There is a picture hanging in my home. I’m not quite sure who the photographer is to give credit, or what this picture meant to the photographer. That’s the joy of art – you decide what it means to you, and everyone may have a different idea of what that should be. There has always been that one single word to describe this picture for me, and so I have have named it that – Solitude. It describes my version of solitude perfectly in a simple image. A leafless tree isolated in the midst of a snow-covered ground, with a fence which seems to separate it from…what? Who knows? I find myself staring at this picture to keep myself inspired. I see the tree as myself; the barren, snow-covered ground as the world around me. The fence…well, maybe that’s an extension of me trying to separate myself from the “noise”…
Solitude – as the dictionary states, it’s a state of seclusion or isolation.
The tree is not lonely or in pain. For this tree, solitude is a result of a deliberate choice. It has chosen to be free and use solitude to recharge, be with its own thoughts, free of distractions and full of introspect; to create. In my mind, I hope that I see this tree develop into a colorful tree, full of leaves. Those leaves would represent the things that have been accomplished and show progress. But since this is not a moving picture, those visions stay in my mind and still inspire me to continue creating. One by one, those leaves start to appear.
The definition of solitude is way more complex than only a state of seclusion or isolation. Solitude takes many forms. It can be considered pleasure, a punishment, or a treatment. Solitude can mean glory or joy when one is alone; loneliness can mean pain in being alone. I like to think of solitude as pleasure, and sometimes treatment; but never a punishment. Solitude can be a sense of peace. A mind at rest with many thoughts flowing freely. Standing still. It is a state of mind.
Noise and sounds have a big effect on whether or not solitude can be enjoyed. I can be notoriously fickle when it comes to noise in my quest for solitude.
One does not have to be alone to enjoy solitude. There are times when being in a noisy coffee shop with a lot of people around can produce a feeling of peace and allow the mind to think more clearly. Sometimes the hustle-and-bustle surrounding me creates the energy I need to be inspired.
As I say that, I realize that I am also a conflicted individual when it comes to being around other people. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with and interacting with people. My profession is an Event Planner, so I am in the midst of crowds of people quite often during the celebrations and enjoy watching the festivities and happy people as I work. I truly enjoy what I do and being in that atmosphere. Sometimes though, I do get a little overwhelmed in a negative way, as there is too much emotion coming at me from others all at once. I absorb all of that energy and emotion and sometimes have to shake it off, go take a walk and ground myself in order to move on and function. Once, when I was about 10 or 11 years old, I had a panic attack in a crowded flea market in Italy. I didn’t realize it then, but my mind was so claustrophobic because of the “noise” of everyone’s emotions. There were so many people, and I couldn’t fend off all of that energy coming at me. It was a terrifying feeling.
So that being said, being around people for inspiration is great if you have yourself grounded and your mind is at rest. I’ve been able to learn that over the years as I learn about myself.
On the other hand, there are times when being alone and in complete silence is needed to wipe away all the clutter in the mind. Sometimes you aren’t able to get yourself grounded, and being in complete solitude and silence is the only way to go.
When I need the silence, I usually have pretty severe reactions to certain sounds. I tell people that I have sensitive ears. In reality, the noise is what clutters my mind.
Silence can be a calming form of meditation. I’ve come to appreciate a quote by Ram Dass,
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
Sometimes the silence can be deafening, though. If I am by myself and trying to work or write, there are times when I just have to turn on the TV or put some music on – not because I want to watch a tv program or sing along to my favorite song, but because it’s too silent. Call it my “white noise”, if you will.
People may call me an introvert and probably think I’m anti-social. Those are a couple of the stigmas attached to that word “solitude”. At times, whether I am alone or with people, I just need to be in solitude with my thoughts. It doesn’t mean I’m a loner, that I don’t like people, or that I don’t want to be friends. I’m actually enjoying every minute of the solitude, so let me be…the results might be pretty wonderful!