The Art of Solitude
September 4, 2012 § 58 Comments
From yesterday’s Times:-
The sky is like a bowl of cold, dirty washing-up water, my children are away and my bank balance has had a cardiac arrest, so what is a plankton to do but indulge in a little solitary gloom?
The whole idea of getting together with someone recently entered the realms of the unimaginable. At this point, I defy even the imagination of the poet, the novelist, the method actor and the deluded fantasist not to have flatlined, let alone that of the bog-standard, middle-aged, single mother such as myself. But even at those moments when, with the effort of a weight-lifter, I try to think of myself de-singled, most likely with a man of about eighty-six, I think, what’s the point? We would only have a brief pause before he popped his clogs and I’d be back to Square One, only plus the dilemma of where best to recycle his zimmer frame.
I just read James Fox’s magnificent and astounding book, The Langhorne Sisters, about Nancy Astor and her family. The descriptions of the loss felt by Bob Brand, Astor’s brother-in-law, at the untimely death of his wife (Astor’s sister) are profoundly affecting. Brooks was in love for all their years together and, cruelly deprived of more time with her, never really overcame his grief.
My mother’s great mission was to teach her children to be able to be alone. She believes that there are times in everyone’s life when circumstances dictate that they are alone. Bereavement if not divorce comes to us all, but better to learn the art of solitude rather than to make ill-judged choices through desperation for company at any price. She is right, of course, better to be alone than with the wrong person, I chant through gritted teeth. But now I am beginning to think, perhaps better, this time of life, to be alone even than with the right one? Rainy days, I question the wisdom of starting a relationship with anyone, even if I could, only for it to end again too quickly, as it would, because I’m no longer twenty. A friend’s mother was widowed in her fifties; miraculously found love again and married, only for her second husband to drop down dead eating a hot dog. Now in her seventies she is mourning all over again, and delirious in her picket fence loneliness and despair.
It’s coming to my coupled friends. They just had more years than me, luckily for them. But no one’s completely spared. That’s not consolation – I wouldn’t wish enforced solitude on anyone – but it does all balance out eventually. And that kind of helps.