I Have the Weekend off and it’s Miserable: Solitude is a muscle that must be strengthened

I have the weekend off and it’s miserable. Yes, you heard me right. For the past 48 hours my amazing husband has given me the gift of solitude and I’m going bonkers.

Allow me to share the backstory: in short, silence and solitude are not my strong suit.

Shocking, I know. But with the initials T.A.L.K. and an affinity towards large crowds, my comfort zone is in communicating…chatting…noise. Even one of the very first home videos of myself as a child consists of over 30 minutes of me holding a play phone to my ear and talking to absolutely no one. I was animated, expressive, and in my happy place. So yeah, silence and solitude are not my strong suit. I find myself continually drawn to busyness, full schedules, long to-do lists, little rest and lots of distractions. And as mother to 5 and living in a culture of iPhones and Marco polos and text messages and Facebook and Instagram and-my oh my!- it’s all too easy for me to loose connection to the present and stillness and myself. So to sit alone at the beach with no phone service, no family members and nothing to distract me other than the slowly rolling clouds and the rustling of the leaves and the lapping of the water, dang it, I’m all but panicked as I dig my feet into the sand and focus on trying to breathe. Guilty thoughts keep slamming into my brain: I shouldn’t be doing this. I should be doing laundry. I should be preparing for the school week. I should be preparing for the work week. I should have my kids with me. I should I should I should.

I’m thankful that my husband’s care was stronger than my shoulds and that I was able to accept his gift of alone time and the reality that (1) I need this and that (2) this is how I prepare for a full week of school and parenting and domesticity and helping clients. It’s how I prepare ME to show up as the best version of ME this week.

I’d like to say I would’ve come to this realization without the loving & firm promptings of my husband, but I don’t think that is the case. But alas here I am. It also helped that this idea of solitude was reinforced last night during a sacred conversation with a wise guide whom I’m still not convinced is fully human but perhaps an angel sent to support me on my journey. She said lots of breathtaking things in the two hours that we spoke, and it was the type of conversation where I sat by candlelight-my tea sitting untouched and growing cold next to me- furiously taking notes lest I forget any of the wisdom. Some of the things she encouraged me to do were (1) leave space for the miracles and (2) not get so caught up in schedules and structure and strategies that I lose my ability to be flexible and follow the mysterious and unpredictable promptings of the divine. She reminded me that the way I care for my children is by first caring for myself (put my oxygen mask on first) and that my own health and peace will transfer to and bless the children. We discussed the idea of loneliness versus emptiness and how they are two very different experiences. Loneliness is a type of lacking whereas emptiness is a deliberate releasing in order to be filled again. She shared tidbits of her decades of adventuring-from her success in corporate America-dressed in her tailored suites and cruising in her Porsche; to walking away from it all after her beloved boxer methodically chewed one heel off of each of her fancy high heels as if to say ‘enough is enough’; to traveling the world as a nomad-essentially homeless and alone-and how nature and God opened themselves up to her as she emptied herself. I hung up the phone having a clearer understanding of what my other wise mentor continues to remind me of: it’s not so much about where we are going but rather who we are becoming as we get there.

God offers various vehicles to assist us in the restoration of our souls-from family life to singleness; wealth to poverty; good health to chronic illness; mountaintop experiences to deep dark valleys. They are all just vehicles and they all offer the same thing-shotgun on an adventurous ride to the development of our truest selves. And we get the sacred opportunity to either participate in that journey or not; to shift into drive or park or neutral or reverse. And to risk taking this image into the realm of cheesy and flat (I’m gonna go there anyway) regular intervals of silence & solitude are the fuel that keep us moving forward.

So here I sit at Hard Labor Creek State Park-home of the Friday the 13th horror movies, more recently the quarantine location of COVID suffers, and today, the site of my own personal fear of solitude. I sit here listening to the birds, the wind and my thoughts. Talking to God about my worries, my wonders, my desires, my to-do lists. I submit myself to the solitude; the emptying out of myself and wondering what will be filled back into my soul when I leave this place and enter my week.

Wishing us all seasons of solitude to fuel our journeys.

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