My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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compassion etc.

Impending travel always make me aware of my status in the world – that as a single woman with tenants in her house, I’m able to take off and explore the world whenever it suits me (and my work schedule and budget, of course.) I don’t have to consult anyone, take anyone else’s needs and desires and habits into consideration. At the same time, I also don’t have anyone to turn to if I leave my handbag on the train. I celebrate my freedom; I regret, at stressful times and at dinnertime, my aloneness.

But I’ve been feeling especially blessed in my singleness as I read reviews of Joyce Carol Oates’s new book “A Widow’s Story.” Her agony, after her husband of many years dies in hospital unexpectedly and alone, is almost unbearable to read; hard to imagine living it. We read about it in Joan Didion’s book too. And I think of the new widower, Elizabeth’s husband. So hard. I’ve lived through divorce, and that was agony enough, even desired as it was. At least the death of a long-term partner is one thing I don’t have on my list of 4 a.m. worries. The crabby cat, pretty as she is, just does not qualify.
Bruce, another singleton, sent me a very interesting recent article in the Boston Globe about the necessity of solitude.
An emerging body of research is suggesting that spending time alone, if done right, can be good for us — that certain tasks and thought processes are best carried out without anyone else around, and that even the most socially motivated among us should regularly be taking time to ourselves if we want to have fully developed personalities, and be capable of focus and creative thinking. There is even research to suggest that blocking off enough alone time is an important component of a well-functioning social life — that if we want to get the most out of the time we spend with people, we should make sure we’re spending enough of it away from them. Just as regular exercise and healthy eating make our minds and bodies work better, solitude experts say, so can being alone.

Imagine being a “solitude expert.” Well, actually, maybe I am. Something else I don’t have to worry about – getting enough alone time.
And an article today in the NYT is titled, “Being nicer to yourself may lead to better health.” Self-compassion means being as forgiving of and generous about your own flaws and limitations as you are of those of others. It’s “not to be confused with self-indulgence or lower standards,” says the article, just kindness towards the self. It even suggests that if you’re really nice to yourself, you can lose weight faster.
If you’re really nice to yourself, can you write a book faster? That’s the important question. Gosh, Beth, you are SUCH a wonderful person.



2 Responses to “compassion etc.”

  1. Estee Klar says:

    I picked up the book on Sunday at Book City then put it down. I don't think I can handle her grief right now. I read her piece in The New Yorker.

    I guess the moral of the story is that we all end up alone in one way or another. Learning to live contentedly with loneliness, solitude, alone-ness (what *is* the right word?) may just be life-long lesson.

  2. beth says:

    I agree. In North America, we have a strange fixation on perfect happiness and constant togetherness – that we have a right to be ecstatic – WHEE!! – and that means partnership and endless friendships, even if just over a little computerized hello box. Whereas down time, doing nothing, saying nothing, being alone and moving slowly, is a necessity for the soul.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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