Loneliness and Solitude

Loneliness and Solitude

Recently, a friend lost her husband. A hale and hearty man waved goodbye to his wife and kids; went to work and it became the last time! He is no more; she has to live the remaining days alone; raise the children alone, fend for herself alone, seek companionship from within, the one closest friend has deserted her, with no warning, no preparation. She is amidst family members, friends who are helping her cope with her grief and loss, but for how long will this companionship serve to be an effective distraction?

Another friend lost her dad; a dad she dearly loved, who was a role model for her. She emulated him, looked up to him; would consult him for every small concern. How does one cope with the loss of some who means who more than life itself? Is it possible not to feel devastated; is it possible to move on? I don’t think so, forgetting is impossible, and being stuck and not moving on is not an option either! So, how does one cope?

My cousin was hospitalised and has just about managed to escape the clutches of lord Yama; she was battling for her life alone, in the ICU. On the other side of the door the whole family prayed fervently for her recovery, each alone with their thoughts and fears. Having witnessed a spate of such incidents with people near and dear, it has brought to fore this million-dollar question, ultimately; ‘Aren’t we all alone?’  It is moments like these which make me wonder; we crave company all our life, want to be surrounded by loved ones, why? Is it because we are afraid to be alone? Or is it solitude and what solitude entails that makes us afraid? We are always alone, so we cry about our loneliness and seek companionship, but solitude means that we acknowledge being alone, and at the cost of stunning the world (the world does not understand the difference between solitude and loneliness) we cannot pretend being sad because of our loneliness.

The Geeta explains loneliness and solitude beautifully; here is a humble translation: Loneliness is the biggest punishment in this world! And solitude is the biggest blessing/gift. These two words appear so similar, yet cannot be more apart, like heaven and hell. “Loneliness is suffering, and Solitude is relaxing. Loneliness is fear, and Solitude is peace/Shaanti. Till we look for solace in the outer world we will experience loneliness. But when you look for it within you, you start experiencing solitude. This life is nothing but a journey from loneliness to solitude. A journey, in which the path is us, the traveller is also us and so is the destination.”

Personally, I am in agreement with the thought that we are all alone, our attitude and experience of the word is what differentiates and gives it meaning, being alone or in solitude. Like it is so beautifully elucidated in The Geeta, alone or in solitude makes the biggest difference. Unknowingly we crave solitude but we are terrified of being alone.

My husband’s observation about me is that I keep insisting that I be left alone! ‘Don’t work from home, go to office so I can have my space!’ ‘All of you go, I will stay back.’ I am sure most of us, especially housewives like me, share the sentiment. We are hounded by our filial duties and a chance to get the house all to ourselves is a chance we would not miss for the world. We do not want this for long though, definitely not, juts for an hour or so, for us to be able to put our feet up, unwind. I also have this craving for being alone, and till I did not read the above explanation I never realised I was actually craving for solitude, being alone was as unsavoury as ever; but solitude is what the heart wants and longs for.

A very close friend’s mother is unwell for some time now, and is bravely fighting a losing battle. The whole family has surrounded her, trying to give her strength, courage and moral support, not just to the mother, but to the dad too, to be able to fight this battle. I speak to this friend every day and I sense that her parents are alone in all this. The presence of family members or the lack of it is a superficial balm to an inner wound which cannot be healed by any one. They smile for others sake, they pretend all is well, things are going to be better, but the verity cannot change just because we decide to wear rose tinted glasses. I sense that they are party to all the smothering they receive and yet experience profound loneliness. How can one let go or be able to let go of a partner of more than 50 years? The time when we finally learn to live comfortably with one another, seems to be the time when we may verily be alone, by one Self! Again, live alone or live in solitude? Probably answering this question may help make the right choice, allow the ‘let go’ to happen, give precedence to the loved one’s interests, cope with grief better? Solitude is what helps us live at peace with our Self, practice attached detachment and heal.

Transformative creativity is a constant need to change, every day of life, to last day.  Inner weather changes and we are unwilling to adapt. We need to be courageous to see my Self, which is possible only if we meditate. The subtle yet yawing difference between loneliness and solitude can come to light only through meditation, there is no other way.

Meditation is all about self-awareness. Being a true companion to the Self; praying for Nature’s forces to conspire and help us get better, make us better beings. Meditation has taught me the subtle difference of being able to appreciate solitude in those alone moments; moments which seemed dreadful earlier are matter of fact today, even joyful and insightful.