Sunday, September 18, 2011

Solitude: It's Not A Bad Thing

As a teacher, I have heard numerous comments, phrases and stories throughout the year which usually makes me smile or breaks my heart.  Conversations range from fights, boy/girlfriend trouble to plans over the weekend.  The perfect remedy is within their grasp, but they tend to look at my in horror when I suggest a solution:  solitude.

My job is to instruct my students how to read and write better, in the world of the literature.  However, I try to throw in topics that relate to their lives presently or in the future.  Frequently, my ears will absorb the dreaded topic of solitude.  Teenagers hate it.  They would rather be in school versus having to stay home and be alone. 

When I ask, "What's so terrible about being by yourself?"

The response?  "Nothing to do! I get bored!"

My cliche reply tends to be "Read a book."

Sounds mundane, but my students haven't truly grasped the significance of this directive.  Adults have trouble with this, too.

Solitude is crucial in our lives.  As adults, we have stressful days but believe it or not, teenagers do as well.  Studying, working, extra curricular activities, maintaining grades, homework, and some have to help pay bills for their parents or even due to living on their own.

Why is solitude imporant?  In order to be a better human being, we need to have selfish alone time.  In that moment, a person can rest physically and mentally.  It rejuvenates the spirit, reorganizes your thinking process and facilities the individual into a new week.

There is a difference between resting and laziness, so be careful.  If all you do is lie around, let the trash pile up, and ignore your household duties, then you are not experiencing the true essence of solitude.

For example:  it's Sunday.  My family is still asleep and I am in the basement writing this blog.  It's very quiet.  No music, no television - nothing.  The stillness of the house, the cat at my feet and the perfect temperature of my home is a tranquil beginning of my day.  People are not demanding of my time, asking tons of questions or telling me story after story pertaining to their anctics of the day.

It's pure bliss.

Granted, I still need to do some laundry, grade and pay some bills, but the fact I can do this without interruption is the blessing of solitude.

That's just one type but here are some of my favorites:

1.  Soaking in the tub.  This is my favorite way to dash away from my hectic lifestyle.  My mom teases me from time to time because she doesn't understand this, but in the end, I am very relaxed and more open to communication.  I make every effort to do this at least once a week.  Hot, hot water, tons of bubbles, a good book, my favorite scented candle and a low background musical piece (instrumental only), creates the perfect atmosphere for what my husband says, "Tina's Serenity Time."

2.  Hammock:  we finally purchased one this year.  Early in the morning or late at night, this is a treat!  My daughters have been caught snoozing in it.  My oldest daughter was reclining one evening without her iPod (which is miralce) and her telephone (I almost fainted) but she didn't have a book either.  Her arms were behind her head and she allowed a gentle breeze to rock her back and forth.  I asked her, "What are you dong?"  She replied, "Just chillin'" was her reply.  See?  Solitude.  I left her alone where she basked in the night air for quite some time.

3.  No friends:  this is something I tell my daughters they need to do from time to time.  Enjoy an evening of no friends.  They choose to hang in their rooms and watch a movie or go outside and ride a bike or scooter up and down the street.  I try to stress no texting, but that's easier said than done!  I remember one time, my youngest asked someone to spend the night.  The entire week had been full of school, night activities and running around.  My gentle reply "Let's have a quiet night.  I think you need it."  She didn't argue, but the look on her face told me she was not happy.  She fell asleep rather early and slept well into the next morning.  When she woke up, she told me, "I'm glad I didn't have anyone over.  I was tired."  Tired, yes, but she only realized it because she slowed down and found the positive side of solitude.

I've been instilling the idea of "alone time," "serentity now" (Seinfeld phrase), and "solitude" into my daughters' psyches for quite some time now.  They are slowly seeing the benefits of this form of meditation.

To my students, it's an on-going battle.  They believe that in order to "have fun" you have to be constantly on the move, interacting with friends and party.  The need to "be still" and enjoy the quieter times in life is not in their vocabulary. 

I know, I know.  It's a "teen thing" and one day, they will understand the importance of it, but I can't give up now.  They will someday realize how important it is and to cherish those moments of reflection and rejuvenation.  They will make the connection that these quiet moments will make them better individuals, they will appreciate life more and become better human beings.

If you are reading this blog, I hope you, too, find a time for that needed solitude.  I would love to hear your ideas!


  1. Growing up an only child meant there were plenty of times for solitude. I'm glad. Those times encouraged daydreaming and pretending, and probably set me up to be a writer when I grew up.

    Kids these days don't often allow themselves solitude. Their world is filled with electronics and friends at their fingertips. You've done well setting a good example and encouraging them to take a little time for themselves.

  2. Thanks Rox! I hope so. Technology is great, but it can be such a hindrance. It's almost a form of a toxic drug for their minds. I didn't realize you were an only chid!

  3. Tina,
    I think you're doing a wonderful thing. Solitude is something I crave. If I don't get at least an hour a day, I'm mean. I don't have to have an entire hour of non-movement, but there better be silence and no one TALKING to ME.
    The good lesson is that solitude is a good thing, not a bad thing. When do they think thoughts if they're always being and doing?

  4. Nicely put, Nina. I crave my solitude like I crave my chocolate. In fact, we might be headed to Taos in November. Im excited at the prospect of going up into the mountains for my serenity time!