Snow Alone – Being Alone Is Not the Same As Being Lonely
The gray clouds that are stretched across my sky today are about to drop 2′ of snow all around my house. For several days, I will be barricaded inside my home and alone. Some people would be panicked by the thought of an extended period of isolation, but that doesn’t bother me at all. Over the years, I have learned to enjoy being alone, and when I finally reached that place in life, I became free.
When I was a child, the thought of being orphaned terrified me, and because I did not feel that I was like everyone else, I worked very hard to be “liked” by them. Playing the popularity game became an obsession for me, and I worked much harder at being liked by other people than I did at being liked by myself.
When I was twenty-years-old, I nearly died in a car accident, and I distinctly remember thinking that in having striven to be popular with the crowd, I had never allowed the real me part of myself to live. That was a partial wake-up call for me, but because that was about marrying time, I began looking for a socially acceptable mate.
Unfortunately, I did not mate for life–my marriage only lasted 18 years–and because of several other factors, I decided not to re-marry. Soon, my children moved away. Although it has taken a few years for me to fully appreciate my being single, I have finally discovered that the only time that I am absolutely myself is when I am by myself. When I am alone, I think better. That is the only time that I can separate my preferences from what the world seems to wish that I would prefer. When no one else is around, I can pace myself by my own, unique clock. I can sleep when I am tired. When I am refreshed, I can awaken. When the muse visits, I can write, and when I feel inspired, I can paint. When I am alone, there is no need to schedule my moods around anyone else, and I have no need to try to guess what the other wants from me. I only have the need to discover what it is that I truly want from myself.
I am a big nature watcher. When the weather permits, I grow a massive garden, and I often sit in my garden–just watching my flowers bloom. I love to walk in the mountains and feel the expansiveness that is there. I love listening to the rain, and I love to watch it snow. If I were with anyone else, none of that would be the same. Chatter would drown the sound of the raindrops, and the other would dwarf the expansiveness of the view from the peak, and the presence of the mountains would not be the same at all.
If someone else were in the same room with me, I would not sit for hours at a time and stare out the window. I would not have the same enjoyment of watching the birds feed themselves and watching the snow’s dance that quietly and gently alters the world, one flake at a time. When someone else is involved in moments like these, we feel the need to interact with the other person. When that occurs, we no longer are part of the moment that we are watching unfold. We lose our opportunities for mindfulness.
We are living in a culture that seems to pay lip homage to mindfulness, but many do not realize that being alone is the key to mindfulness. Mindfulness is not a state that you can share. When a person is fully mindful, he is absolutely within himself–at his own absolute core. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot be a participant in a group–not even in a small group of two–and become totally mindful. Mindfulness is about being alone. Please deposit that note in your mental bank.
On the other side of the coin and back to popular opinion, l realized long ago that society is suspicious of people who opt to be alone. Mindful or not, the solitary people are classified as the cat ladies and the toothless crones who grow herbs and live in dark cottages on the fringes of the forest. The world view is that those alone should be pitied. Popular opinion is that the alone are isolated because no one wants them; they were rejected.
That may be true, but the good news is that rejected or not, the alone do not have to be lonely. Being alone and being lonely are not the same. The lonely person is still invested in the myth that other people are the key to his happiness. When that is the case, the isolated are saddened by aloneness.
Consider this: Very rarely do married couples die at the same time. When one person from a couple dies, the other is still left alone. Aloneness will inevitably become part of almost everyone’s existence. I advise people to begin cultivating their aloneness long before that happens.
It might seem that I am advising everyone to dump their partners and to immediately jump back into the life of being single, but I am not. I actually abhor divorce, and I rarely advocate it. In fact, I would even love to find a truly compatible mate; yet, I propose that everyone find spaces within their unions that allow each person to celebrate himself, as an individual. Only from somewhere within one’s own, individual being, can a person’s ship finally begin to sail. We must learn to love that spot, that harbor within our own spirits. That is the place that we learn to cradle ourselves. That is the pillow where we will finally rest our heads.
©Jacki Kellum January 22, 2016