In the 1980s I fell in love with Barbra
Streisand’s anthem for that decade, “Lullaby for Myself” from
her album “Superman.” It was the time of
celebration of a bleak truth that we are, at our core, discreet individuals,
solitary entities, singularities. The
joy of living alone, of owing no one an answer, of not sharing “a pair of pork
chops when you crave champagne and cheese” – I was sold. My friend and I argued about the final lines
– was it his interpretation: “If just one damn man could share the need/to be
alone with me” a message that she wanted to be with someone else in spite of
her cry for independence, or was it mine: “If just one damn man could share the
need to be alone/with me,” suggesting she wanted a relationship but she also
needed her alone time? We had several
loud arguments over that line ending.
I have always enjoyed time alone. There’s something delicious about being able
to act or speak without being watched.
Maybe that’s what appeals to me about writing, for the act of writing
is, for me, a deeply solitary endeavor.
If I’m not physically alone (Virginia Woolf famously said that what a
woman writer needed was “money and a room of her own.”) I must somehow shut out
all the sound and fury of the world outside me, and disappear into my own
isolation in order to hear an inner voice.
When I go back to the city for a visit,
surrounded by traffic and crowds, I wonder how I ever lived there. I long to return to the deserted winter
beaches and forest trails of my island. I
love to curl up with my book in a quiet house in front of the fire. I relish my study, where I can close my
door and vanish into my imagination. The trail to nowhere beckons me.
|Direction sign in an island park|
Yet, when I have drunk my fill of being
alone, when the sound of my own voice begins to bounce irritatingly around in
my head, I have to reach out. I join the
weekly walking group and tramp the trails with 30 plus people instead of alone.
I go farther and faster, and I talk non-stop when I’m with them. I go to rehearsal for the play I’m part of,
work on scenes, drink tea and stack chairs and share lives. I go online and read and respond to posts
from my communities. I invite neighbours
and friends for dinner and cook all day in anticipation. Our little island has
a thousand ways of being alone together.
Sometimes I take a ferry to the city, where
I walk through downtown streets, craning my neck at the tops of the towers,
nodding to strangers on the seaside walking trail, enjoying the buzz on the
crowded Skytrain, drop in on old friends and soak up their company. I’m not sure why, when I embrace solitude,
but I recognize that being with others feeds my soul. I return to my solitude
overflowing with stirred-up ideas, new ways of seeing, new voices, and the
knowledge that the teeming world out there is full of sparks, of sound and
fury, of light and delight.
And sometimes, my lullaby for myself sounds
better sung in harmony.
“Our little island has a thousand little ways of being alone together,” what a wonderful statement, I’d never thought about it like that! I often find that once I’ve had my alone time, I’m much more engaged and engaging around other people.ReplyDelete
We need to feed all parts of ourselves, don't we?Delete
Well said, Wendy. I feel for those who are unable to access the luxury and benefit of solitude, for whatever reason. Balance. We all need that in our lives. Sounds as though you're finding.ReplyDelete
Now to go and listen to Barbra...
True -- solitude and silence are a luxury for many. I am grateful for my quiet forest paths.Delete
Lovely Wendy. Beautifully put. I think of that song often, and you were the one who pointed it out to me. Enjoy your harmonious solitude.ReplyDelete
Thanks. We have contradictory impulses that pull us in many directions.ReplyDelete