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Loneliness to solitude. Sunday November 1, 2015

I love Autumn; falling leaves, cosy jumpers, warm fires. However, one of the downsides is the growing number of restaurants advertising Christmas and New Year parties. Party dresses pop up in the shops, sparkly and beautiful, impossibly high-heeled shoes and recipes for canapés.

For many and complex reasons, over the last six or seven years I have increasingly lost my confidence and ability to relate to people and build friendships. Gradually, those who I met for coffee and lunch in carefree days have slipped away, and the invitations to New Year parties dried up many years ago. My husband revels in his introverted nature, peacefully enjoying solitary bike rides, but for me, being an introvert and sensitive is a painful experience.

Ironically, I am currently engaged in a year long study looking at how people relate to each other, and while this often brings to the surface difficult feelings, it can sometimes provide clues that help me to cope. The spiritual writer Henri Nouwen writes about moving from loneliness to solitude, an attitude that accepts alone-ness while recognizing that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. Solitude has a peacefulness about it that isn't self-judgmental or negative, but mindful of the world and the beauty around us.

So while I journey from loneliness to solitude, I am thankful for the company of my husband, and we have agreed to plan our own New Year party – who says parties need more than just two?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Liane Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 5:47am

Thank you Vanessa. It is a perfect topic "loneliness to solitude" for the night of Halloween. It felt good to watch the people dressed in their holiday attire walk in groups or alone through the foggy streets. The mood was joyful. It was a holiday for partying or for observing. Either way the celebration was enjoyable. Thank you for sharing that everyone can choose how to enjoy the holidays. We're all individuals and we have the right to live our lives by our own guidelines that determine our own peace.

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 2:29pm

Thank you Liane. It's really nice to enjoy the fact that we are all different!

Zareen Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 7:39am

I loved your blog Vanessa, found it very helpful & thought-provoking! Thanks for the blog!

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 2:30pm

You are welcome Zareen, thank you for leaving a comment, it's good to hear.

Eva Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 8:11am

My recently widowed mother in law had to go and meet people and make a new life as she didn't have many connections outwith her life with her husband . She has done an amazing job with crafting groups the local library etc. It was a necessity step to avoid isolation and enjoy social interaction. I don't think that solitude is a bad thing, I enjoy and need it for my line of work, but I also treasure my friends. Not everyone is cut out for solitude as a lifestyle. I need a good amount of social interaction to give me perspective and keep me healthy. If I don't see enough of a variety of people for too long I get cravings...

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 2:35pm

Hi Eva, sounds like your mother in law was very brave, it must be very hard to do that in the midst of grief. There is a balance, isn't there between solitude and interaction. I will try and be brave like your mother in law, and try some new things!

Eva Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 8:13am

She is very brave, and a wonderful lady.

Alex Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 8:19am


Thank you for the added extra for me, of a lovely memory you brought back: I love autumn, and used to love to kick through the leaves all along University Avenue, in Glasgow, on the way to the Art Gallery, or Kelvin Hall. Took me right back to that.

And I like the idea of moving from loneliness to solitude....although Im a loner by nature, as was my husband, and am basically very unsociable(some might say antisocial: in some ways, they'd be correct) and I don't actually feel loneliness as such, I do like the word solitude. No, love it. Huge thank yous for that.

And some of the best parties happen with just two people..... :)

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 2:38pm

Alex, thank you, thats a nice memory to share. I am imagining someone well wrapped up in hat and gloves against the Glasgow cold! I'm glad you like the solitude word too, I was brought up to think that introversion was a 'bad thing', so solitude helps me to reframe it more positively. Two person parties can be very interesting ...!

Debs Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 8:58am

Beautiful blog Vanessa, and I'm so fascinated by your year of study... Will you blog about it, I'd really love to hear more? I love the term solitude, it conjures up images of peace and quiet joy. And I love my own company normally - I travelled the world for years and loved being just me out in the wilderness - but since I became I single parent I've suffered crippling loneliness. I realised recently that loneliness is just a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. I felt shame that I was on my own, like it was a failure on my part. As soon as I turned that thinking around and told myself I was proud of how far I've come and what I've achieved the loneliness started to dissipate. It also helped me to share how I was feeling with people, it was surprising when I did this how much others opened up and the connections started to grow. We are all the same really, all spiritual beings having an experience of being human xxx

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 2:44pm

HI Debs. I was just saying to Alex (above) that I was brought up to feel introversion was a bad thing, so I can relate to your comment about failure. I am in awe of your abilities to travel the world alone - a blog would be great, to hear more of your adventures! Well done for turning your thinking around, its helpful to hear you managed to get the connections growing.

the room above the garage Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 9:00am

Hello Vanessa, what a beautiful blog. Thank you! I find friendships hard as they make me feel...trapped is too strong a word...un-free. And yet a key point in my depression learning was realising I felt very lonely parenting alone. I think i've made peace with that now and I have made a future plan for when my children are gone (scary) to re enter the world with things I want to learn. If friendships grow then, then it's a bonus! In others words, I'm not giving up on being able to feel confident and comfortable with friendships but it's in a queue (the call is important to me :-) )

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 2:59pm

Hi RATG! I'm inspired by the fact you have made peace with this, and that you can be relaxed enough to leave it in a queue! Thank you.

Leah Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 9:43am

Thank you for a wonderfully fascinating blog.
I always used to say there is a big difference between being lonely and being alone. The loneliest I have ever felt when I was with someone who was never there for me.

I too am interested in your year long study and would like to know more.

You have given me a lot to think about.

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 3:01pm

Hi Leah, goodness yes, being in a relationship can be the loneliest place to be. It takes such a lot of communication to get relationships in a place where your needs are met, I find. Maybe thats an introvert thing too?

The Gardener Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 11:15am

Vanessa, you have touched a raw spot this morning. I was 'coping' then last night loneliness hit me - would my husband ever live at home again. The a friend of my childrens' age has lost her husband, 58, to cancer. For a few weeks she coped - so busy, and so relieved that his awful suffering was over. Now, loneliness has hit her, like me, with a mallett.I went and looked at our 'new' house, designed for and around my husband, and got a boost. If he comes home, he will be better there. If he does not, I will be less lonely than in the huge mansion I currently occupy. It's got bigger since I fell downstairs. Loneliness and solitude are so different - if you are happy with yourself (and with a 'significant other' then solitude can be managed. I don't know if you are religious, and have considered a retreat? The nearness (in commercial terms) of Christmas is particularly poignant. We used to flee our quarreling parents and cart the kids, dangerously, through the Alps to Italy - where I think they had a happy time. A picture of second son, then 15, sitting under an olive tree in the sun, sonked, says it all. Number 5, just learning to walk, was negotiating the steps of the crumbling villa. But oh, the awful emotional blackmail of Christmas. We must ask Granny, or the awful Aunt May (we knew a goodie). They will be fussy about the heating, husband will get drunk, mum will be overwrought and criticised, for her cooking and the awful behaviour of the kids (why do we mums get blamed?). Kids storm off to rooms, and the rest of the 'assembly' are doomed to drink and awful TV. Our liveliest Christmases have been in Indian orphanages (5 times) and me at Crisis at Christmas. Terrific bonhomie among the helpers - an extraordinary bunch. And the entertainment of the 'baccy' run - one man was so proud of his 'war' wounds. Broken nose 'That's where I fell out of the Lamb and Flag'. 'Partying' can be pretty spurious, anyway. My husband, in our younger days, was like yours, Vanessa. BUT< he loved me to wear pretty clothes, and once bought he was not going to let me out alone in them, so he came along in his own 'best bib and tucker' and became a social animal. Was it laziness or fear which would have stopped him? The poor guys are scared of sociability (unless with a gang of mates down the pub) but, being guys, the dare not admit it. So good luck, Vanessa.

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 3:05pm

Dear Gardener, I feel for you so much. Sounds like you have a lot to deal with, I will pray that you and your husband can be in your new house together. What an interesting upbringing your children had, that sounds amazing. I have a couple of times helped out with a local charity that provides Christmas meals to those living alone - I have to say they were the best Christmas I have ever had!

Anonymous Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 11:31am

This is a lovely blog today Vanessa. I really like it. I am not sure if I am by nature, a social introvert or extrovert. I do know however that when I'm feeling low, I prefer my own company but on the occasional high days and evenings I long for fun company. I seek it out. The best times I have had when I look back are those evenings when I've felt great and had such fun with friends or people I don't know; it doesn't matter. The downside to that is if I meet those people afterwards and I am not the same person, I mean I don't come across as the lively person they encountered before.
My husband wouldn't care if he never socialised. I know it's supposed to be good for one. My parents were very sociable and I hated being dragged in front of their guests to say hello etc.
I think I like other people or am interested in their lives but most of the time, I feel I am unable to express myself face to face in ways which holds others attention so therefore retreat into solitude. I also know that I am more than happy to be on my own and don't mind if I have the whole day to myself. I can then decide if I want to see people or not. Thank you again Vanessa for this blog. I tend to agree with your words.."...being an introvert and sensitive is a painful experience.... (Jul)

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 3:09pm

Thank you Anonymous. I guess whatever we are, introvert or extrovert, what's key is to be comfortable with ourselves? It sounds like you are very comfortable to choose whether you want to see people or not, being happy alone is a great gift!

Frankie Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 2:39pm

Fascinating topic Vanessa; I think that being able to live comfortably in solitude is one of the most mature things we do; being comfortable with ourselves and able to accept ourselves, the good and the not-so-good, leads to peace of mind and heart.
I too love Autumn - it's my favourite season! But, like you, I have never been a fan of New Year's Eve parties - darling hubby and I usually have a quiet night in and don't even stay up for the midnight bongs! I would love to read more about your study and your findings ...
Thank-you Vanessa

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 3:13pm

Thanks Frankie. I sometimes think about how I will be when I am drawing near to the end of this life. I have a hope to be sat in a comfortable armchair, watching wildlife in the garden out of the window, and listening to something interesting on radio 4! I imagine that by then, I will have mastered this solitude thing!

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 3:14pm

Thank you all so much for your kind words and wisdom today. Its great to know you are all out there! I will do my best to write again and let you know how the studies are going! Much love xx

Bearofliddlebrain Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 4:30pm

Hi Vanessa, I'm so glad you've written this. It's funny how timely some blogs can be for different Moodscope users. Yours hit a note with me. As someone has mentioned above, it can be lonely in a family or in a marriage when one side is more demanding of attention and they're not bothered how they get it, to the detriment of everyone else around.
We've had a good walk in beautiful sunshine and fabulously colourful leaves...then we had to do some dreaded shopping! I think it's a shame that as you say, the party frocks and scary wary shoes, bags etc are already out there, sparkling and beautiful...and many decorating is being done inside and outside shops ready for the big switch on...which I believe could be happening this evening in London!!! It's too early...especially when we haven't passed the 11th would be better for most peeps if the decorations could wait another few weeks as there is constant pressure on everyone to buy, to look perfect, to have that perfect Christmas etc...and the leaves aren't all off the trees yet!! Moan over!!
Will be off just now for the second dog walk before it gets dark! And after that, I'll be sitting quietly crocheting my poppies, snuggled under a blankie...cosy, peaceful, solitude!
Great blog, well written, Vanessa.
Bear x x x

Vanessa Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 5:38pm

Ah, Bear, thank you. I'm sure we would all enjoy Christmas much more if it didn't start so early. I hope you enjoyed your dog walk - I love dog walks in Autumn, when the dogs can race around in the leaves! I have just started learning to crochet - its soothing - but I don't think I'm up to doing a poppy yet, although I was learning about magic circles last night (Youtube has been very helpful.) Enjoy your peaceful solitude!

Bearofliddlebrain Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 12:22pm

Look up Attic 24 - great crocheting blog and just lovely pics of everyday life. I've learnt so much on the crochet front from this website and just typing in 'easy tutuorial' on whatever it is you want to crochet...and Google does the job!!! Have been learning for a couple of years but that website and Little Tin Bird have easy ways to follow crochet steps and lovely photography that cheers! Bear x

Rebecca Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 8:32pm

Great blog Vanessa. I enjoy socialising but have a big problem in that I can't handle drink very well. Due to that I tend to avoid parties/occasions where there will be a lot of drinking. I am not strong enough to be sober when others aren't. I start off well but then I easily get out of control and just can't stop, act an idiot, get depressed, then have no memory of the incident. Feel awful next day, panicky and ill. I don't think drinking and depression go very well together. Antidepressants and drink aren't good either.x

Bearofliddlebrain Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 12:27pm

Hi Rebecca....I am really with you on the alcohol front...I wrote a liddle blog back in August about Me and my Friend alcohol...I'm not as bad as I used to be and having dieted this year it's helped to stop the reliance on alcohol...but I know it's really hard to give it up altogether. What I decided to do last Christmas and New Year's Eve was be the designated I couldn't drink. Thankfully I am fairly bonkers most of the time and have a laugh without alcohol so the pressure was off...I did find it funny watching my husband get slowly slashed, but thankfully he was a happy drunk as were most of the peeps's a different story if they get angry though. And no, alcohol and depression do not go well together at all, honestly. Sending big Bear hugs x x x x

Vanessa Tue, Nov 3rd 2015 @ 2:56pm

Thanks Rebecca. I have the odd glass of two in moments of stress, and also regret it... x

Anne Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 8:32pm

Hi Vanessa
A special blog - THANK YOU
From a reticent introvert x

Vanessa Tue, Nov 3rd 2015 @ 2:56pm

Thank you x

Red Squaw Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 8:47pm

Hi Vanessa,

I loved your post. Sometimes, as we are changing and growing, our old friends no longer have the same resonance. I think you will find that as time passes, you may well find that resonance develop with new people that you meet, or the old friends may recognise your change and some may wish to renew your friendship, but you may not be the same person they knew in the past. At least, that's been my experience. I took a brave step and left my controlling husband and unauthentic life behind in 2008. I changed my career and took up counselling. I find that the invites too have mostly dried up but am beginning to develop new friendships where I am just myself instead of being ... well ... just not me. I don't miss the old life at all as my new life is rich with strands of colour woven into an intricate tapestry. I had forgotten Henri Nouwen. I was introduced to him years ago in the 90s when I had a nervous breakdown trying to please my husband and do all the things he wanted me to do - which never pleased him anyway. I have just ordered a second hand copy of one of his (Henri Nouwen) books. Solitude can be beautiful if handled with care and thought. Thank you so much for your post and everyone else's responses which I know I shall relate to when I read them all.

Peace and love (and a load of hugs) xxx

Bearofliddlebrain Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 12:29pm

Red Squaw... I think you have been a ve ve brave bear. Thank goodness you have found a new path to follow and are rid of the c Controlling One. He was absolutely no good for you as you can now see. You should feel very proud of the steps you have taken to look after yourself. Bear x

Vanessa Tue, Nov 3rd 2015 @ 2:58pm

Thank you Red Squaw, that was very helpful to hear, and given me hope for change. Hugs back to you x

The Gardener Sun, Nov 1st 2015 @ 8:47pm

To Vanessa - I wish you had been with me tonight. Arrived home from hospital a bit shell-shocked and limping. Friend phoned (her husband died of cancer 2 months ago aged 58) could she take me to restaurant and keep me company? I now feel guilty and churlish, she wanted company, I could not face sociability. I had pals there, and it was happily noisy. There was a young Japanese family, working Belgium, all spoke English. Instant friendship, and the 4 year old girl and I exchanged a 'high five'. What a note to end an exhausting day on. For Rebecca, having nearly died of a mixture of alcohol and anti-depressant myself you need to wear a notice. I find that if you are really firm people will not push alcohol, but who is firm enough? And who wants to be a kill-joy? Try Italy for a while, they can effervesce without touching a drop. A very highly-placed politician I knew was disgusted at my need of a whisky before entering a room. And to Bear - Christmas starting before remembrance poppies is maddening - I am still aiming for an enchanted forest in my shop, moving my piano, cajoling our organist, and having a huge carol sing-along - anyone can dream. Ciao you lot.

Vanessa Tue, Nov 3rd 2015 @ 2:59pm

Oh Gardener, I wish I had been with you too. Prayers, and hoping things have eased over the last few days.

Leah Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 12:06am

Your plans for Christmas sound enchanting and I do not celebrate Christmas. I hope you are saving all your wonderful replies as there a so many memories contained in them. Sending kind thoughts across the sea.

LillyPet Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 12:58am

Hi Vanessa, thank you for putting into words something that confuses me!
I guess I'm neither an introvert or extrovert all of the time either!
I can be very sociable, feel very alone at times, at others I look forward to some solitude and when I'm in a good place I enjoy it!
I wish you well on your journey and am happy for you that you also have the companionship of your partner. Maybe if you used to have more people in your life and feel less confident at the moment due to cicumstances, you can be optimistic that you will find your way to where you can just be. LP x

Vanessa Tue, Nov 3rd 2015 @ 3:02pm

Thank you LP, hoping you are enjoying being in a good place at the moment!

Maria Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 1:40pm

I today feel really down I don't have many friends to talk too today I have missed work and my child has missed school I couldn't face getting out of my bed today. I feel such a let down and such a bad mother. I feel so lonely at times and even though I have a partner I find it hard to explain it too him I sometimes think he thinks I should just be able to pull myself together and I do try but it is hard when you don't have someone to talk too like a really close friend. I have a few friends but they don't really know my problems and I feel so scared as I am already in trouble with work and now I am scared with my daughter not going to school I just feel such a let down MC x

Vanessa Tue, Nov 3rd 2015 @ 3:01pm

Maria, that is so tough, I so feel for you. I hope you have seen Bear's post to you further down the page, do get in touch if it helps x

Tim Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 1:48pm

What a beautiful piece. Eloquent, brief, calm and calming, sensible and sentient. And a great punchline. That and the book title will settle with me for some goodly time. Thank YOU, for making a difference.

Vanessa Tue, Nov 3rd 2015 @ 3:03pm

Thank you Tim, good wishes to you.

Deborah Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 4:08pm

I was feeling really isolated I knew that there are others in the road with feeling the same elderly people which shuffle up and down the road not reaching out to anybody it's quite hard to see organise a coffee morning it was meant to be a one off but the word got around and now we meet another once a month all sorts of people come from down the road couple of people on their own and it's a great way of meeting people full stop

I would really recommend it's help with my isolation and now it's great to know so many new people and see them interacting with each other you need a packet of biscuits and a few cups of coffee and your off why not try it! Big hugs to everybody Cabs

Bearofliddlebrain Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 7:00pm

Oh Maria, I'm so sorry. You are in the middle of a really cr*p day. Believe me when I say I've been there too...often :(. It's very hard to just pull yourself cannot be done very often. I only hope that you have had some lovely mum and daughter time when you were able to get up...or snuggled together under the duvet! Are any of your friends 'close' enough to be able to bring the subject up and have a good hug and heart to heart? Try not to be too scared about work and school. Lie to school if you can get away with it saying your daughter wasn't well, but if she isn't able to back you up then just tell them you were too poorly to get her there. Tell work you were ill which is true. Now as for your love this person, he loves you, you both need to sit down and talk it through. Tell him it is really hard for you to discuss, and hard for you to actually find the words to describe how you feel. Let him know it's not his fault for not understanding, but see what he says and if you we'd like to, you can email Caroline at Moodscope and she can pass on your details and mails to me and I would be happy to buddy up with you to hope you through this awful time. But don't worry if you don't want to, no pressure! Bear hugs x x x

Vanessa Tue, Nov 3rd 2015 @ 3:03pm

Deborah, you are brave and inspiring, thank you!

Maria Wed, Nov 4th 2015 @ 1:23am

Thank you Bearofliddlebrain I would love to have a buddy on moods cope just joined recently so it has been really hard for me. What is Caroline email I don't seem to know it?? Thank you for your kind words . I have had a few rough days but managed to get up later today got changed and had a cup of tea even managed to do a little homework with my daughter. I am still quite upset and agitated but with the help from a friend at work I am going to try and get in work tomorrow I will use little steps if I can xx

Caroline Ashcroft from Moodscope Wed, Nov 4th 2015 @ 10:57am

Hi Maria, my email address is Carolinex

Maria Tue, Nov 17th 2015 @ 9:14am

Thank you Caroline xx

Bearofliddlebrain Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 7:01pm

Oops, sorry Debs, this was for Maria! Bear x

martine Mon, Nov 2nd 2015 @ 7:52pm

Hi Vanessa, I loved your post. It really made me feel that being a person who loves quiet time and being by self is ok. This clearly explains the difference between feeling lonely in a bad way and enjoying solitude. And yes relationships are hard especially when your husband is a great talker and you just want quiet time!

Vanessa Tue, Nov 3rd 2015 @ 3:04pm

Its so important, in our noisy culture, to know its ok to be different! x

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