Dictionary.com defines solitude as the “state of being or living alone” Some of the synonyms for solitude are “isolation, loneliness, emptiness, seclusion.” I don’t know about you, but to me, those words have a negative connotation. Like, I have never once uttered the words, yeah, I totally thrive in my loneliness. Yeah, no, not my jam.
It’s hard because we live in a society in which a sense of “community” is at our fingertips. We live in a time in which the moment we feel lonely, we can pick up a device and begin swiping left and right, up and down, scrolling through a seemingly endless amount of “friends” and potential suitors, attempting to make ourselves feel a little less lonely. We can immediately reach out, send a text or a Marco Polo, and feel as though we have made a connection. You know what I’m realizing we find instead? Loneliness. Isolation. Hurt. Aren’t those some of the very things we are attempting to avoid in reaching for our devices? And yet, here we are, clinging to these things, desperately scrolling for validation that comes in the amount of DMs we have on a dating app or how many likes our most recent post received.
Now, I’m not bashing social media. Social media has been a huge blessing in my life. We shared my mom’s journey via social media and created something through it that will allow my own children to learn of their Grandma Patti through the words of that blog. I’ve been able to read other writers that have helped me through some darker times and inspired me to continue writing. I’m able to see some of the world’s greatest athletes share their day-to-day experiences and learn from what it is they do. Social media can be a beautiful thing but it can become dangerous when we rely on it for validation and run to it in an effort to avoid solitude.
I know, I get it. Being alone with yourself can be scary, especially when life is not exactly going as planned. One tiny thought can cause a major downward spiral into the depths of your mind, where nobody really loves being. To me, I sometimes feel it’s like walking through a haunted house or maze. You are about to turn the corner, knowing for certain that there is something waiting to scare you. Your heart is pounding, you know you’re going to get scared, you just don’t know by what. You know, you’re sitting by yourself and that song comes on. Damn you, Amazon Music! You know the song I’m talking about. The one you two slow danced to as you packed up your suitcase for your flight the next morning. The one that makes your body ache as you listen to the lyrics because at one point, these lyrics were written for the two of you, and now, they just bring up a distant memory. One sad thought leads to another and pretty soon you’re looking up local knitting groups and scoping out cats on your local shelter’s website, swearing to yourself you’ll never get married. Or you find something that once belonged to someone that’s no longer here and you take that first step onto memory lane, only to be overcome with grief and sadness.
Quick! Avoid these feelings! Get that device. Open Instagram. Look at the all the beautiful people living their fun lives. Open the dating app. Swipe, swipe, swipe. Ding! A match. Cool, tell me you like my smile and you’re impressed by my job. Yes, yes, bring on the compliments. Phew, almost had to face my negative feelings. That was a close one. And the cycle continues. Feelings come up, we sweep them under the rug, and post and scroll away. We numb ourselves to the negativity we feel by escaping into the lives of others, hoping the life we portray we have is something worth our followers stopping on and clicking “like”.
You know what we miss in avoiding our solitude? The freaking process. I have a process. I call it my “Dani freak out process”. Something stressful comes up, I freak the eff out and have a mini meltdown, and within 24 hours I have found a way to overcome whatever was causing me stress. Could I do it without the freak out? Yeah, probably, but every genius has their process. (Please, sense the sarcasm). The point is there’s a process. There is a disruption in my homeostasis, it freaks me the hell out, I spiral (and swear and cry), I get out of it. Now, mind you, this process can last a long time and can involve a lot of people. For example, I’m still going through this process. I feel like I’ve finally started to come out of the spiraling and crying part (I still swear) and am feeling like myself, like who I want to be not who my circumstances are attempting to turn me into. What’s that cliche quote that every girl has pinned on Pinterest? Something about a diamond being coal that did well under pressure? Yeah, that one. The coal goes through a process and through it you get a diamond. Yeah, baby, you’re a damn diamond. I feel a blog post is pointless without some random, motivating, cliche line so there that was.
We don’t just attempt to escape solitude with our phones either. We use people as well. We use relationships. You know what’s worse than being single? Being in a relationship with someone in an attempt to drown out your inner noise. It’s easier (and more fun) to put a cute, flirtatious, shiny new band-aid on your wounds than it is to actually give them time to heal. We initially pour out all we have and they do the same, but there are cracks in the cups. There are holes that were never mended. So we continue to pour and pour, not realizing that this broken cup can’t handle it. Our love quickly escapes through the cracks that the past has left because the present was never given a chance to help mend them. We’re left with empty cups, looking at each other saying, you did this, without realizing it wasn’t their fault we were never ready to receive them.
Solitude sucks sometimes. It’s hard. But from it, I’m finding there is such an opportunity for self-discovery and growth. I find that slowing down, disconnecting, and just being in the present moment with yourself is something that is quite underrated, yet so damn effective. Allowing ourselves to sit in the midst of our hurt, disappointment, fear, gives us an opportunity to process. It gives us time to heal. It gives us a chance to feel instead of turning to our devices or the presence of another human in an attempt to drown out the noise. It also gives us a chance to feel pride, triumph, badassness. It gives us a moment to say to ourselves, go you, look what you came from. It allows us to validate ourselves as opposed to turning to others for the validation we so desperately crave. Solitude and a little grace can help us fill the cracks of our own cups, so the next time someone comes along, eager to pour into us, we’re ready.