Lessons Learned From Solitude
This morning I will pack up my laptop and flip-flops, swing by the best donut shop in the world for a dozen to surprise my kids, and make the 7 ½ hour drive back to my home in Flagstaff, AZ. I’ll be returning from a week-long stay in my mother-in-law’s beach house in Encinitas, CA, all alone. (Ah, alone—it’s one of my favorite words).
At this point you may be thinking how extravagant it is that I’ve had a full week alone by the beach. It’s ok if you are; I’ve thought it too—no one could be more disapproving of my week of solitude than my inner critic! But this week I’ve gotten really good at reminding her, “Look, you know as well as I do that I’ve come here because I have to rewrite my first book and need clarity and time to do it. But even more importantly, I have six kids, a husband, and a career at home and this is the first time I’ve taken an entire week away in 16 years! So back off!” My inner critic has been pretty quiet the past few days—I think I scared her away. (I hope I did).
It makes me wonder why we women, and especially mothers, have such a hard time allowing ourselves to recharge. Why is it so hard for us to accept that we need time that is ours alone, that we need a long, deep breath if we are to exhale all we’ve got onto those we love. And we do love them, don’t we? Of course we do. That’s why we spend so much time giving, exhaling. But without sacred space, time, and solitude we end up like a frozen computer—everybody’s typing away but nothing is getting through! That’s why we need time recharge–to unplug and reboot.
Whether it’s a week, a day, or an hour alone, doing something we love or doing nothing at all, or even if it’s only 15 minutes at the start, end, or in the middle of a hectic day, taking time to recharge is vital to emotional well-being and to our relationships. How can we give our best to our children, partners, families when we have nothing left to give?
I’ve had to work at it, but I’ve gotten much better at forcing myself to take a break; and I do have to force most of the time. I’m almost always flooded with nervous energy and pressure the moment I begin—first, because I’m suddenly 100% alone, a state I envy yet seldom experience, and second, because I immediately feel just how little time I actually have. Be it minutes, hours, or days, I know the time will fly by and I’ll be overcome with the needs of others again all too soon. So I find myself standing, staring, and saying, “Hmm. Well, here I am. Now…where do I begin?”
It will probably be difficult at first for you too. But give it a few moments or hours and, trust me, you will settle into your solitude like a warm bath. Anne Morrow Lindgergh said it beautifully: “Parting is inevitably painful, even for a short time. It is like an amputation, I feel. A limb is being torn off, without which I shall be unable to function. And yet, once it is done, I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before. It is as if in parting one did actually lose an arm. And then, like the star-fish, one grows it anew; one is whole again, complete and round—more whole, even, than before, when the other people had pieces of one” (Gift From The Sea, p. 37).
And as I lounged on my beach chair yesterday and penned this post (with an actual pen!) at sunset, that’s exactly what I found. It was no longer the quiet that captured my attention; it was the sound of children laughing, the sight of a mother snuggling her young child, and the adoration on the faces of a couple walking hand in hand along the beach that made my heart soar. And it made me want to laugh, snuggle, and adore my dear family once again. After all, they are what make my week of solitude the beautiful gift that it has been. Without them I would simply be another lonely soul seeking solace from the ocean, but remembering them, I happily return today carrying with me the calm power of the waves, the dazzling sparkle of the sun on the horizon, and the clarity and peace of the time I’ve had to remember who I am. This is what will recharge me once I am home, just like the memories from home recharge me as I am here.
We all need time to recharge. It helps us appreciate the good in our lives. It helps us walk more slowly, breathe more deeply, and settle into a calmer rhythm fueled, not by schedules and the needs of others, but by nature and the call that comes from within. It doesn’t have to be a week. It doesn’t even have to be a day. But make time and space to recharge yourself. You can take the lessons learned from solitude with you wherever you go. They will make you whole, and open your eyes even wider to the beauty that is and has always been all around you.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. Learn and Grow with Dr. Hibbert and her community of really great people![/author_info] [/author]
How do you recharge? Is it easy for you or a struggle? Share your thoughts on “recharging” by leaving a comment!
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