Two Kinds of Aloneness
Joyce and I believe there are two kinds of aloneness. The first is one-person aloneness. Although Joyce and I wake up in the morning together, and often have a few minutes of cuddle time before we get out of bed, we separate after we get out of bed. Joyce stays in the bedroom for her time alone. I go down to the living room for my time. This is our spiritual time, our time to connect with our true Source. We each need this time alone. I take conscious breaths, meditate, pray, perhaps sing. It helps me to start the day in the most centered way.
We also have longer periods of solitude. In the beginning of June, I left for six days to float fifty-five miles down one of my favorite rivers, the Eel in Northern California. The four and a half days I was actually on the river, I saw no other human being. It was that remote! It wasn’t an easy trip, however. The low water made the rapids more difficult. The wind blew so hard that at times I had to paddle hard to keep me and my inflatable kayak from blowing up the river. Still, it was every bit a retreat. I journaled. I talked out loud with myself. But mostly I entered the silence of being with myself and with nature.
Joyce, meanwhile, had her own retreat at home, enjoying her two gardens, the gardens on our property and the gardens in her soul.
The second kind of aloneness is the two-person kind, involving Joyce and me together. Some may say this is not solitude but, for us, it most definitely is. Sometime in the middle of each day, we take a break from our work schedules to walk our golden retrievers. We are blessed to be living adjacent to large pieces of land where we can walk for hours if we want. We often begin our walks in conversation, ranging from the mundane to the sublime. I enjoy listening to Joyce and she enjoys listening to me. Sometimes there is only one of us present. I listen to my voice coming through Joyce and she listens to her voice coming through me. And then there are times of silence. Not just empty silence. There is a fullness to the silence, a sense of togetherness as well as separateness. There is rich communication and contact during the silence. Togetherness sure, but with the feeling of aloneness – perhaps I should call it “All-One-Ness.”
Joyce and I have a great need to be alone together. We have great friends in our area, but we don’t get together with them often. Because of our workshops, we have wonderful friends all around the world that we see only once a year. We see other couples going on vacations with their friends. We see them going camping or boating together, laughing around evening campfires, hiking in the wilderness as a group. We have even had moments of wondering what’s wrong with us. That maybe we’re anti-social. But we always come back to our truth and reality: we’re happiest when we are alone as a couple.
Yes, there is safety in numbers. On a wild river, it is safer to be in a group of other boaters in case of emergency. But Joyce and I love to go alone in our one boat, sometimes with a dog or two. For us, it’s worth taking the risk. Sitting together in the evening by the fire, having our dinner, sometimes in conversation, sometimes in silence, listening to nature’s song, it’s all we could ever want. Solitude, yes. Joyce, me, the dogs, the sounds of the river, we’re all one being at home. All-One-Ness!
Even when our children were in the house, we still needed couple alone time. I believe it was good modeling for them. Mom and Dad not only love one another, but they sometimes need time alone, away from them. I believe it has made them happier and more secure.
Before we had children, we had a very close man friend who lived with us. It was a bad decision right from the start. Joyce and I are nurturers. We became like a mom and dad to him. He became more and more dependent and, like a small child, helped out less and less with the chores. We finally came to our senses and, like bird parents, kicked him out of the nest. He thrived, and we learned how important it is to have a house, a sanctuary, for just the two of us.
Too many people are afraid of being alone, afraid of discovering something dreadful about themselves. We see people constantly surrounded by a group of friends, postponing the inevitable confrontation with themselves. We see people rebound from one relationship to another, missing the vitally important work of integrating the lessons from the last relationship. It’s like eating breakfast, lunch and dinner immediately after one another, without the time to digest each one.
Other people are afraid of connection. Having a close friend is to invite getting hurt. Loving someone inevitably results in the pain of rejection or abandonment. Bottom line: your heart gets broken by others. Joyce and I, because of our extreme closeness, have hurt one another deeply. For us, it’s a tiny consequence, compared with the joy and love of the shared heart.
The key is finding the right balance between solitude and connection. Too much or not enough of either one will throw you off balance, and you will suffer as a result. We invite you to embrace the right amount of both kinds of solitude, the individual kind and the couple kind.