If you are still struggling with the loneliness of life beyond cancer you know the pain of being alone in your cancer experience. It’s a difficult, isolated place to be, because cancer separates us from the other people in our lives. Although we often use the terms interchangeably, however, there is a tremendous difference between loneliness and solitude.
Loneliness happens when we feel isolated, cut off, misunderstood and unseen. We can and often do feel lonely while surrounded by others. In fact, when it comes to cancer survivors, I think our loneliness is at its worst when we watch our friends and family return to “normal” lives, while we live among them still reeling from cancer.
Solitude is also characterized by “aloneness,” but that’s where it and loneliness diverge. Solitude is a positive state of being alone with yourself, providing time to recharge, reflect and grow. Thinking and creativity often require solitude, as does self-awareness and meditation.
While the amount of solitude each individual needs is unique, most of us need some if only to get a few minutes away from the noise of our everyday lives. I discovered my need for solitude while growing up in a small Cape Cod house with ten other people. For every moment I spent as part of the group, I needed to spend twice as much time by myself.
The wonder of solitude is that it is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a necessary time-out from society, when the only person’s company we need is our own. I consider solitude a necessity in my life. Where loneliness has depleted me and made me angry, solitude brings peacefulness and fosters creativity.
I’ll leave you with some beautiful quotes on solitude:
Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement. Alice Koller
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
A great reader seldom recognizes his solitude. Mason Cooley
But the delights of solitude don’t only consist of dreaming. Next in enjoyment, I think comes planning. Anna Neagle
Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius. Edward Gibbon
Do you enjoy solitude? How much solitude do you need and how does it replenish you?
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