Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Lost Art of Solitude

I am a social person. I like to be around people and I take great pride in my ability to make friends. I believe this to be an attribute of those who genuinely care. And I do. As such, I have seldom cherished solitude, preferring to surround myself with people and laughter and to-do lists of events. Being alone for an extended amount of time has seemed daunting. Silence, almost forbidden.

I have found silence to be a perfectly normal thing in Botswana. Despite the occasional (and acceptable) interruption or shout out requests for money or marriage, the Batswana are completely comfortable sitting in silence. They do not find it to be awkward or uncomfortable when they sit alone for hours on a Saturday or when there's complete silence in a jam-packed combi. When tasked with the same assignment, I have not fared as well. Sure, in brief stints I could handle it but definitely not prolonged "isolation", as it seemed to be. There has certainly been a learning curve.

I have mentioned that I have had "too much time to think" since coming to site. And that remains true - I have had ample time on my hands. But now that I am also busying myself with different projects at my site and having a sense of purpose, I am able to take a step back and examine this expanse of time more thoroughly and come to terms with it. It was not until recently that I became comfortable with solitude and, in fact, have really started to cherish my alone time. (Actually, I hardly feel alone anymore. I am my own company.) It hasn't been easy - it is in these moments that I have had to confront myself, make peace with myself, and truly become content - but I am grateful. I wanted to share with you all some of the blessings that I have received from my solitude:

  • time for thought
  • in being alone, I have gotten to know myself better
  • I have had to face my demons and deal with them
  • space and time to unwind
  • time to reflect on what I have done and learn from it
  • isolation from the influences of others, clarity of my own voice
  • appreciation of the small things that have gotten lost in the roar

Maybe I never knew what solitude could do for the soul or maybe I was afraid to sit long enough with myself to muddle through all the difficult stuff but I am fortunate to be where I am now. I had no idea that I needed this so much.

1 comment:

  1. I sometimes wonder how I will deal with the eventual isolation during my service. I suppose there's always my kindle. :)