on solitude and wanting


There is nothing worse than to be alone; there is nothing better.

In the United States, women are socialized to speak, to pour out their happinesses and sadnesses and anger to a willing ear. Lacking that, untold things fold inward, blooms recurling into buds. When I have got something to say and no one to tell it to, I’m all I’ve got, and I ought to be a sufficient fan and critic.

The trouble and boon of solitude is that, instead of speaking and speaking, we can only drive deep inside. There’s a certain loneliness and pleasure in this, so that, like Rilke, “I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough / to make every minute holy.”

Sometimes as a teenager, I had premonitions of missing something that I didn’t have in my life yet to miss, but I enjoyed the feel of missing, of wanting some shadow person or thing. There is a contradiction in me, and probably in all people: we are too alone and not alone enough. We have one thing and want another. We acclimate quickly to what we have, seek out more. In all of this, American media tells us that we must want and want and want: a newer phone; the shiniest hair; a soulmate to make us complete. Of course, desire is a biological imperative for our growth, and so there can be pleasure in wanting.

But loneliness undermines holiness. It is antithetical, so that when I am lonely–when I want for things or people I don’t or cannot have–I am basically unappreciative of what is now, what is concrete and before me.

And to seek fulfillment from others is a hard ask. In this country, individualism most often translates into greater spans of aloneness. I live alone. I go from place to place with small bursts of company. After thirty years, life tells me this: solitude is the default, and company the anomaly, the island.

If I will be alone, then I must be alone.

It is hard; I can’t deny the periodic antipathy. But, far more importantly: it’s only when I’ve been alone that I’ve tapped into anything remotely holy. If I can claim any impulse of profundity, it exists only between two ends of a desk during spots of solitude.

In Excess of Being, Lera Auerbach claims that, “in writing, I am my better version.”

To this, I add: in writing, I am alone.


photo credit: Walking it alone by Lance Shields (license)

Published by shavonneclarke

Writer, web editor, and hobbyist photographer living in Washington, D.C.

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