I recently sat down to watch the first episode of Maniac on Netflix. and I was struck by a line in the opening narration that went:
It’s quite terrible to be alone.
In truth, I was only half-paying attention up until that line to the rambling, philosophical notions espoused by the unnamed and unseen narrator in those early moments, but that line made me sit up and take notice because of simply how wrong I found it.
“There is the thought,” I said aloud to nobody because I was alone in the house in a rare moment, “of a person who doesn’t have small children.” The kind of profundity issued by someone who has been able to use a toilet in silence more than once in the past four years. Parenting is a wonderful thing that has enriched my life in many ways, but one thing it takes away from you rather quickly is the option to be alone very often.
In solitude, I think we find ourselves best. You truly get to know yourself with only yourself for company; alone, we wear no masks for the show of others. We do not find ourselves moving along with the crowd while entertaining silent, private doubts. Solitude is a form of nakedness, and I think for some, it’s absolutely essential from time to time.
I find my ability to truly be alone has weakened in this era of social media, however. Thanks to the internet, we can always distract ourselves with socializing in some way. My early mental picture of the internet was a vast library, but anymore, it looks like an enormous coffee shop full of chattering patrons. To be truly alone anymore, I have to discard all my devices and rough it out. It’s uncomfortable at first, but it usually leads to some deep reflection that I need.
Consider me a champion for solitude, at least in moderation (like all things). And hell, I try to give it as a gift to those I love. For Mother’s Day, I give my wife a day of solitude. A day with me and the boy she can have any time! We go on an adventure and let her rest with her thoughts in peace. My wish for you is to find that time for yourself now and then.