I’ve had a dramatically changing relationship with solitude, it seems to be linked to age and life experiences over time.
I sought and revelled in it as a child. My mother laughingly called me Greta because of the famous “I vont to be alone” Garbo line. Happy hours would go by in my bedroom drawing, writing, playing saxophone and dancing to music on my ghetto blaster. My heroes – Boy George, Madonna and The Cure plastered on the walls. All very ‘I walk my own path’ personalities. I had dreams, big dreams helped generously by watching ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ at the movies a few times, by myself, having bunked off school. I knew I had to go live in the city, ‘The City’ my life would start in ‘the city’ where I’d become a much-lauded jazz saxophonist. That didn’t happen but I did move to the city as soon as I was able at eighteen.
I had friends, I wasn’t a loner as a child, I just really cherished solitude. Then I got older and I avoided it like the plague. Looking back, I think I’d actually become afraid of it. How did that happen? Maybe the early marriage to an army boy who was posted away overseas and then to various other parts of the country for the majority of our short-lived marriage. It was really lonely being married but living solo, even lonelier when your spouse’s rare visits brought home an ever-increasing stranger. He was my first boyfriend and I’d known him since basic training, service changed him dramatically. He left me, for an older woman he met where he was stationed at the time. It was a relief, at least then I could be free, truly single – not living single but not single. Did that life experience link loneliness to solitude? Maybe.
Then I moved to an even bigger city, across the other side of the world. So much to see and do, no time for solitude! A whirling social life took care of that. When I was home alone, in my tiny but beautiful top-floor flat, and not sleeping – I could get out and walk to my best friends flat or meet her and other friends in the local park or pub. We went on group holidays and travelled to festivals, so much colour and life, I was hardly ever alone – just how I liked it. Then a certain age struck, and a primal scream welled up inside telling me I should never be alone, I should have a child. It was a wild and primitive yearning; I finally understood the strong instinct that drives women in this way. I had a long-term boyfriend who had a daughter I adored. We adored each other in truth and spent a lot of time happily making cakes or visiting galleries together. He’d wanted me to move in with him and I discussed having a child, he agreed. I thought we were “trying” we even discussed how we were “trying” with his best friends who were also “trying”. They got pregnant, I didn’t. Later, after I left him (I had good reasons although to the outside world he seemed a good partner) I found out he’d had a vasectomy during his previous marriage after having his daughter. He only had a passing relationship with the truth. I accepted the outcome of that a long time ago, it is a simple choice to concern yourself with the things you perceive you don’t have or choose to be happy. Ruminating on stuff you can do nothing about is a sure-fire recipe for misery. My friends with children have a great life, my friends without children have a great life – it’s just different is all.
You would think these bad relationship experiences would have put me off, oh no – I then plunged into the marriage, ‘the marriage’ – the painful one I’ve been writing about and am now finally free of. Did a fear of being alone, mixed with a serious case of romanticism, drive that? Maybe – ok – probably.
Not learning to embrace solitude can lead you down some dodgy paths.
I was talking with an old friend on the phone, she’s known me since my twenties. She asked how I was feeling living on my own now. I said, “Poppy, I couldn’t say this to everyone because until you know it to be the truth in your soul it just doesn’t mean anything to you but words, I can honestly say I now understand the most important relationship I have is the relationship I have with myself”. Poppy whooped at that, she’s chosen to live solo for many years and has always been an advocate of what she calls, “rowing your own canoe”. She then said some really important things, “So many people never learn to be happy in their own company and go from relationship to relationship, they can’t be on their own – they’d never understand your choice right now or what you’ve just said.” I didn’t once, but now I do – I can’t be truly happy unless I can be happy in my own company and doing things solo again. Solitude, it’s not scary anymore – it’s an essential part of finding peace and serenity.