On Birthdays, Solitude and Loneliness
Last week, I celebrated my birthday by eating three delicious vegan cupcakes, experimenting with the Lush Cup 'O Coffee face and body scrub, cooking my favorite Chickpea stew and most importantly, enjoying my solitude. Whenever my birthday rolls around, I get tons of advice from friends telling me to go out and celebrate by clubbing, going to the beach or the spa but all I want to do is stay home; that's how I celebrate. I enjoy having me time as it gives the space I need to relax, read and decompress. People often think that doing things alone is sad and lonely, but I firmly believe that solitude isn't the same as loneliness. I enjoy being alone, and when I'm in my "alone zone", I'm never lonely.
Let's talk about solitude
Psychology Today defines solitude as a state of being alone without being lonely. In solitude energy is recharged, creative thoughts are percolating, and self-reflection is appreciated. For introverts like me, being alone is essential to our survival. After I drop off my daughter at school, I come home drink a cup of tea and revel in my solitude. I use the time to write and read to feed my mind and my soul.
Don't get me wrong I love being around other people, but working on my blog or writing from a Starbucks, or any coffee shop for that matter is more distracting than energizing. When I'm in these environments, I become easily distracted by the sound of the patrons, baristas and other entrepreneurs using the free wifi to do their work. My mind is free from distraction in solitude; it's even free of social media distractions. I turn off the phone to silence the notifications so that I may be present at the moment and enjoy every bit of it.
My solitary existence has helped me develop a greater appreciation of my surroundings; this is a perspective shift I need now more than ever as I navigate this phase of my life. I spend time outdoors enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass, watching the mischievous squirrels chase one another. Yesterday I even caught myself staring at a tiny bird while it sang a melodious tune. When I'm distracted by people, life or anything, I rarely take the time to appreciate how beautiful my life and surroundings are. Being alone gives me the space to reflect on these things while simultaneously creating a deeper appreciation for the world around me.
Let's talk about loneliness
Loneliness is a marked by a sense of isolation; harsh, punishment, a deficiency state, a state of discontent marked by a sense of estrangement, an awareness of excess aloneness. Loneliness yearns for companionship and compassion, but with the loudness of the negative thoughts and self-imposed isolation, there's nowhere for these feelings and vulnerability to grow.
While I enjoy my solitude, I will admit that I have felt deep and profound loneliness. This feeling for me was usually related to some trauma or difficulty I tried to navigate on my own. When I was coping with my brother’s death, I felt lonely. Being far away from my family when I received news like that was hard but dealing with it as a single mother was even more challenging. At the time, I wished I had someone close by to comfort and reassure me. I felt isolated because the people in my immediate circle had no idea what I was feeling and I didn't know how to articulate what I felt so I chose not to communicate. In the midst of these feelings, I isolated myself even further by distancing myself from everyone that wanted to help, and I now realize that action was a cry for help.
On the other occasions when I experienced loneliness, I was going through heartbreaking relationship trauma. What I needed was comfort and consoling; however, I didn't know how to let my guard down, embrace my vulnerability and ask for the help I needed. I thought being alone with my grief was the answer, but it caused me to spiral into self-destructive behavior. Thankfully, I wised up and sought guidance from a therapist. Therapy provided the safe space I needed and taught me how to communicate my grief and pain to others.
Understanding the difference between solitude and loneliness
It's because I've been through the painful periods of loneliness that I know how loneliness and solitude differ. Solitude is a form of self-love that allows room for growth, gratitude, and joy; while loneliness leads you to believe there's no place for joyfulness and gratitude in your thoughts or life. It's essentially a constant and vicious cycle of “woah is me," instead of “wow, this is me”. I'm thankful for every experience that allowed me to learn the difference. And for each and every birthday, from now until my final day on the planet, I will take the time to be alone because I know enjoying solitude adds value to my life and I will never, ever confuse it with loneliness.
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