There is no One Thing that I want. It’s normal to cycle through desires—necessary, even. As much as I fantasize about having one passion that I could dedicate my life to with an unshakable focus, the truth is that I can’t do that. It’s not due to external distractions so much as it is due to internal shifts in mood. In this post, I’ll write about what is currently seizing me: a desire for solitude.
There are those who seem to be afraid of solitude, at least for long periods of time. I’ve known people who need to constantly be around others. But I think that most people can understand the desire for solitude, and crave it from time to time. There is a romance attached to solitude: the lone wolf; the artist holed up in his or her studio; the writer holed up in a cabin in New England, taking long walks and chopping wood, drinking tea and reading books, looking out at the trees and taking in The Peaceful Quiet.
I’ve always craved solitude. Perhaps it stems from effectively being an only child (my siblings are much older than I am, and were all out of the house shortly after I was born). I’ve always spent a lot of time alone in my room. I’ve rarely invited friends over. I like to watch movies alone. I like to travel alone. I mostly like to do things that I can do alone.
Generally, I’m a very “thinky” person, and I suppose I give myself a lot of time to just think about things. With that said, I’ve also always enjoyed to meditate, which involves deliberately not thinking for a period of time–typically 20 minutes or so. It’s quite challenging, because I have to fight against my natural “thinky” state, but I’ve found it to be beneficial when I do it regularly. I will either sit or lay down, and focus on relaxing my body. I try my best to become aware of all the muscles in my body, and concentrate on relaxing them. I breathe deeply and slowly. The goal is to take a break from being my typical “thinky” self, and simply be in the moment, quietly, by myself.
Any person’s day is filled with mental stimulation, and it’s essential to have some downtime in order to properly digest and internalize all that stimulation, not to mention just to keep yourself from burning out. Sleep is a big part of that, during which the brain works its voodoo magic behind the curtains (the brain is very active during sleep), but moments of wakeful contemplation are also incredibly important for mental and emotional growth, I’ve found. We need that cycle of stimulation and rest in all things. I’ve found that I want the majority of my time to be spent in that restful, contemplative state, and it’s a state that I only know how to reach in moments of solitude.
Recently, I’ve taken up running again. I think I mostly enjoy running because it’s something I can do in solitude. Often, I will run for a couple of miles and then have to walk a mile back home, which has been a great time to think. I’m not very good at avoiding the temptation to go online when I’m at home, so going out for a run or a walk is one of the few times during the week that I get an extended period of time to think without distractions. The repetitiveness of the activity lulls me into a meditative state, but instead of the relaxed body I have during regular meditation, my brain is excited by all the extra oxygen rushing through it. I find that I frequently have very interesting ideas during my runs, and especially during my long walks home. This is a big part of why I prefer solitary runs over other kinds of exercise or playing sports.
Finally, and most obviously, writing is a solitary activity. I think I write because it seems like a natural thing to do when spending so much time alone. Or, at least, I think that’s why I started to write in the first place. Maybe now I choose to write because it seems like a productive way to spend my alone time. It’s a way of sharing myself with others without actually having to be around them. I write this alone. You read this alone. This allows us to both be alone without feeling lonely. Sometimes when I leave my little private bubble, I’ll run into a person who will tell me that they like my writing, and I get to feel some gratification before retreating back into my solitude.