The Goddess Speaks
Solitude is worth the sacrifice of sociability
THERE'S something poetic about solitude -- relaxation, peace, tranquility. I love my solitude, especially as I grow older. I read books I never had time for, do crossword and sudoku puzzles, scrapbook family photos and listen to soothing classical music. All by myself. And I love every minute.
Inevitably, though, the doorbell will ring and the grandkids will troop in, headed for the swimming pool, there to scream with ear-splitting glee for the entire afternoon. They beg me to join them and regale them with stories of "when Mommy was a little girl" or "the time I was born" or "when you were growing up in the olden days."
I tell them about how their mother, then just 5 years old, yanked off the bikini top of her swimming instructor in her first panic-stricken lesson. Peals of delighted laughter. I see their sweet faces and feel a tug at my heart. I know these moments are fleeting, and that in no time, like their "cool" cousins, my youngest grandchildren will be too grown up for Grandma's stories. I welcome this diversion, but I'm happy to return to my solitude.
WHEN WE travel these days, my husband and I choose cruises that go nowhere and do nothing. We are past the stage of battling airport hustle or jockeying for seats on tour buses. Our favorite trip is an 11-day interisland cruise where we can choose to stay on board at ports of call and have the whole ship to ourselves. Alone, we sit and daydream, stare into space or gaze out to sea. If we look demented, no one sees or cares.
In the dining room, we select a table for two in an obscure corner, where we share a companionable silence, talking only when we want to, not because we have to. There is no stress to impress, nor to appear erudite, well-informed and politically correct. I can lapse into pidgin if I choose.
Once, we were forced to join a noisy table for eight whose occupants were trying to upstage each other with their Alaskan and Arctic exploits. We introduced ourselves as from Hawaii. Immediately the pompous gent across from me, leaned forward and asked, "Tell me, have you ever seen an iceberg?" With my warmest smile of aloha, I replied, "Oh, yes! Every morning they wash up on our beaches. The surfers are on constant guard against the bigger icebergs. We save the biggies to reinforce and cool our grass shacks."
Needless to say, I reveled in the hard-earned solitude (albeit awkward) that followed.
THAT IS not to say I fear talking to strangers. Someday I'd like to sit next to Hillary and Bill. First, I'd tell her she doesn't stand a chance against Barack Obama. Next, I'd turn to Bill, look him square in the eye and ask, "Do you ever run into Monica in New York?" Then I'd lean back and fade into a state of alpha while they think over their answers.
Given life's hectic pace, we must set aside time for solitude, to rejuvenate, regroup and regenerate. It's a healthful and therapeutic pleasure we all earned and deserve.
Wanda Kulamanu Ellis Au is a retired property manager.
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