winter wonderland

Photo, courtesy of Joshua Burgard

Today’s quote:

“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

—-Paul Tillich (1987)

               Days of Healing, Days of Joy, meditation for March 12, San Francisco, Harper & Row.

Somehow, it seemed appropriate to approach this topic on this the sixth day of my self-imposed solitude. I’m not sure I am counting correctly since a friend drove me to and from a meeting last night where I got to spend some quality time with “my people” talking about a spiritual approach to recovery.

Being around people who were smiling and laughing as well as sharing profound and serious insights integral to  their recovery was a well appreciated break from being with just my four dogs. And, thankfully, I have not been totally isolated.  After all, I have had my mobile phone and the Internet to keep me in touch with friends and family. Plus, I was lucky enough to have friends drop by two or three times.

My biggest reason for my self-imposed solitude was to avoid venturing out into the ice and snow. Some might call my reasons just plain fear; others might even go so far as to call them a phobia. I just remember driving down hill on ice in Kansas City and sliding off the road—-finally stopping only inches from a telephone pole. That was back in the seventies, and I’ve had several successful “snow and ice” driving escapades since then, but I prefer to remain at home if possible when ice is involved. This is especially true since I have been diagnosed with osteopenia, which means  I have bone density lower than normal but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis. I am naturally a klutz with little or no balance and have intermittent vertigo, so when I throw those things into the equation,  I do tend to be overly careful about avoiding ice.

Enough about why I have experienced self-imposed solitude voluntarily for so many days. I really want to focus on what, for  me, is the difference between solitude and loneliness. When I experience solitude, it means that I am happy in my own skin doing what I am doing and am totally comfortable in my surroundings. I can experience loneliness in the exact same environment, doing the exact same activities—-the only thing that has changed  when I am lonely is my emotional status and/or attitude. When I am lonely, it is like there is this big void deep within myself that needs filled, and no matter how busy I stay or how much or often I eat, or how many video Internet games I win, I still feel restless and driven. In the old days I would have lit up a cigarette and poured a drink, but those behaviors are long gone from my repertoire,  by the grace of God.

So, how do I alter my attitude when I am aware I have shifted into loneliness? Prayer helps, both the speaking and listening kind. Listening to calming music helps. Talking to friends helps. Mostly, for me, it takes realizing the enemy is “desire”—-especially since it is a free-floating non-specific, restless desire. At those times I have to talk to God and to listen to God. I need to realize all that really matters is being in relationship with God. Then everything else falls into place. I can live life on life’s terms in solitude as long as I realize God’s love and compassion are always present. Some would say that is not solitude because I am in relationship with God. I won’t argue that, but I know when I don’t allow God to be there with me to fill the “restless void” I get stuck in being lonely and restless.

I will close with a quote from the same source and page as the one this evening’s blog began with: “It may be said the road that runs between loneliness and solitude is the highway of recovery.”  I think I agree with that, and I am grateful my recovery has gifted me with solitude and the ability to  return to it whenever I choose to do so.

Please comment and share your thoughts about being the difference between being lonely and being comfortable in solitude. May God bless and keep you.