“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”
― Rollo May
When is a business trip in a hotel, a haven vs a horror story? When you can catch up on writing vs when you are numbed by the social awkwardness of dining alone…
I am on a research symposium. I am now throwing that term about with cheerful abandon, although seriously, about a month ago, I figured that no-one would know what it meant, and felt compelled to call it a conference, or a seminar weekend. This makes me a novice in such things, and I am now back in my box and revelling in the term. Research. Symposium. (Seriously – isn’t a “symposium” something to do with classical music?) Don’t ask me. I have no idea..
Anyway. So here’s me. A hotel room. Several free drink vouchers and quite of lot of time after finishing said (fabulous and informative) Research Symposium and hungry. So I had dinner in the hotel restaurant, on my own, and marvelled at the inability of people to eat dinner with friends without turning off their mobile phone. I think the fact that they turned *away* from their friends, but gave me full benefit of the conversation with “Davo” or “Burnsie” (there was more than one episode of this social mores), is what gave me pause for thought.
Is it so awful to be happy to be quiet?
I quite contentedly attended the conference (aka Research Symposium) today, and sat alone for learning, meals and coffee. I chatted with strangers at each point, and in no way acted anti-social. But I have no need to bring a friend along, and found pleasure in having time to contemplate my notes.
I recently inveigled my father to attend an event at my daughter’s school – it was lovely to have three generations contemplating the future of the youngest generation. The event, in theory, was for the grandparents, but in contemplation, I decided that I had no desire to leave my dad alone at such an event, where he would know no-one. Not that it would bother him, but it is a situation where I considered it worth investing a day to walk him through the day. And it was lovely to have the time with him. My dad, like myself, would make the best of being alone, and talk with a stranger, but left to his own devices, would equally sit alone.
Happy to be quiet, or awfully solitary?
My daughter was invited to attend a conference at her school, and as one of the few junior students, I knew she would be expected to talk, on demand, with conference attendees. So, I gave her four stock phrases which would work with most people who asked her about her experiences at school. At the time, I recognised that I was giving her a head-start in small talk – by having a few prepared phrases, she would be more confident in talking with strangers in a social setting. And at the same time, I was recognising that if I hadn’t helped her, she may have said nothing at all.
Quietly solitary, or awfully quiet…?
These are some of the quandaries of the quiet soul. I can be an introvert, or shy, or a recluse. I can be a INFJ, or a wall flower, or that person who baffles the extravert, leaving them to blurt “why doesn’t she say something?”. A phrase guaranteed to imbue further and irrevocable silence.
Being happily quiet gives peace to have time alone and get things done. There is no fear in solitude, even in the solitary spaces of a busy place. This is not to say I don’t get lonely. We all do. But I recognise the balance of alone, lonely, and social time.
Because with my friends I can talk for hours. And with clients, I am commonly found talking well beyond our allotted time. I can give a talk on any topic from pilates to stress management and talk without break for an hour. These times are talking with purpose. They are sharing views with those who have chosen to share with me. I have grown in a person who can share with confidence and purpose, for pleasure.
I recognised, after this time with my family, that being slightly socially reclusive is a family trait. And maybe I have faint envy of those who push themselves loudly in front of the crowd, but at the end of the day, my contentedness in time spent in solitary achievement gives me satisfaction. And I appreciate that along with being a solitary being, I am also accepting of who I am, and who my family is. And I am happy with that. You cannot be truly yourself, unless you accept your own nature.
So for all those introverts out there, for the shy folk, for the quiet types, and for those who just don’t feel the need for noise – cheers to you! May you embrace your inner solitude and enjoy your individuality.
So this is me, on a Research Symposium. Quiet. And happy. And proud…