I stayed up until 1:15 this morning finishing a book called The Mermaid Chair. In the book, a woman returns to her family home on one of South Carolina’s barrier islands to help her mentally-ailing mother and falls in love with a Benedictine monk, ruining her marriage and finding missing parts of herself along the way.
A line in the book stood out to me as being very representative of my own life. The monk, while discussing his background and reasons for coming to the monastery, explains that he wasn’t running from grief but rather trying to find himself in more than even a spiritual way. “Around here, they call it ‘a solitude of being,'” he says.
That phrase, ‘a solitude of being,’ resounded with me. I’m outgoing and such a social person that I can go for months at a time and feel like I never stop moving. There’s work, social commitments, charity projects, clarinet lessons, orchestra, band, projects for orchestra and/or band and family obligations.
But every so often, several months of non-stop movement and energy wear me down and I feel exhausted. The thought of having to think about something I should be doing makes me tired and until I take a little time for me I walk around in a depressed, irritable haze.
So I’ve done very little in the past week. I’ve gone to work and spent the evenings at home working on projects I want to work on instead of ones I feel obligated to complete. I didn’t even practice the clarinet, although I did go to band practice on Thursday since we have a concert coming up.
Although I don’t place it in a spiritual context, these times are my own solitude of being. I use them as a time to take a break from the world, gather my thoughts on what my priorities are as I move throughout the community in which I live and work, and refocus my energy moving forward.
Last night, I ended my little solitude of being with something tried-and-true for me: a good book, a cup of hot Earl Grey and a long, hot bath. Even nearing thirty, a hot bath is both relaxing and comforting to me. The only thing lacking was some of my mother’s not-so-healthy comfort foods – and I don’t need those, anyway!
I’m now getting back into the swing of things. I had breakfast with three old friends that I’ve known since elementary school and it felt refreshing to look back at shared memories and laugh about how odd it seemed to be approaching thirty when we once thought 25 was ancient.
And tonight, I’ll probably have a drink to celebrate some friends’ birthdays and will enjoy Mother’s Day with the family tomorrow. It’s this solitude of being that makes me realize that life, no matter how hectic or hard it may seem, is indeed good.
Until next time…