“I believe I know the only cure, which is to make one’s center of life inside of one’s self, not selfishly or excludingly, but with a kind of unassailable serenity – to decorate one’s inner house so richly that one is content there, glad to welcome anyone who wants to come and stay, but happy all the same when one is inevitably alone.”
- Edith Wharton,
American novelist, 1862-1937
Quoted in Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World,
by Michael Harris (Doubleday Canada, 2017)
Returning to a theme...
Needing time by myself – and enjoying time by myself – is important in my life. This preference makes me an introvert, although not everyone agrees with that analysis. For me, time alone is when my battery recharges.
My late husband – himself a world-class introvert – maintained that there had to be “spaces in our togetherness”. That philosophy helped sustain our relationship for 29 years.
Our times apart enriched our times together.
And it continues to be a sustaining theme in my marriage with dear Bill. For instance, as I write this blog post [Thursday], Bill is teaching in Peterborough. I have the house to myself, with the exception of the dogs and cat. And I love it. I have several writing and photography projects to work on, and I set my own schedule. I keep contact with other humans to a minimum.
I am alone, but I am not lonely.
What makes this isolation rich and fertile is that Bill will be home this evening. And I relish being together with him again. As I said, our times apart enrich our times together.
Bill is teaching in Ottawa next week for three days, and I’m plotting what I’ll do in his absence. And I’m already looking forward to welcoming him home.
This pattern of solitude began when I was 7-years-old. I missed a year of school because of rheumatic fever, during which I spent many hours by myself. My days consisted of reading, sleeping, playing, and watching television (exotic in rural Ontario in the early 1950s).
I learned to generate my own happiness. I became my own best friend, developing the inner resources to engage with the world by myself.
It’s not that I actively shunned the company of others. It’s simply that I preferred my own company.
Along the way, I’ve developed extroversion skills – meeting people, chatting them up, engaging with the wider world. One skill that I soon learned about navigating the ‘outside world’ was asking people personal questions. Because, of course, most people like talking about themselves. And it took the focus off me, thank goodness, giving me a solid place to stand on socially.
However, too much extroverting makes me nervous and drains me. Cue the diplomatic exit...
Psychologists refer to this as being a ‘situational extrovert’. As long as I have a role – questioner, teacher, director, speaker, workshop leader, photographer – I am just fine in public. Without a role, however, I often feel socially awkward. I simply want to disappear.
One of the things I love about photography is that I do it mostly by myself. Heaven!
And so, while Bill has been away this week and the weather has been cold and grey, I’ve made photos inside our home. What a treat! The images are nothing exotic, but they are fun. I hope you enjoy looking at them.
Meanwhile, I’ll get ready to welcome Bill back from Ottawa next week...