Here we go: The homework assignment is pretty awesome. Doc Cat has cancelled class for today and instead we were to spend 45 minutes alone and see what it told us about loneliness and solitude. We were supposed to do it during class time, but as you'll see, me making it from Greenspun Hall all the way home wouldn't give me the correct amount of time for the exercise, so I did it Sunday night.
So, without further adieu, for your reading pleasure, my homework for Personal Growth...one that I wish I would have titled, "My Life as a Cat."
Lonliness and Solitude
When I was a kid, the loneliness and solitude exercise was a daily happening from 3:30 in the afternoon until about six o’clock in the evening. I always counted myself lucky for those two and a half hours because it meant quiet time without the incessant, destructive noise of my usual world. Other times when I would be alone because I had no one always ripped me apart. I understood what being lonely meant, after all, you can be alone in a very crowded room, and I often was, so I know what loneliness feels like, but I also know that the solitary, quiet moments are ones that are worth savoring.
I took my 45 minutes Sunday night. I know my assignment is supposed to be done during class time, but there was no earthly way I could drive from UNLV to Summerlin after my Global Media class in time to have the entire exercise span and then write my paper, then expect to turn it in on time. I knew it wasn’t a feasible time frame, so I’ll beg forgiveness for jumping the gun and doing the assignment early.
For my exercise, I sat down on my living room sofa and just looked around the room. I then lay on my back and stared at the ceiling fan for a while. As I sat, I laughed to myself. Just three short months ago, I would have been wigging out without some kind of distraction or something to take my mind off of its usual racing. No, I didn’t have anxiety as is the norm, instead I found a very peaceful place inside, which let’s face it, that’s shocking for me. I breathed in and out, and I was ok, thinking to myself, “Hey, this is normal!” I live alone, I go to sleep every night alone, yet I’m not lonely. I spent ample time with my family over the weekend and part of the week previous with my sister in the hospital getting her reconstructive surgery done post-breast cancer. I laughed to myself, “I’ve spent good, quality time around good people, so I'm definitely not lonely.”
I’m very comfortable with silence. I actually welcome it when it comes. I love hearing the sound of my own breathing, gently reminding me that I’m alive. I actually like to listen to the silence and listen to what it tells me. The buzzing of a light bulb and the hum of my computer break up the silence, maybe even the ice cubes dumping into the tray in my freezer. Total silence is hard to find in our very sound-polluted world, the passing of cars, the beeping of a car alarm that says even when we seek silence, we rarely find it, but when I do, I revel in it.
I’ll admit I did watch the clock tick the minutes away. I looked out of my patio door to see distant palm trees rustling in the breeze. In all of this, I wasn’t lonely. Ok, when you’re in a place you feel safe and you’re just in a state where you can just “be”, you really don’t need anyone else around. It’s the moment where you sit back, take a breath and be grateful for what you have, remembering things could be far worse.
I live a very solitary life. I quite enjoy it actually. But in the time I’ve lived alone, I’ve learned that there is a vast difference between “solitary” and “lonely”. Lonely is when you just have to have someone around, that you go bonkers without another human being in close proximity. Solitary, I think, is being ok with being alone without the need of someone else around. I think “lonely” is more of a term of desperation and “solitude” is a term of choice. I choose to be alone, hence solitary. I am not driven to companionship out of loneliness. If I want people around, trust me, I know plenty that would jump out of the woodwork if I’d just ask.
Cats. Cats are solitary. Cats are just fine that way and I always laugh when I see one perched up high, looking down at the world as if to say, “What? I’m happy up here,” as it flicks its tail to shoo us away like so many flies. I considered cats as I lay on the couch enjoying my solitary time with no worries, no phone, no computer, just happily being in the ‘now’. I guess I am one of those big, fluffy housecats who love nothing more than to look out the window and watch the world go by. One other thing, have you ever noticed that cats, when they need attention, seek it out? I thought that was pretty profound; we never see cats as lonely, we see them as solitary. I thought that was pretty darn cool. I am a housecat; it could be far, far worse.
Then I thought about dogs. I’ve personally never cared for dogs, I’m more of a cat person. However, my sister’s dogs are a great study in loneliness. Wrecks and Reese (the two Dobermans from hell) along with Zoe (a wire terrier who thinks she’s a Jack Russell), are the biggest (excuse the expression) attention whores I’ve ever seen. Those animals look at us like they’re so abandoned and so lonely, with the big brown eyes that plead with you to pet them and love on them when they’re already given constant attention. Wrecks is by far the worst, he was beaten and abandoned before Carl (my brother-in-law) adopted him. At first he was skittish and was very withdrawn, but over time exposed to my sister’s unending supply of love for animals, that 150 pound dog will now sit on your lap if you let him. Reese however, loves nothing more than to sit peacefully on his own. He doesn’t need to be handled, he doesn’t need to be pet all the time, he just chills out and could care less, Zoe and Wrecks will hang around your neck if you let them, Reese just looks at you like “What’s up?” and goes about his business of just relaxing.
In my exercise, I definitely pulled a “Reese.” I got over being lonely a long time ago. I don’t need people around me. When it’s time, I embrace my social nature, but I don’t need it all the time. Solitude is a good thing when done in moderation. I think there is such a thing as being too solitary. (Trust me, my friends Raj, Michelle, Josh and Tony along with my parents and my sister have told me just that many a time.) To be honest, all during the exercise it never occurred to me that I was lonely, simply because I can pick up the phone or I could get into the car and there are lots of people around me who love me that will spend time with me if I just ask.
I spent the final 15 minutes of the exercise looking at the poster on my mantle; it is just four letters spelling “L-o-v-e.” There have been moments where I’ve stared at that picture and felt lonely, but it’s been a while since I’ve felt like that. I then thought about how far I’ve come and I shrugged, saying to myself, “Love is everywhere, it’s loving the time I’m alone and enjoying the silence and peace, but it’s also there when I take the time to love being around people and in extension loving the people around me for their unique and wonderful nutritional value.”
I used to be lonely, now being alone doesn’t bother me because I’m secure enough in myself to be okay with it, I'm perfectly fine with being by myself.
Someone wise once told me that I had to trust myself enough to let go and deal with my very suppressed emotions, trusting I’d make it through okay. Doing the exercise, taking the time just lying there, it gave me the moment to take some emotional stock and realize that it really does take solitary time to enjoy the triumph of waking up one more day, achieving one more goal and embracing the feeling of a foot firmly planted on the ground.
Have a great week everyone and do me a favor...it's feedback time...tell me, giving yourself 45 minutes with no computer, no TV, no sleeping, no nothing, what would you be, lonely or solitary?