Solitude’s “soft power”

This morning I saw a link on Facebook to an essay by Donald Hall about solitude vs loneliness. I’d seen this before but hadn’t taken the time until today to read the essay. It spoke to me in some way this morning. My sister is 12 years older and was out of the house by the time I was 6 so I spent a lot of time alone as a child. I’m an introvert, a writer, a single woman. This question of when does solitude become loneliness has long been something I think about, even more so as I’ve grown older.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been recovering from a hip replacement operation. All went well and recovery has gone smoothly. In the first weeks there was a steady stream of people—friends and neighbors checking in, a visiting nurse and PT, someone to help with cat care, people delivering food. But after a few weeks I no longer needed those services and that level of attention, which left me with long stretches alone in my house.

Mostly I saw this as luxurious. I could move at a more leisurely pace, sit for hours at the dining table in the mornings watching the world wake up, lie on the couch and watch the birds out the front window, neighbors passing by, kids bundled up and playing on the piles of snow at the corner. I read, I daydreamed, I wrote.

In the evening, when fatigue hit (all part of the recovery) I retreated into streaming videos and dozing on the couch. Mostly I was content. But as Hall writes, “Now and then, especially at night, solitude loses its soft power and loneliness takes over.”

I’ve just started back to work–part-time for now but I’ll soon be back to full-time, juggling work, social life, writing time, longing for more down time, more reflective time.

Hall is 20 years older, not driving, increasingly frail, increasingly housebound. My recovery time has been a taste for me of what age might bring—an interlude—a bit of time travel into the future.

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