“Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.”
Coleridge “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
I’ll never forget one Sunday morning at home as a kid. We had all gone to Mass and finished breakfast when my parents began preparing to go for a ride in the country. We did things like that in the ‘50’s. Of course my parents presumed that I and my twin and younger brother would be going with them. I remember this particular time, wanting to be like my older brothers and sister, asserting: “I think I’ll stay home today”. They said ok and eventually took off. That meant they would have to drive out of the back, head around the block and probably be stopped by the red light at the corner before turning West on Talcott Avenue and heading out to the country. When I realized that I’d be alone I took off running as fast as I could, out the front door, and down to the corner where they’d be stopped. I made it before they did and at least for that day, escaped being alone. I have not been so successful many other times in my life since then.
In the above TED Talk Martin Pistorius tells of his terrifying alone experience that lasted thirteen years. During that time, Martin learns many lessons like the importance of being able to tell his story, of sharing his life with another person(s), the power of a smile and most importantly the value of solitude.
Celine Da Costa, an Associate Strategist at 360i NYC, brilliantly captures the difference between being lonely and choosing to be alone in her article What Austin Taught Me About Solitude when she writes:
Solitude, I’ve found, is mindfully choosing to be present. This means feeling unencumbered by the weight of our own company, asking questions about our life’s purpose, and more importantly, listening to the answers.
Da Costa also write about the importance of dealing with our demons and not running from them. Running from them, she tells us leads to loneliness, accepting them, leads to solitude. For me, this is key, when I get some time by myself, whether it’s sitting on the shore of Lake Michigan, or rocking in the chair next to a cozy fire in my fireplace, I compassionately accept my life, the good and the bad, the bravery and the fears, all that I am and realize I am good. Of course, when not in such a good frame of mine, I live with loneliness.