Sunday, 20 February 2011

Solitude and Loneliness

I drove home yesterday saying these two words to myself, thinking about them. They mean nothing if you say them quickly, you have to draw the words out as you speak stretching the vowels out like an endless Sunday afternoon.

At first they seemed to mean the same thing - being alone, and they do, physically but the difference is emotional. In solitude are happy to be alone, if you are not, then loneliness creeps in. Having lived on my own for 35 years I have been both. It didn’t matter where I was - I have been lonely amongst friends at a crowded dinner table, the conversation whirling around me like a hurricane with me at it’s still centre insulated from from it all. I have also found a peaceful sense of solitude in the centre of a city, just sitting watching the crowds mill around me. The same in the countryside, where I lived. On a quiet evening I would often take a bottle or two of beer and drive out to a spot at the edge of the hills at dusk. From there I could look out over the Lothian countryside and beyond to the Firth of Forth. As the darkness crept in and the lights came on I would sit, sometimes in solitude, sometimes in loneliness but always at peace with the world around me.

Those days are long gone now. The world turns ever changing and I change with it. The difference at least for me, from those days is of course an emotional one - love. Since I fell in love and we got married the loneliness has gone. I can be anywhere in the world, in a crowded airport, or on an isolated empty beach and there will always be someone else with me, there is a connection between us that is independent of physical space. It breaks occasionally when we fall out with each other and then that aching emptiness that is loneliness for me seeps back but that is rare and part of being in love, reminding me that love is something you do as well as what you feel.

Solitude. Loneliness. Peaceful, beautiful words that connect with what is deep within me.
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