I have never been alone for five days, ever. Solitude? What’s that? Three kids and two parents shared the space in my childhood home. I commuted to college. At 21, I married and moved from my parents’ home to live with my husband and daughter, our own little family. Two more children rounded us out to a family of five. Therefore, I have never, ever, been totally by myself for any length of time. I’d never given much consideration to this fact until recently.
In my younger days, I didn’t like being by myself if my parents and siblings weren’t home. A phone call to a friend soothed the solitary feel of an empty house. If my husband and daughter were out someplace, I’d feel uneasy until they returned. Foolish young woman, weren’t you silly? Albert Einstein packaged the idea nicely when he said “I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.” Amen Albert, Amen.
These days, solitude is any combination of brief, elusive, and chronically interrupted. Take for instance my attempt at a nap earlier this week. I was on the precipice of a daytime summer slumber, one of the sweetest slumbers known to humankind. I was jarred back from near-bliss by the doorbell and frantic pounding on the door that could only be instigated by flood, fire, or injury. No such disasters. Rather, my children were at the front door, desperate to enter the house, because their father was in the backyard with the key. After all, he was awake and a whopping 25 yards away, maybe even 30! Why ask him to open the door when you could rouse the terror of your almost-sleeping mother?
Albert Einstein packaged the idea nicely when he said “I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.”
No matter. I enjoyed a unique kind of solitude last week when I went to my first Christian writers’ conference in Grove City, Pennsylvania. The St. Davids experience was incredible for many reasons, but I am particularly speaking here of the drive and the stay. You’ll note I speak little of the conference itself here, which was utterly fantastic. But that part of my trip involved lots of fantastic people, so I’ll leave that for another time. The real story is, I’d never driven six hours alone before. Frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I felt nervous because I detest driving and usually leave that to my husband, who detests my driving.
Yet somehow, I found myself spellbound by the green-clad stretches of I-80 that were saturated on either side with rolling hills of summer foliage. The majesty of cruise control soon became evident. I used the cruising-induced freedom my feet enjoyed to tap along with worship music the whole way there. At one point, I thought I’d better stop singing so loudly, lest it cause me to lose my voice before I arrived to meet my counterparts.
Once there, the reality of not having to check in with anyone, check on anyone, or do anything for anyone but myself was an altogether new, albeit rapturous, experience. I silently prayed blessing on my husband who had not only encouraged me to go, but was also single-handedly managing the mischief of two rambunctious ginger-haired imps during my five-day absence. Father God, bless him. Jesus, cover him in protection. Holy Spirit, convict my children so that they behave and I can go do this again sometime. AMEN.
The experience of being by myself and navigating my days and nights based on my own whimsy was freeing. It reminded me that relief from the routine of being on a more demanding schedule is gloriously beneficial. Walking to workshops and meals alone on a quiet, beautiful campus was a therapeutic use of my time.
Though I missed my family, it was nice to simply be, well, ME for a bit.
The unfounded trepidation about traveling solo and being the master of my own time for a few days makes me chuckle now. Though I missed my family, it was nice to simply be, well, ME for a bit. I wasn’t wife, mom, or teacher. I was just myself, and it was grand. Having discovered this healthy solitude, I can’t imagine not pursuing it more often. Why yes, I do believe I will.