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On being alone versus loneliness

I just read a long essay by well-known Canadian memoirist Sharon Butala, reprinted from The Walrus, about loneliness. She writes that she has been a loner since childhood and is now lonely as an elderly widow living far from her son and her good friends. 

Surely being a loner is a prerequisite to being a writer. You can be an extroverted writer, but you still need to like being alone for long periods. You need to enjoy your own company.

 I should be lonelier than I am, considering how alone I am much of the time. Lucky to have tenants with whom to chat briefly, dear neighbours, children not far away, friends, students, a vast vibrant city outside my door. Also – this buzzing machine and its instant connections bringing the planet and its stories and histories into my kitchen. The television, the radio. The garden. The cat. Books, newspapers, magazines. The Y. 

And most of all, I guess, that since I’ve always been something of a solitary extrovert who started a diary at the age of nine, I’m used to having my own thoughts and feelings keep me company. Shouldn’t I be sick of myself by now, after seventy-two years of listening to my @#$#@ brain yammer? Well, no, I guess not. I guess that’s a good thing, since here I am, yammering these thoughts out to lucky you. 

 The world continues to terrify: more articles about how AI is going to destroy us; a man in Texas who slaughters his neighbours for requesting quiet so a baby can sleep – how is that even possible? Here, more grey drizzle every day, good for the plants, not for the spirits. Whatever this bug in my lungs is is hanging on, though diminishing. But still there. PHOOEY.

I’ve been working on material for a revamp of my website, making lists of the nice things people have said about my teaching and books. Quite heartening, if I say so myself, and of course I must say so myself since no one else will. There will be a few quotes of fulsome praise. Since that’s what websites are for, at least partly, sez this extroverted introvert. 

In a few minutes, I’l watch Wonderland about children’s books and then A Small Light about Miep Gies. Last night, Call the Midwife made me weep, as it always, always does — Sister Monica Joan, come back to us! — and then a new version of Tom Jones which I resisted because the Albert Finney version was so glorious. But this one is good too, strangely getting into the British involvement in the slave trade, as Sanditon did too. Obviously, national guilt emerging, even in revamps of centuries’ old texts. I taped Succession but didn’t watch it, read the summary today instead, enough vile machinations for me. 

It’s silent here, sitting in this chair where I spend most of my days. There was sleet, briefly, batting on the skylights; the fridge is chugging. That’s it, right now. I can hear the rushing of blood in my ears. 

Much, much better than NOT hearing the rushing of blood in my ears.  

Heard an interesting interview on Tom Power today, a jazz pianist, Brad Mehidan, who has made a beautiful album of Beatles’ songs. Almost entirely, I note, Macca songs. Can’t play him without Spotify, but even better is the exquisite original. Cheer of the day, to keep you company, in case you’re lonely. Sing along. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs7U4xfkAfI

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2 Responses to “On being alone versus loneliness”

  1. Anonymous says:

    "I'm used to having my own thoughts and feelings keep me company" — same. And a confession: every time I go into my little greenhouse, I ask, How are you all today? I find the plants very sweet company — the olives with their grey-green leaves, the peas sending out tendrils (a reminder to plant them out in the garden this week), the rosemary.
    Theresa

    • beth says:

      I look forward to chatting with my plants in the garden when the rain stops. I too do talk to them, yes. I have spoken sternly to my dahlias who will not bloom for me! And I chat with the birds, and of course with my cat. Plant them in the garden, though – you are so far ahead of us!

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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.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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