Book Review: Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho is one of my literary gaps – I’d heard of him, meant to read him, yet never got around to him until now. Is Manuscript Found in Accra the best introduction to him? I don’t know, but this slim novel – if “novel” is the right word – gives me plenty to think about. Read More Book Review: Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

The Freedom of Solitude

What’s wrong with being alone these days?

Why does solitude get such a bad rep?

Why is it that when friends call and demand to know if I’m alone, I always feel an immediate sense of guilt and shame when I say that yes, yes I am alone, so help me God. Read More The Freedom of Solitude

On Solitude

My live-in partner has been gone for almost a month. Now before we go assuming the absolute worst, let me clarify ““ when I say gone, I mean gone to a few weddings, a sister visit and some babying from the parents in beautiful, sunny California. Rough, I know. Meanwhile, I’m still back in my hot, grimy city, working the grind and enjoying every minute I have of my time alone.

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a confession from a resentful woman about to go wrong or a red flag. I just enjoy being alone. Solitude is one of my favorite states of being and the times I am able to enjoy such, while rare, are like miniature vacations where I can indulge in myself.

 “With a rubber duck, one’s never alone.” – Ernie

There’s something very stigmatizing about women and the act of choosing solitude. Perhaps it’s the cultural fear instilled in us of the consequences of choosing such: the idea of “settling,” the possibility that you’ll never get married or have kids, dying from choking on a meatball, alone in your apartment. These fears regulate solitude as something to be wary of, a possible fault in one’s personality that obviously just needs to be fixed with just some good companions.  One can instantly project the hyper-manic cat lady personas or clingy, desperate stereotypes, even Virginia Woolf-like suspicions on any woman who declares her value of being “okay” with being alone. “Don’t you get lonely?” “Don’t you need more friends?” “Maybe you should join a support group.”

While these kind-hearted, yet misplaced suggestions can be helpful in other situations, being alone– by choice– can be a relief, a time to collect one’s self. A meditative period, no matter how long. The loving suggestions above imply that if one is alone, it is by force and that loneliness is somehow connected with solitude, each somewhat pathetic in its own way.

 “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”  – Audre Lorde

One of the amazing things about solitude is that it gives one a space of one’s own. Yes, it’s a completely selfish and involved space, but sometimes, we need to be able to give that to ourselves. I won’t get too granola on everybody, but even as much work that needs to go into creating “good” or bettering one’s surroundings, one actually has to be emotionally ready to do that in the first place. As stated in Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters, “Wholeness is no triflin matter.” One has to have the emotional and mental foundation ““ the inner gut feeling that says, “Actually…” when everyone else around you is screaming at the top of their lungs that it’s otherwise. It becomes a way for us to ease into ourselves, however uncomfortable we may be with seeing what happens when we are just confronted with who we are, faults and all. Sometimes, we need to just explore who that person actually is without all the external noise to realize what exactly it is that we have inside of us that is worthy of sharing.

I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Solitude is a time of settling. In all that we have to give out in every day, whether it be of work, relationships, just the daily haul, sometimes we become emotionally drained. The empty space that solitude is allows for reflection and decompression– for stepping back from everything that is demanded of you and knowing when to give and when not to.

Being alone allows me to heal from all the anxieties I have experienced throughout my week. There are days where it feels like I am guarded by absolute fear, full of naysaying demons; every action and sentence is forced into a bout of second-guessing or heavy criticism. While all these thoughts can be helpful sometimes in checking myself before wrecking myself, other times they are just overwhelming and only serve to create a cycle of self-hatred and doubt. Solitude allows me to attempt to see what parts of my behavior are actually worthy of criticism and what parts are just easy targets. I can hear myself again.

Where do you carve out empty pockets to have for yourself? Is solitude getting a bad rap with the ladies?  What are the things that benefit you in having that quiet, alone time?