I have been compiling my short stories into a book. Re-reading them, it occurred to me that most of my characters are people who live a ‘solitary life’, or who have found themselves alone at the end of their lives.
I felt quite sad when I realised this, but I guess it’s a situation I can empathise with, having spent most of my life alone - not from choice, I hasten to add. At least, not every time.
While many of us at some stage in our lives seek ‘a room of one’s own’ as Virginia Woolf wrote, thousands of years’ of traditional communal living is now, apparently, giving way to those who choose to ‘go solo’.
(Read Hamish McKenzie’s article, ‘Lone Rangers’, New Zealand Listener March 24-30 2012).
I was particularly taken with this quote by Eric Klinenberg:
‘We have to make a very clean distinction between living alone, being alone and feeling lonely. These are three very different things and we often times confuse them. People who live alone don’t want to be alone. They want to be in the world.’
It was an interesting observation and it made me think.
After my husband died I remember that I could last about three days on my own without seeing or speaking to another person, but then I found myself seeking out even the slightest connection with another human being, even if it was only a polite ‘good morning’ while I was out for my morning walk.
I had always thought I was the kind of person who could easily live in a lighthouse.
This need for the contact with others – which literally drove me to temporally put aside my grief – made me realise that I would not dwell well in a light house.
It was quite an awakening.
I am content most of the time living alone, but it did make me realise that I do need people in my life, that I do want to be ‘in this world’ that I am not such a ‘Lone Ranger’ after all.