Lonely vs Solitude

We often hear friends and family talk about being “lonely”.  We rarely hear someone say that they enjoy “solitude”.  Do you know the difference? 

 In my own family of 6 when all the children grew up, married, moved away and started families of their own, my parents would talk about how “quiet the house seemed….” after everyone left from a large family gathering.  My mother was “lonely” for the hustle and bustle of the life that was no longer her day to day, but had rather moved into the realm of once or twice a year now.  What about you?

I suspect many of you have either just kissed and waved your last guest out the driveway or are about to.  So you have a choice right now in how you can perceive what happens next.  As you wave goodbye and go back into your home you can adopt an entirely different perspective about what was left behind.  You know the mounds of dirty linen, the holiday dishes, the left over candies and cookies lying around begging you to paste them directly on your hips, the carpets which need cleaning, and so on.  Here are a couple of new attitudes to put on as you dive into your work.

My first suggestion is to DO NOTHING for 24 hours.  Kick back relax, refuel, watch the movie you want, order a pizza or Chinese, take a bubble bath and go to bed early.  Enjoy “Solitude”.

My second suggestion is that as you strip, wash and remake each bed that you say a blessing over that bed for the ones who have just slept there.  I know you know much more than you perhaps wanted to about their lives and trouble, cares and concerns.  Try blessing them instead of tolerating them. You may feel lonely and that’s OK.

My third suggestion is that as you do those mounds of dishes, dry and put them back safely until next time that you give thanks, that you were able to feed and do more to nourish those that sat at your table and to remember the praise for the cook and take that in.  There is solitude in the completion of ho-hum duties, it gives us time to reflect and to think.

My fourth suggestion is that as you put away your decorations, look to see what no longer gives you great joy in putting it/them out and donate those that no longer lift your spirits.

My fifth suggestion is to live with just your bare furniture for a couple of weeks.  This is what I call “my home a rest”.  It is a time of rest, no nick knacks sitting out only my house plants and the smooth beautiful finish of my wood furniture.  Then dive in and clean everything like  mini spring cleaning.  Be at peace with yourself and your environment, enjoy solitude.

My sixth suggestion is to sit in the sunshine one afternoon (whenever God provides it) and reread each holiday card you received and pray over the family that wrote it to you.  You would be very surprised at what happens!  You will be filled and overflowing with joy!  There is peace in this solitude.

My seventh suggestion is to walk every inch of the perimeter of your property (bundle up if you have to) and give thanks for what you have been given.  Take a moment to enjoy your walk.  If you live in an apartment, walk around it, then the building, and then your block and do the same.  You may feel lonely at the lack of laughing children or teens in a snowball fight, enjoy this moment of quiet.

My eight suggestion is sit down and do absolutely nothing for 30 minutes.  Close your eyes and breath deeply.  Listen deeply.  What comes up for you?  The first few minutes I am sure you mind will wander in a thousand directions, but just sit and let those thoughts take their course and still sit and listen, breath and see what comes up.  Jot those items down for later.  Again, solitude is a wonderful thing.

My ninth suggestion is to take you calendar from this year and look over it from January 2008.  Take a pad of paper and write down all the trips you took, things you did, accomplishments you completed, guests who came to visit you, special occasions you attended.  Then look at those and again give thanks to all that you did do this past year.  One of my greatest joys is my New Year’s Day tradition.  I like to use a paper calendar to keep track of things at my home, guests, trips, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, theater, sports activities and so on.  On New Year’s Day, I do just what I told you to do.  I get my 2008 (last years calendar) and my new calendar and I decorate it up with stickers and stamps on the day of each person’s birthday, anniversary and so on.  I say a little prayer over each niece and nephew for their next birthday and I have a wonderful time doing all of this.  On my business calendar, I do the same thing for my clients, employees, and peers and colleagues.  Even if it is only an e-card or a quick phone call, they are always so grateful someone remembered them.  I does my heart good!  You may feel lonely, but as you do each special day you will feel joy!

My tenth suggestion is this:  instead of setting goals, and pounds to be lost and money to be made, take a different approach.  Make each day your very best and be done with it.  Be thankful for what you did receive, instead of what you didn’t get.  Be happy with those things that you do have.  We are never given more if we cannot handle what we currently own within our own walls.  Help someone else.  It doesn’t have to be something big.  In fact it can be quite small.  If you have made too much to eat at your meal, invite your next door neighbor over or a friend whose spouse is out of town.  Grandiose is not in style.  Simple, and gracious, and transparency is in.  See who you can lift up today.

No one has to be “Lonely”.  Lonely means that you miss someone else’s any, their laugh, their being there.  We as humans are meant to be and have companionship.  Being lonely is OK.   Loving “Solitude” is learning to be alone for a period of time for reflection.  This is when we learn how “to be”.  Often we are on such a state of overload and immediacy that we have forgotten how to be still and “to be”.