I’m not afraid of being alone.
Up until a few years ago, I always got an ache in my heart every time I saw someone eat alone in a restaurant or watch a movie alone in the cinema or propped up on a bar stool alone with a pint. My eyes would wander and my body language twitch, displaying my discomfort in their sorrow and uncertainty in how to approach them. My heart ached for the loneliness I had fabricated for these strangers in my mind, all because I mistakenly believed the notion that being alone is the same as being lonely.
Loneliness can be described as a feeling of sadness due to lack of friends or company, a state of isolation and a sense of abandonment. It is a very real societal concern which cannot be disregarded, particularly when it comes to the elderly. Solitude is, more simply, the state of being alone. It is just that, a simple state, free in definition of positive or negative attachments. They are eminently different. In solitude we can of course find loneliness, but we can also find simple contentedness and exhilarating happiness.
This is why it’s important that from a young age, we differentiate between the two in order to know that they do not always have to go hand in hand. To avoid fear of loneliness, we must practice the art of being alone. Only then can we embrace solitude, and anticipate it with eagerness and enthusiasm, trusting our relationship with ourselves, and enjoying our own company. As Ralph Waldo Emerson beautifully put it, “To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.” Practice the art of being alone, find your satisfaction in solitude, and make it your safe place.
Today if you asked me to list some of my favourite things to do, sitting alone in a busy Dublin pub with a glass of red wine and a book would be a strong contestant for first place. I am not afraid of being alone. In fact, solitude to me, once chosen and transient, is a most positive description of being.