|Case Studies Jan/Feb - Page 5|
Loneliness is about a sense of loss, about missing a connection with another person. Lisa's first experience of "real loneliness" coincided with the death of her father, a naturalist who'd spent much of his free time cultivating African violets in the hothouse he'd built especially for them. She'd spend hours at a time helping him. "He died just before my eleventh birthday, and in a strange way, I think I've been lonely for his company ever since."
The issue isn't that we'll never feel lonely; after all, some degree of loneliness exists in all our lives: the issue is how aloneness makes us feel about ourselves. What the definition of alone doesn't make clear is the essential difference between aloneness and loneliness: that to be "apart from others" also means to be in the presence of oneself—and this is exactly what Lisa, like many women, wanted to avoid.
Solitude is the spacious silence inherent in aloneness. One of its great boons is peace, a state of inner quiet and emotional harmony, which, in our crowded and hectic world, seems less available and, consequently, more precious than ever. What I call "active solitude" is a space in which a woman learns to speak with her own voice and move to her own rhythms—whether baking bread, arranging flowers, saying a prayer, or writing a symphony. It's a dynamic place, where her sense of self, like a good wine, has a protective space and enough time to mature and deepen.