The house is quiet this morning. Really quiet. Except for a few creaks. The birds chirping in the backyard. A lawnmower starting somewhere over the river. And the sounds of my keyboard clicking. Hubby is away all week canoeing and fishing in the wilds of Algonquin Park. And I’m here playing Greta Garbo…. “I want to be alone.” And loving it.

Not “alone and palely loitering” like that poor knight in John Keats’ poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.” More like Henry David Thoreau’s kind of alone. Except Hubby’s the one in the woods. It’s amazing how many literary and media references to being alone resemble the sad picture of the knight in Keats’ poem, rather than the image of solitary bliss painted in Thoreau’s work. 

Booth Lake, Algonquin Park. 2010


I like being alone from time to time. Need to be, in fact. Even though I’m a very social person, and when in company I yak, yak, yak, I’m quite shy. Well, except when I’m standing in front of a class, or a group of parents, where I’m confident that I know what I’m talking about. As a girl I was very shy. I remember a few years ago… twenty-one, to be exact… at my twentieth high school reunion, I was chatting with a friend who had been in my English class for three years in a row. And I said, “Remember how quiet I was in high school. How I never talked?” And she replied…”Never talked? Susan, you never shut up.” “Really? I said, “That must have been the class where there weren’t any cute boys.” And then we both fell over laughing. I could talk like there was no tomorrow with friends or in situations where I was comfortable; but in some classes, I found it excruciating even to answer the roll call. 

I’ve always been content in my own company. And quite happy entertaining myself. Even as a child. Maybe that’s part of being the youngest child by five years? I don’t know. I just know that being alone, for me, is not lonely. It’s time for replenishment. This was especially true when I was still teaching. When my days were a clamour of everybody wanting a piece of my time: students, teachers in my department, administrators, parents. You know, I’m beginning to think that I’m really an introvert who’s been masquerading as an extrovert all these years.

Anyway… as I was saying, Hubby’s away fishing for five days. And I’m on my own. Bliss. I’ve been reading. A lot. 
And I’ve watched most of season three of Last Tango in Halifax. I love Derek Jacobi as Alan. Remember him as Brother Cadfael? Last Tango is a wonderful series, and just keeps on getting better and better. 
I have two more books and a DVD from the library on deck. 
The weather has been beautiful; between reading and watching, I’ve been walking. And lunching one day with a friend. And eating what I want, when I want. Breakfast at ten… dinner at eight-thirty or nine. But it’s not all been self-indulgent activities. I have cleaned the house, a task I abhor. And I’ve been very attentive to Hubby’s garden, watering the new sod and the potted herbs each day, picking the beans. But I must admit that I did these tasks in stints between reading, while plugged into a new Peter May mystery on my i-pod. 
You see, for me, far from being lonely or depressing, being alone feels luxuriously self-indulgent. And I feel lucky (and a bit guilty, if I’m honest) that I am able to have this time. I know that the requirements of work or family do not allow everyone the luxury. At least everyone who desires time spent alone. 

I’ve always been interested in the whole idea of being alone. Some of my favourite novels explore the concept of women and solitude. Like Joan Barfoot’s Abra, and Constance Beresford Howe’s Book of Eve; in each a female character abandons her life, her responsibilities, her family, for solitude and independence. Both are wonderful books. 


So this morning, before starting this post, I researched a bit about the solitary state, just surfing the internet, really. And I found this interesting article, a section of a book, by D.W. Winnicott, who was, according to Wikipedia, a noted English paediatrician and psychoanalyst. In his article “The Capacity To Be Alone”, Winnicott discusses what he calls “the ability to be alone.” He said much had been written about the fear of being alone, or the desire to be alone, but not much on the ability to be alone. And he describes the ability to be alone as a “sign of maturity in emotional development.”  

Dawn on the Rideau River


To be clear, I am no psychologist; I know little about psychology, beyond my first year university psych course and some educational psychology the theory of which I have long forgotten. And since D.W. Winnicott died in 1971, his theories may be woefully out of date… I don’t know. My friend Alice, who is a psychologist, would know… maybe if she reads this she can fill us in on more current “being alone” theory. 


But I do know that as much as I love company, doing things with friends, or with family, or my husband, I really need alone time. And at least once every year, I get that time… several days of it, in fact. When Hubby goes on his fishing trips. And I have the house to myself. 


And I’m all alone. Sigh. And loving it.


Hey. Do you think this means that I’m showing signs of “emotional maturity?” Well, well, well, wonders never cease.


Do you like to be alone?



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34 thoughts on “All Alone. And Loving It.”

  1. I love it! Whereas you attribute your love of solitude to being the youngest by 5 years, I suspect mine has to do with being the oldest in a large family, then raising 4 of my own. When we had only one left at home, my husband took a position in Ottawa and we visited each other every two or three weeks. After a few years there, he took on a job in Vancouver, coming home to the island on weekends. Yes, I often missed him, but I must admit that I revelled in the luxury of time to myself

    1. Funny, eh? I love solitude because I growing up I had it and grew to expect it; you love it because you DIDN'T have it. That must have been hard being on your own a lot with children. Wow, you two must have been racking up the air miles during his Ottawa days!

  2. Hi Sue, it's nice that you are enjoying your alone time. My husband has a few business trips a year and I usually do ok on my own for a week or so. I enjoy having simpler, more veggie-based meals (he's very much a meat and potatoes guy). But – I do miss him and we usually talk on the phone every night. I guess I have my limits.

    I LOVE Last Tango in Halifax – I believe the writer is also responsible for Scott and Bailey – a kind of northern English Cagney and Lacey, do you know it? And I really enjoy Peter Robinson's DCI Banks – one of my best friends is from Lancashire, must be one reason why I enjoy all those tv shows.

    I bet, like me, you are looking forward to reading Style Forever by Alyson Walsh? I must say that Forever Chic is one of my favourite style books, and I think that Style Forever will be just as good a read.

    1. You're right…Sally Wainwright wrote both Last Tango and Scott and Bailey. I watch S&B too, and really like it… love the costumes/outfits that both characters wear. Forever Chic is a great book; really well researched. I'm taking notes!

  3. Time alone? Essential, I love it! Have you read Quiet by Susan Cain, which looks at "the power of introverts" in a world that can't stop talking? Think you'd find it interesting though it looks like you've plenty of reading material. Iris

    1. I have heard of Susan Cain's book, but not read it. I listened to Dr. Brian Little on CBC radio, talking about how Quiet revolutionized people's thinking on introversion. I must order it from the library. Thanks for reminding me, Iris.

  4. As a child I was an avid reader , still am , & with three sisters , fought sometimes to find a quiet corner . So I guess there's a fair amount of introversion in my make up . Hubbie & I met & married when we were very young & never tire of each other's company , but still need some alone time – more so in retirement I think , for obvious reasons . He takes his annual trip to various historic battlefields with friends & , later in the year , I head to mainland Europe with my sisters , this year Barcelona . I'm perfectly happy at home without him for that time but , with dogs , it never feels totally alone . So I'm not really sure !
    I envy you having ' Lark Rise ' to read , probably my favorite book – put the TV series totally out of your mind , no comparison
    Wendy in York

    1. I enjoyed my alone time as a respite from school when I was working; now in retirement we need it as a respite from each other! I ordered Lark Rise from the library because of your suggestion on the blog…since they have only one copy it's taken in months and months to come in.

  5. I love my alone time, and can never get enough of it, though I feel a bit guilty enjoying it so much. Even as a teenager, much as I enjoyed hanging out with friends, I could spend an afternoon walking outside by myself, or going to see a movie on my own. I feel sorry for those who can't abide their own company, or don't feel comfortable with their thoughts unless they can express them to others all the time. Of course, I also feel so fortunate that I have a wonderful soul mate, family and friends with whom I share all those times I'm not alone.

    Enjoy your luxurious solitude!

  6. Wow. I think we may have been separated at birth! I am an introvert, but my parents were uber-extroverts, who insisted that we learn to deal with people, so like you, I can in some situations be perfectly outgoing and chatty. But alone time is my fave.

    And Last Tango in Halifax is pretty amazing, if you ask me. Even my husband got into it, and he usually doesn't like those kind of stories. I think Derek Jacobi pulled him in at the beginning.

    Enjoy your alone!

    1. Thanks Bridget. I think I learned the extrovert behaviour being the youngest of four children….had to entertain to get any attention. I've recently read that this is pretty standard youngest child behaviour.

  7. 'alone feels luxuriously self-indulgent'. I totally get it. In a house that is forever filled with people, I crave my alone time. I usually get it between midnight and blotto. Sometimes a half hour. Sometimes more. But it replenishes me! Enjoy your week!

    1. Thanks, Diane. I have a friend who used to rise at 5 A.M. just to be able to spend quiet time with her coffee and a book before the rest of the family got out of bed. In the same situation…it would have to be late at night, for me…I'm NOT a morning person.

  8. Great post …It could be me! I enjoy my alone time as much as I love to be with a large group of family and friends. I thoroughly enjoy being out alone at the cinema, walking, shopping or having a coffee. I m also the youngest of four and love watching Last Tango in Halifax!

    1. I'm good with being alone shopping or walking etc. but sitting alone in a cafe over coffee I need the disguise of a book or magazine.

  9. Meant to say I also abhor housework … wish I enjoyed it though as it seems to take up a large percentage of my life! 🙂

  10. You sound so happy, it's lovely! I have had lots of time alone since I stopped working – and now I'm finally feeling the need to spend more time with people. It only took 2 years;). Solitude can bring some of the greatest joy possible, it is a privilege, I agree.

  11. Okay. I will write more. I have finally, after seven years solved some kind of mystery, don't know how, of commenting on Blogger platforms. I wanted to make sure it was going to take before I went on. Reading this reminded me of the saying: Alone does not mean lonely. I crave alone time and cannot get enough. I had two weeks this summer, not consecutive, and I would love three to four or a lifetime more. I read recently, that needing this is a sign of a creative.
    …I agree, it does show emotional maturity. And yes this is current theory and all the more prevalent in a crowded world of consumerism and noise of every variety yelling in our minds. I've done a fair amount of reading on this and have talks with my spiritual teacher about it often. Our culture is craving silence and yet it's doing everything to not have it. To be silent, quiet, and alone is threatening to people because you have to slow down and go within. And that is a healthy thing, in my opinion. Meditation is good for bringing in the silence on a daily basis. Also, I'm not a strict practitioner that it has to be a certain type, posture, or time period. You can meditate for a minute if that's all you have. My hunch is that you were meditating while you were gardening…the whole work as meditation theory. Cheers and here's to quiet and alone.

  12. Oh I am so happy I caught this post (and so thrilled to see it in our Lifestyle Linkup:). I am very much like you–chatty, welcoming, life of the party–but then I need some alone time. I absolutely adore time to myself and I'm never, ever bored. When my husband travels I often make no plans. I simply enjoy my projects, quiet time, the freedom of it all is so balancing. Funny you should mention the introvert/extrovert piece. When I was in my program for School Psychology I took an inventory. Turns out I'm an introvert over functioning as an extrovert much of the time. Does that ring a bell? That was about the time I switched from a teaching (very extroverted) to School Psych (more introverted) career. Excellent post and great food for though–emotionally mature thought that is! 😉
    xx, Heather

    1. Thanks, Heather. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. An "introvert over functioning as an extrovert" certainly does ring a bell. Thanks for hosting "style focus"…I love the idea that it's not just a fashion link-up.

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