“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.” Rainer Maria Rilke
“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” Henry David Thoreau.
I was reading an article recently about Julia Gillard and her seeming ‘disappearance’ since she was voted out of her Primer Ministerial role. That since that time only one tweet of thanks to those who supported her and a reported purchase of a property in Adelaide so that she could be closer to family.
At the mention of the property in Adelaide I envisioned her in a place my mother lived for years, atop a hill in the Barossa valley where one could watch the sun rise and fall or a storm grumbling it’s way toward you.
This image brought me much peace for I imagine it’s been an incredibly tumultuous time for Gillard and in this moment I wished that she enjoy her solitude, time away from the public eye and time to settle back into herself.
This morning I marry this vision with one I have woken up to, an email from a friend abroad who has shared that they are taking the opportunity for solitude but that they wonder if the locals think him rude. I have often thought this on my solitary travels or even when I sit for hours on end on my own in cafes here in Melbourne when I am writing. For you can sense peoples discomfort with your being alone. Clearly Australia is a little uncomfortable with Gillards.
Solitude, either the act of it or the witnessing of it, I believe is uncomfortable for some because when people are alone they are often connecting with their own soul. In the quiet, away from the business of ‘other’ we settle into ourselves, we reconnect and ‘reassess’; and hopefully from there, return to the world of ‘other’ with clearer intent for our own wellbeing.
Perhaps this is what Henry David Thoreau meant when he spoke of the companionship of solitude. Or what Rainer Maria Rilke alludes to in the statement I have recorded above, that time alone invites ‘secret things’ of which he desires in his relationships or nothing at all. Those secret things, those private whisperings are powerful and invite change.
Here is where we see ‘the rub’ in solitude. Taking a moment to sit with oneself can get pretty noisy and what we hear might be confrontational.
I have this realisation every time my acupuncturist leaves me for half an hour. Pins in, lights dimmed and no ability to reach for my mobile phone, I am forced to listen to the voice of my own body. And indeed, the body speaks.
Sometimes she simply tells me that she is tired. Sometimes that she is lonely. Sometimes she aches for something I’m not entirely sure I can get for her; and sometimes she is bubbling with joy.
Whatever she is, taking a moment of solitude allows me to reconnect and make the changes I need to make to indeed give her lovingly what she needs if I can get it.
And most of the time I can for what most of us need is often simpler than we think.
Wonder. Meant …that solitude whispers sweet nothings in the ears of those who are brave enough to sit with themselves.