Recently someone said, “Living alone is hard.” I don’t find that at all. In fact, for me living alone is peaceful, satisfying, renewing.
I’m at a time in my life when I’m dealing with very elderly parents. Ellis Peters in Dead Man’s Ransom writes, “And sometimes it went the opposite way, kept the good and let all the malice and spite be washed away. And why one old man should be visited by such grace, and another by so heavy a curse, Cadfael could not fathom.” She’s talking about old monks, one of whom remembers only the bad that everyone has done to him. It’s exhausting when my mother phones me nearly every day to complain about something, or to get me to explain once again what I’ve already explained several times before. Is she truly losing her memory, or is she just not paying attention, or does she just want attention? I could go on and on, but my point in this piece is that when things get too much with my parents (or in other areas of my life), my refuge is my house, my peaceful life and my own routine.
I live in a city that is wonderful for walking, which I do as much as I can. My home is in a neighbourhood close to many amenities – shops, the library, restaurants, and the riverbank. My yard is small, but I've planted it with perennials, a few annuals, and I also have a small vegetable garden. At this time of year, the yard and garden are mostly done, though with the wonderful weather we've had this year, there are still sweet peas blooming, the odd rose and a few other things.
There are books in my house, music CD’s, and movie and TV DVD’s, so I have quiet entertainment if I want it. I’m part of a book club that meets regularly, wonderful women who read widely and we have many fascinating discussions. Often some of us will go to a movie or a play together as well. I’m also part of a writing group, and of course I need solitude to work on my own writing. I have other friends that I meet for coffee or walking.My parents don’t seem to have that kind of network, and I’m not sure they ever did, though they did take part in church and community affairs for many years. Perhaps, since they've always had each other, they didn't feel the need to reach out as much. Anyway, I enjoy spending time with friends and at the same time, I like my own company.
Of course, it’s not easy sometimes when things need to be done to my house. I’m the one who has to take care of everything; there’s no one else to delegate to if something goes wrong or when the eaves troughs need to be cleaned (though I could pay someone to do that). But I've lived alone for so many years (I believe in making ithe best of whatever situation I find myself in.) that I've grown used to coping with things. There’s a sense of accomplishment about sorting out my own problems.
I guess for me it’s partly about balance. I need solitude and I also need people. Finding the right combination is wonderful.
Here’s a quote from a little book I love, Words on Solitude and Silence: “Loneliness is the poverty of the self, solitude is the richness of the self.” – May Sarton.