and the weight of loneliness

Walking trail near my house

What is the difference between loneliness and solitude?

I’ve been acquainted with both lately.

Loneliness has weight and texture. It is heavy on your shoulders and piercing between your eyes.

It is itchy and impatient.

Loneliness is achingly silent, a restless quiet that inspires screaming. Crying. Assuming, judging, complaining, overreacting.

Loneliness is agitation with coworkers. Impatience with children. Cereal for dinner. Loneliness is both restless and inactive. It is forgetting who and what can help you. Loneliness is internalizing external circumstances in a way that makes it very difficult to be productive or passionate.

Solitude, on the other hand…

Solitude is airy, meditative. It has neither scent nor color. It is purposeful, chosen, a sprig of fresh mint in your tea.

It is a coffee shop patio under a shade tree, people-watching long after your sandwich is gone. Solitude is a telescope at the end of the driveway, a 1 a.m. viewing of Mars. It is exactly the right music while writing in a journal you’ll share only with your daughter when she arrives at such a time.

It is riding your bicycle to the river, where a flood once raged, and walking across the water on the tops of rocks. Solitude is parking your car at the top of the hill and dancing on the shoulder of the highway, alone. It is arriving intentionally early to the bar a half hour before you tell your friends to meet you.

Solitude is a moonlit run, coffee at dawn, a walk at sunset.

Solitude is the time after we die and the time before we are born. Solitude is God and a creative, imaginative space.

In loneliness, we are chained to our own minds.

In solitude, we are part of the world.

It is possible to shift a spell of bitter loneliness to a season of sweet solitude. Turn the music on. Raise your hand. Write. Read. Exercise. Eat a real meal. Light a candle and take a bath. Call the people who love you; there are a million of them. Look at the stars. Dance in the street.

Do this, please: Write down every detail so that the next time you are lonely, you will know that this – this, too – shall pass. One day, love, you will call it “solitude” and long for it.

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11 thoughts on “The air of solitude and the weight of loneliness

  1. So beautiful! I’m working on discerning the two as well.
    I also think we’re pressured to be very social in this society, the number of facebook friends we have is seen as some indication of success. Enjoying and valuing the time you spend alone is a tricky thing to accomplish.
    Thanks for this! I’m inspired now.

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  3. Exceptional. Nothing less. Makes my mind wander back to Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.

    Used interchangeably in every day life, albeit, when it really comes down to it, the two couldn’t possibly be any more different.

    However, because society largely dictates solitude as an undesirable destination or state of mind, being solitary is far too often equated with being lonely.

    Excellent. Thanks.

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