Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Being Alone Is Not the Same Thing as Being Lonely

Last January, I was waiting for the arrival of an impending snowstorm, and I wrote about the things that I would do while I was snowbound. Unlike some, being isolated and alone doesn’t bother me. Over the years, I have learned to enjoy being alone, and when I finally reached that place in life, I became free–free of the fear of being alone.

When I am alone, I think better, and when I am alone, I can separate my preferences from what the world seems to wish that I would prefer. When no one else is around, I can pace myself by my own, unique clock. I can sleep when I am tired, and when I am refreshed, I can awaken. When the muse visits, I can write, and when I feel inspired, I can paint. When I am alone, there is no need to schedule my moods around anyone else, and I have no need to try to guess what the other wants from me. I only have the need to discover what it is that I truly want from myself. The next challenge is to pursue that goal–alone.

I am a big nature watcher. When the weather permits, I grow a massive garden, and I often sit in my garden–just watching my flowers bloom. I love to walk in the mountains and feel the expansiveness that is there. I love listening to the rain, and I love to watch it snow. If I were with anyone else, none of that would be the same. Chatter would drown the sound of the raindrops, and the language of the birds. If someone else were in the same room with me, I would not sit for hours at a time and stare out the window. I would not have the same enjoyment of watching the snow’s dance that quietly and gently alters the world, one flake at a time. When someone else is involved in moments like these, we feel the need to interact with the other person. When that occurs, we no longer are part of the moment that we are watching unfold. We lose our opportunities for mindfulness.

We are living in a culture that seems to pay lip homage to mindfulness, but many do not realize that being alone is the key to mindfulness. Mindfulness is not a state that you can share. When a person is fully mindful, he is absolutely within himself–he is at his own absolute core. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot be a participant in a group–not even in a small group of two–and become totally mindful. Mindfulness is about being alone.

l realized long ago that society is suspicious of people who opt to be alone. Mindful or not, the solitary people are classified as the cat ladies and the toothless crones who grow herbs and live in dark cottages on the fringes of the forest. The world view is that those alone should be pitied. Popular opinion is that the alone are isolated because no one wants them. They are the rejected.

That may be true, but the good news is that rejected or not, the alone do not have to be lonely. Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. The lonely person is still invested in the myth that other people are the key to his or her happiness. When that is the case, the isolated are saddened by aloneness. Being alone doesn’t make me sad.

Consider this: Very rarely do married couples die at the same time. When one person from a couple dies, the other is still left alone. Aloneness will inevitably become part of  almost everyone’s existence. I advise people to begin cultivating their aloneness long before that happens.

It might seem that I am advising everyone to dump their partners and to immediately jump back into the life of being single, but I am not. I actually abhor divorce, and I rarely advocate it. In fact, I would love to find a truly compatible mate; yet, I would hope that I could be in a union that allows spaces for each united person to have quality moments alone.

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” – Kahlil Gibran

I propose that every couple find spaces within their union–spaces that allow each person to celebrate himself, as an individual. Only from somewhere within one’s own, individual being, can a person’s find true contentment. We must learn to love aloneness–that is the harbor within our own spirits. Aloneness is the place that we learn to cradle ourselves. It is the pillow where we will finally rest our heads.

©Jacki Kellum August 18, 2017


1 Comment

  1. Beautiful post Jacki! I am a fan of alone time and mindfulness as well.

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