It was a beautiful bright day riding my bike through Key West, much like yesterday’s cycling trip. The sky was a vivid blue and the wind was blowing gently masking the sun’s searing rays. Once again I slathered the sun block on all exposed skin, wore a hat and continued my exploration of this small and tightly packed party island.
I love my bike trips, many of which are solitary experiences. My husband doesn’t ride and my friends who do aren’t here. It’s just me, my bike, the scenery and my thoughts which flow unencumbered by conversation. Sometimes so many ideas flow through my mind I need to stop and record them on my phone for evaluation at a later time. Other times it’s meditative to ride at an even pace and coast when something grabs my attention for a closer look.
Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.
I also find myself receptive to new people and while it’s usually true that strangers tend to keep to themselves, they’re unusually responsive to friendly repartee when I’m alone. The art gallery manager from Michigan explained how he and his wife stopped for a day in Key West during a cruise and decided to move here. That was in 2002. We talked for probably 15 minutes.
Somehow the idea of being alone became equated to loneliness and nothing could be farther from the truth. Loneliness surfaces from a depressed state, one which rises from a sense of lack. Being alone lacks nothing. There is no void, just a contentedness for being where you are, doing what you’re doing and enjoying your own company.
Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.
Theologian Paul Tillich
In fact I do many things alone, always have. I’ve never required a companion to see a movie, theater, shop, have a restaurant meal, attend an event, visit a city, take a vacation – you name it and I’ve done it alone. I get together with friends when I want to see them and share experiences. My husband comes along when he’s interested in doing the same thing at the same time, but in truth our interests are overlapping circles that share about 20 percent of the same space.
What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.
Mostly I’m a loner who also has friends. I’ve never identified with people who deny themselves experiences if they can’t find a companion. Frankly, I know a lot of people who have felt very lonely in the company of others, and that includes some married couples.
I don’t live in solitude but I seek its experience everyday. Alone feels good, it percolates with a vibrancy that strengthens intuition. And intuition is the juice that powers wise decision-making. I always allow it to have pre-eminence over my mind because it speaks the truth.
Read below for many delicious thoughts about solitude.