30 October 2010

Alone and not lonely

Those who are with me on Facebook know that back in September I enjoyed four nights away on my own in Devon. This was the first time I had gone away solo since before my son was born more than 16 years ago. My Mother didn't believe that I was going alone and neither did quite a few other people so I waved my double room for single occupancy booking for all to see!

It's not as though I haven't trod the solo route before. I did frequently before becoming a Mother. It's never bothered me being on my own as much as it appears to bother others. It has many things to recommend it such as not having to take the wants and needs of a companion into account, doing whatever you fancy doing without having to explain why, eating and sleeping when you want to, being free and through being free, using that freedom to allow your mind to wander in whatever direction it cares to take without interruption or disruption. That time to think and to touch your own soul is precious and is experienced by so few.

Ask yourself when was the last you were truly on your own for more than a couple of hours? Do you actually have time to allow true free thought? I value this solitude so much.

Of course there are negatives to being alone. Nobody to turn to to express delight at some view or experience and to share that with them. Nobody to chat about the day that has been. Nobody to discuss some of the things you have had the time to think about! And there is the safety aspect that many seem to place above all other considerations. Whilst walking on my holiday I stopped to pass the time of day with other walkers, to admire the views and all were surprised that I was walking alone but being on my own revealed to me that there are many men that walk alone and I bet they don't get the note of surprise that I get when revealing the solo nature of their exploits. It is amazing that in the 21st century a woman partaking of an activity alone is still considered to be doing something abnormal and yet a man doing exactly the same thing is not. There are many measures of when true equality will have been attained and this is definitely in the top ten for me.

There were two occasions whilst I was away when a worry about what might happen flitted briefly across my mind. The first was when I was walking through a quite densely wooded area which had the added attraction of steep cliffs too. I noticed a man ahead, probably about the same age as myself, also alone and he noticed me. He slowed considerably and it wasn't long before I had drawn abreast of him. We exchanged pleasantries but I made it pretty clear that I didn't want company by picking up my pace in an effort to draw ahead of him. He shadowed my every pace even when I slowed down and then increased pace again. That was when the thought made a brief flit. I came to a halt and decided to light a cigarette. He stood there watching me. He wasn't taking the hint, he even reached into his pocket and brought out his own cigarettes, which was when I firmly but politely explained that I wanted to walk alone and he was preventing me from doing so. He made an unrepeatable remark but moved on and I sat down and gave him a full half an hour and a dozen other people walking in the same direction before resuming.

The second occasion I really was rather silly but it was so invigorating! 'No access to the beach' the sign said. What beach I though to myself. Looks like sheer cliffs to me. So I followed the pathway and eventually it became apparent that there was a lovely little beach some 500 feet below. The path was steep and in very poor repair and I ended up scrambling using both hands and legs, crawling on all fours when necessary to get both down and then on the return, up. It struck my mind that if I did fall I would be without help for a long time as there was no mobile phone signal and there wasn't a soul around but any misgivings were replaced by total euphoria at having that little beach to myself for half an hour, just sitting watching the waves crashing on the sand and the birds circling overhead.

I've never minded being alone in the city late at night either. The nights I spent in the student union bar when I was at university in London, getting the last tube home on my own and then the 20 minute walk the other end. People said I was being silly and taking risks but to be honest the only risk I ever considered I was taking was not being able to make work at 8am the next morning.....I rarely did (good job it was flexi time) or not being able to hold my bladder until I got in....I always did! I still do it now and whenever anyone expresses concern I point out that I really am in the wrong demographic for being attacked. It is young men between the ages of 16 and 25 who are most at risk, not old biddies like me!

The one thing that my holiday did for me apart from rejuvenating me, making me feel exceptionally happy, fulfilled and fit was made me realise that I really should get away on my own more often, money permitting!

As Deeprak Chopra says "To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions."


  1. As you may have seen on my FB page I did a solo trip down to the New Forest a few months back - only for 1 night this time - last time I went for a week - just me, a tent and my motorbike. You're so right - the solitude is wonderful if you're in the right mood. :-)

    Paul Carr

  2. Thanks for a great piece Linda. I admire your strength. Interesting what you said about statistics for possible attack... Interesting too that you are also a smoker!! I love the Deeprak Chopra quotation!

  3. Thanks Jacqui. I'm not sure that smoking is interesting...lol...I've given up giving up. It stresses me out too much, I smoke so few now and only ever outdoors, so it's only me I'm doing any damage to, well apart from a potential attacker who would get it right in the eye!
    That's one of my favourite quotations because it is just soooo true.

  4. I once read that the delai lama says everyone should spend half an hour a day alone.