The Gift of Solitude
Is it possible to feel alone when your home is filled with family? I would argue that it is.
As a wife and mother to two busy boys, one might think that living with a sense solitude would be nearly impossible. But I’ve found that being physically surrounded by the ones you love is not necessarily protection against internal and emotional isolation.
Let me explain.
Last year I left a surrounding that was comfortable to me and found myself in new territory with a 3 year old and a three month old. My family moved from St. Louis to Cleveland for my husbands work, and I haven’t felt the same since. I’m learning that perhaps I’m not supposed to. In St. Louis, my life felt very full – and as an extrovert who feels energized by others and a sense of community, that’s just the way I liked it. In addition to having a loving home that included my husband, oldest son and newborn son, I had a great job that fulfilled me, a wonderful group of friends whose kids were friends with mine, and was engaged in meaningful board and community work. After three years there (we were previously in Philadelphia) I felt settled in and comfortable. Life was good.
Then my husband was offered his dream role in Cleveland as I was on maternity leave following the birth of our youngest son. Amidst my happiness for him, my stomach dropped on the inside.
Moving to Ohio has caused me to stretch and look inward in ways that I have not had to in quite some time. I’ve spent the greater part of the year trying to make Cleveland what St. Louis had been to me. Before the moving truck ever arrived, I had reached out to my contacts in an attempt to get back to work as soon as possible. With enough effort, I was sure that my new job in Cleveland could just like the one I’d had in St. Louis (which was the best I’d ever had). Next, I searched for “mom groups” so I could find my people, just like my girlfriends in St. Louis.
I attempted to assure myself that all would work out just fine. After all, I’ve grown up all over the world, and considered myself flexible, adaptable, and resilient when it comes to picking up and starting over again in a new town, state, or country. In fact, after the age of eight, I haven’t lived in one single place for longer than four years. So why was picking up and going again after 3 years in St. Louis such a challenge? What’s different this time around? The culprit in this case is most certainly becoming a mother. We moved to St. Louis when my oldest son was just 8 months old, and we welcomed another child during our time there. Something I like to call the magnitude of motherhood has caused a shift in my normally flexible approach to getting up and going, and had placed an even deeper personal emphasis on community and connection. (The magnitude of motherhood, by the way, can be an all-encompassing descriptor for any significant change or shift you may have noticed in and around yourself since becoming the caregiver of another small human. Dedicated post coming soon).
Leslie, you are going to be okay”, is what I told myself. But it wasn’t okay because it wasn’t St. Louis. And of course it’s not - It’s Cleveland. And all though it’s not okay, I am going to be okay.
I don’t yet have a job comparable to my previous role. In fact, I don’t have a job at all. And though I have met a few people locally in the last year, I haven’t yet found a group of friends to connect with, or a supportive network of mothers to share “mom struggles” with, that was comparable to my village in my old neighborhood. And you know what? I give up – in the best way possible.
It’s occurred to me that I should probably stop trying so hard to bring the past into my present, and to shift into better alignment with my current state. If I never really grasped the concepts of “mindfulness” and “being present” before, I now know for sure that all we have is right now. This very moment.
During the past several months, without the distractions of work, social obligations, and a strong community of friends and close family near by, I have learned to surrender to this season of my life. With tremendous effort and introspection, I am learning to settle into myself, by myself.
What if we could shift our perspective and take a season of solitude as a time of introspection and growth? What if we recognized that our solitude was able to assist in our unfolding? What if we weren’t scared to be alone with our thoughts and issues, and decided to really dig in and work on ourselves? And finally, can we acknowledge what a privilege and luxury it is to even have the space and capacity to care for ourselves in such a way?
In my state of surrender, I am forced to be present. I know I cannot avoid growth in my time alone. I initially resisted this notion as I continued to look back at what had been, but I ultimately needed to get to this point in order to create meaningful shifts in my life. Going through a period of isolation allows you to find hope - but only after acceptance and true release of what ever it is that’s keeping you stuck.
As a newfound stay at home mother, I’ve found time to practice self-care. I intentionally wake up about 2 hours before my children to exercise, practice yoga and squeeze in a morning meditation and writing session. When my youngest son naps I focus on writing and reflecting via the She Before We platform. I have developed a great sense of gratitude around having the opportunity to spend my days with my baby in his most formative years while my older son is in pre-kindergarten. I know from experience that these days will go by so fast, almost in the blink of the eye.
I’m journaling. Mind mapping. Exploring learning opportunities and deepening my yoga practice. All things that I did not have time to do just over a year ago. I stay encouraged by reminding myself that this too shall pass – so why not enjoy the ride? Why not make the most out the privilege of being able to study myself in ways I’d never been able to imagine? My heart is filled with gratitude as I count my blessings daily.
Solitude is sacred. Lawrence Sterne said “In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself “ To my fellow stay at home mom’s who are searching for deeper meaning, personal growth, or a new direction: Do the work with me. I know for a fact that the best is yet to come.
You got this:
1. If you feel alone, shift your perspective and consider that your solitude may be presenting to assisting in your unfolding.
2. Take time to be present and listen to your intuition during this season through journaling or any form of mindfulness (such as prayer or meditation).
3. Stay assured in knowing that the best is yet to come.
"I look deeply inside of myself in seasons of solitude”