Solitude or Loneliness?

The idea of “introvert acceptance” was floating around a few years ago. Articles were written about it, explaining it to extroverts and hoping, I think, to find better understanding from society in general. Science (through personality testing which is NOT the same as a horoscope or a Mewkid ‘test’ on Facebook) has determined that Introverts make up only 35% of the population. It’s difficult to know how accurate that is because a lot of introverts might have been in the basement setting up a model train and didn’t know any of that was going on.

I found the idea of “introvert acceptance” paradoxical. Does it mean we’ll be invited to parties? Because we won’t go… I wrote at length about introversion on this blog post, Introverts R Us.

Since the virus (new era, BV and AV. We’re in DV) there have been a lot of memes about introverts (see below) but it really is a situation in which a person like me is unlikely to feel “lonely.”

Loneliness. I HAVE felt it. It’s pretty rare, though. I was a kid in my room (with the door closed!) reading a book — probably I was 14 — and I read something that set me to pondering the difference between solitude and loneliness. I can remember the MOMENT, the carpet, my hair, a book on the floor, stuff like that, but I can’t remember the BOOK. Anyway, I went to talk to my dad about it, and the upshot was that solitude is comforting and loneliness is miserable. I found I can get lonely for someone in particular or a place; for me it involves yearning.

I know a lot of people feel loneliness DV. I am sorry for you. It has to be miserable. Just know the people are still around and 65% of them are feeling just like you are. This confinement probably wears you out, leaving you feeling directionless, low energy and depressed like introverts at a large party.

But, if you’re having a hard time with this, here are some ideas… (The “links” aren’t real. This is a photo of an email I got this morning from my Internet service provider). I would add exercise to this list.

Here’s an OOOOLLLLDDDD song…

“Leave Me Alone!”

I’m a solitary person by inclination. I spend most of my time alone. I’m a “friendly introvert.” I like people very much. I love it when my neighbor stops by on her morning walk and we chat away a half-hour or so. I love it when I’m out with the dogs and find myself engaging with kids. I’m not bristly, brusque, hostile or anything like that. I’m just solitary.

As a kid I was always trying to be alone, but it was hard. My mom had some problem with closed doors and if I went into my room and closed the door, within minutes the woman would be there opening the door and saying, “What are you trying to hide?”

I always responded with, “Leave me alone!” and THAT always led to,

“I’m your mother. I have a right to know.”

THAT escalated to a fight. Invariably. Even if all I was doing was reading a book, as I was wont to do back in the days when I was a reader.

I always knew my marriages or marriage-like-things were over when, if the guy was gone when I got home from work, and I realized he wasn’t there, I felt relief, peace, even, yes, joy. A few episodes of this over the decades, and I knew that I probably only wanted men to visit.


I believe solitude is necessary to art, and it is certainly necessary to writing.

When I was writing Martin of Gfenn, my first novel and first experience of that nature, I remember being totally absorbed for months. Every morning I went to school, taught and ran a writing lab. I bored everyone by talking about medieval lepers and what I was writing. Then I went home, took the dogs hiking, returning and seeking, again, that absorption.

When I finished the novel it was about 8 pm on a winter night. I got up from my chair and wondered where everyone was. Then I understood no one writes with a bunch of people around laughing and talking and sharing the experience. I could draw in coffee houses, grade papers and I probably could have done some writing there had I owned a laptop at the time ( ha ha ) but to truly concentrate and allow the story to live? Solitude.

“Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them. — Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights.” Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Luckily, I live in a place where it doesn’t seem to be that strange to be alone. the San Luis Valley is full of introverts — I think it might be a prerequisite for happiness in this large remote valley.

Another Solitude

“…And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is some thing in you that wants to move out of it. …. the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other. … Letters to a Young Poet Rainer Maria Rilke”


“These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”


People enjoy discussing (ironically) the distinction between solitude and loneliness. I’ve heard several of these arguments — first in high school when my teacher was trying to explain the importance of solitude to poets (especially, it seemed, during the Romantic Period). I remember standing up for solitude and trying to explain it, but ultimately all I wanted to do was get home and go for a run in The Bluffs with my dog and my best friend and her dog. I always felt pushed against a wall in those discussions

I’m comfortable with solitude, though when I was younger I felt very strongly the pressure that exists to have friends and a social life. Over time I began to see that’s society’s idea of “normal” because it’s probably what makes most people happy, but I have never been the kind of person that a lot of people even like. I have never really “fit in.” I’ve been accused of being “rebellious” but I’m not; there is just a kind of belief that if a person is not like the others he or she is doing it “on purpose.” I never was. I just always have had a different set of intrinsic motivations. I never wanted a family and children; in fact, that whole idea disgusted me from the get-go. I don’t dispute that raising children well is a major success, but when people complain about the difficulty, my teeth itch and I think, “Shut up, fool. It was your choice.” For that matter, I spent my working years preparing other people’s children for adulthood and I loved my job.

I never got the idea about material success. I just didn’t get it. I am not ambitious, though I’ve had a few ambitions. If it’s because I had the opportunity to watch my dad’s struggle with a degenerative and fatal disease which taught me early the futility of much of human endeavor, I don’t know. I don’t honestly think so. I think it’s genetic. The times I tried hardest to fit the mold led me to my life’s greatest misery, but I fought it a long time, until I recognized that social interaction — at a certain point — bored and tired me and I was happier with a balance; 75% solitude, 25% socialization.



“Most of my wandering in the desert I’ve done alone. Not so much from choice as from necessity – I generally prefer to go into places where no one else wants to go. I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.” Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire


To him who in the love of Nature holds   
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks   
A various language; for his gayer hours   
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile   
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides   
Into his darker musings, with a mild   
And healing sympathy, that steals away   
Their sharpness, ere he is aware.  William Cullen Bryant, “Thanatopsis”

The friend I could always rely on has been the companion to many in their solitude and that is nature. Nature has always had the power to intensify and open a solitary moment; it seems capable of sharing it. It’s enough just to cross the little Monte Vista Golf Course, into and through the bottom of the driving range (pasture) into the open fields, past the log buildings of the old broken down farm, until there is nothing but sky, mountains, changing light, wind — a storm front or a sweet breeze. Step by step I feel my heart fill, my shoulders relax leaving only joy at being out under the open sky, ringed by mountains, in the infinite space of the natural world. There have been a few friends in my life with whom I’ve been able to share that experience and I’m grateful for having known them. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to share ones solitude.