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Solitude: A Space to Think

“Many believe that they need company at any cost, and certainly if a thing is desired at any cost, it will be obtained at all costs. We need to remember and to teach our children that solitude can be a much-to-be-desired condition. Not only is it acceptable to be alone, at times it is positively to be wished for. It is in the interludes between being in a company that we talk to ourselves. In the silence, we listen to ourselves. Then we ask questions of ourselves. We describe ourselves, and in the quietude, we may even hear the voice of God.”

― Maya Angelou, Even The Stars Look Lonesome

I was in high school when my mom took me to an organizational therapist. I'm not sure what her title was, but we would meet weekly/ bi-weekly, and she would show me how to organize my entire being. We started with my bookbag, lockers, room, and physical spaces. Then my notebooks and folders. But the power of our meetings was the schedule organization meetings. Creating space in my day to day was powerful. Before her, I didn't use my planner; after her, I couldn't survive without it.

And to be honest, the bulk of our conversations were on the structure of my mental space. I was born a creative. My mind raises from idea to idea - a project to another project. I love creating.

I wasn't "into" academics in high school. I much preferred the arts and service (restoration of buildings, etc.).

So whether it was art supplies, scattered clothes, a random poster, undone homework, or books under my bed - life was cluttered and chaotic. For me, it was liveable until I was in a frenzy, trying to find something.

For my mom, it was like watching a train spiraling off of the tracks.

So, she signed me up for the organizational counselor/therapist...who ever she was. The woman specialized in working with students with forms of ADD/ADHD. And so we met, and she blessed this type-B highschool student with ways to survive (and eventually thrive) in Type-A environments. But the lesson that the counselor taught me that I forever stick to is creating time to think, putting solitude into my daily schedule. My solitude time is not "run-over" work time. I create fluff time for all of my projects; the solitude time is its own space. It stands firmly alone.

“I'm afraid my closely guarded solitude causes some hurt feelings now and then. But how to explain, without wounding someone, that you want to be wholly in the world you are writing about, that it would take two days to get the visitor's voice out of the house so that you could listen to your characters again?" - Margaret Bourke-White

I guarded my solitude time savagely until I became the mother of two.

As a mother of two, I began a cycle or martyrdom or self-sabotage. Sabotaging my creativity and alone time by lying to myself or purposelessly denying myself what I needed.

The cycle of self-sabotage:

  • If I wasn't with one child - I should be with the other.

  • And if I wasn't with both children, I should be with my husband.

  • And if I wasn't with my family, I should be with my extended family or friends.

  • I should never be with myself.

  • And when I was by myself, then I had to be accomplishing something.

  • I mean, how SELFISH to choose to be by myself and not contribute to everyone else's good.

  • Even if the 30 minutes was to have a little self-care, I HAD to have results to show at the end of the time block.

Or, even worse, I needed numbing distractions to help me forget that I was "neglecting" the needs of someone—my preoccupation of choice: my smartphone.

The only issue is that while searching for intrusions, I found an idol in my phone. Instead of taking time to hear God's voice, to listen to my inner-voice - I searched for other people's opinions. So it was nothing for me to spend an entire day listening to everyone else's views, not hearing from the Holy Spirit or my intuition. Outside of my bible time, which sometimes consisted of devotions, and so again, other people's opinions. Some folks may think, so what Shels? Well, the issue is that I don't want to live by flesh alone. I want to live a deeper life - one that satisfies my soul and Spirit. And to go deeper than the physical, one must have solitude—time to explore the inner-person. Time to simply be and to dive deep within ourselves to the inner layers.

“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” — Pablo Picasso

And so currently, I am building my solitude practice.

What solitude looks like for each of us will be different. Some of us may get it daily, others weekly, and others less. I practice a form of digital minimalism and take an hour each day while the boys are resting to sit outside in the quiet (a form of forest bathing). All that can come with me is my bag of books, a water bottle, my journal, and bright sticky notes. I read, but I ponder most of the time. Bill Gates regularly travels to his "cabin" to take a week off from his work, family, and friends to think and read. Whatever it looks like for you, please do it. Create a special place that you can go to and retreat from others - then practice the beautiful ancient art of solitude.

Polepole loved ones.



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