Like the tides which ebb and flow on the shore, the cycles of intimacy and solitude drift in and out of my life. I have been living in the absence of intimacy since writing my last blog, The Love Doves. I can honestly say that I enjoy life so much more when the experience of intimacy is abundant. However, for intimacy to be sustaining, we need to look not only at the moments that interrupt it, but also at its mate – solitude. The subject of solitude is a personal favourite of mine. Could it be that solitude is the yin to intimacy’s yang?
Let me begin by admitting that solitude has saved my life! If I were given a choice between an eternity in which no solitude was possible, and an eternity in which only solitude was available, I would most definitely choose the latter. Solitude offers a connection with the energy of my body, my soul, and with Spirit. It provides the opportunity for renewal; the chance to check out what I am feeling and thinking; to cease being attentive to the needs of others; to drift and dream. It is in these moments of deep soul connection where I feel most restored. But solitude without its beautiful counterpart – intimacy, feels unbalanced. They seem to mirror one another. Can we live in one successfully without living in the other?
How we experience our own sense of self just may reflect the way we experience other people (as trusting, lovable, knowable, real or unreal, equal or less than, a source of anxiety or a source of pleasure). Intimacy and solitude may move in different directions, but like two sides of a coin, they remain side by side.
This past weekend, as I walked into a family gathering, ancient feelings of loneliness and separateness paid me a visit. As I explored them, I realized this is the “hook” that interferes with any possibility of real connection. In loneliness we are painfully aware of what we do not have. For me, it is the longing for a tribe of friends who all know one another, a community of shared experiences, and a desire for deeper joy and intimacy with others.
Loneliness is one of the great dreads for many people. Most of us have experienced it in our own lives, and many fear it. Deep loneliness can come out of missing an actual person, or from the feeling of wanting a kind of contact, a level of connection, which is not or perhaps never has been available. That feeling of loneliness ignites the fantasy of, “I will not be lonely when… or I would not be lonely if…” However, loneliness just may be part of the human condition. It is how we meet ourselves in this state that makes a difference.
The experience of loneliness may just be the sign that we are disconnected from our source, or that something has transpired in relationship that needs attending and repair. My daughter came home yesterday complaining of a stomachache. This morning she did not want to go to school, which is unusual for her. I knew intuitively that something had happened yesterday. After much prodding, she revealed that her friends had teased her after school on the way to go ice-skating. At the rink, she skated alone. She was unable to open her heart once her feelings were hurt and this prevented her from enjoying her tribe. She decided to write a story this morning about her broken heart. The solitude she needed to write her story gave her courage to tell her friends that her feelings were hurt. What if we all could have such courage in the face of our fear?
Intimacy can be a beautiful and exhilarating exchange. It involves sharing the truth of our thoughts and feelings openly with others, even when it’s difficult to do so. In the many moments I am connected to my source and therefore my self, I am able to share this rich experience with others. And whether you’re six or forty six, when your heart is closed, intimacy with other is not yet available.
To make any relationship successful with another human being, we need closeness and acceptance and also separateness and space. We need to be reasonably aware of our feelings, for instance how the loneliness can interrupt the flow. Like the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon; like the daily ebb and flow of the ocean’s tides, these twin desires for intimacy and solitude might be the yin to the yang.