We spend a good deal of our lives alone whether we like it or not. Even if we are not solitary people, even if we are social butterflies.
I’m talking about the time in between the days and the hours when we have to do things, to go to work, to go to school, to meet people.
The time when we have to wait for something, or rest, or weather a storm.
Some of us may spend more time alone than with others, even if others are nearby.
What do we do with this time that, by choice, nature, or circumstances we spend alone?
Do we fill it with idle thoughts and plans?
With trivial activities?
With longing for love or other people?
Do we treat it with patient impatience, as if we were in a kind of waiting room to a new phase in our life?
Maybe we do all of these at times. Maybe we cannot help it.
But the time we spend alone can be some of the most useful and valuable that we get in this life.
“How can you hear your soul if everyone is talking?”Mary Doria Russell
It can give us the chance to pause and see life more deeply.
See our bad habits and negative thought patterns.
Compare where we are now to where we feel we should be.
The time we spend alone is not a means to an end.
It’s a valuable resource we can try to make the most of us, each in our way.
“We need solitude, because when we’re alone, we’re free from obligations, we don’t need to put on a show, and we can hear our own thoughts.”
Perhaps this is easier for introverts than for other people.
But even if spending time alone bothers you and you like to avoid it as much as possible, you can still make the most of this time.
Read, write, meditate, rest, develop a skill, learn to play an instrument, learn to dance, live among your memories, pursue a passion, do anything that feel you have to do.
Don’t let your mind, your narrative self, or your neurochemistry get in the way.
I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.
Henry David Thoreau
Give the time you spend alone any shape you want to give it.
At the end of our lives, the time we spend alone is important.
When we look back on our lives ten, twenty, fifty years from now, the time we spend alone will carry a lot of weight.
We shouldn’t squander it with negative thoughts, with self-sabotaging, with longing for what isn’t.
“The holiest of all holidays are those Kept by ourselves in silence and apart; The secret anniversaries of the heart.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
All illustrations by Xuan Loc Xuan.