Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Alone vs. Lonely; It's All about Attitude

Wrapped in my fuzzy fleece blanket, I ventured out into the chill of the passing night, listening for the soft call of my owl. In the distance, I could hear the faintest sound of the creek bubbling through the disappearing ice as it heads down the hill, but other than that, the darkness was silent. The moonlight danced across the crystals of frost on the railing of the deck, as I surveyed the black sky filled with stars. In the quiet, I was reminded of my blessings. I had peace in my soul, love in my heart, and so many loved ones lifting me up. It only took a moment, but being outside made me feel better. I need to remember that more often.

The past weekend was full of laughter and light-hearted moments.  My house contained all of my children under one roof, a rarity and a delight.  Sierra had flown in from Denver, and Dylan and his wife Jamie had driven up from Saint George to join Bridger and me.  The weather cooperated with sunshine, and temperatures well above freezing, which was nice, considering we were in the thick of January.

Friday afternoon, Bridger and Sierra attempted to make candles out of Cutie tangerines.  They emitted a soft, citrus scent, and a lovely glow. Earlier, the kids had taken off on the four-wheelers up the canyon while I stayed behind to make rolls for dinner.

Before Bridger left for the basketball game to join his friends in the pep band that night, we played a raucous card game that had us yelling, blushing, and laughing.  The good-natured teasing that followed each hand of cards made it an enjoyable evening for everyone.  

For dinner, I served Tilapia Vera Cruz with salad, and homemade whole wheat rolls.  The sun had set by the time we were ready serve the food, and Dylan and Sierra gathered all of the candles in the house.  There were Christmas-scented candles, and autumn-scented ones.  We had quite a variety. They placed them on the dining room table for a candlelit dinner; all of them.

After dinner, we sat around the table, and then in the family room, just visiting, and reminiscing.  When Jamie came back into the room from outdoors, she said, "Okay, those candles are starting to get a little strong now."  I hadn't noticed until she said something, and then I realized the combined fragrances were overpowering.  We snuffed all of the candles, and turned on the lights.

Ever since Christmas Eve, I have been surrounded by family, which was perfect for me. The loss of my father on the 22nd was quite a shock, and I needed the companionship and support of loved ones around me.  I had gone from my brother's house to a family friend's home to my house with Bridger, and back to my brother's to retrieve Sierra from the airport. Having all of the kids home was the "really big finish" of visits with family and friends.

After dropping Sierra off at the Salt Lake City airport, I began to dread returning home.  I knew Bridger would be heading back to school the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  I would have to face my demons, and deal with my first moments of being alone for more than a couple of hours.  I was really feeling anxious about it.

During my browsing of the internet, I came across this quote by Paul Tillich:

Perhaps all I needed to do was realign my thinking. I wasn't going to be lonely; I was going to enjoy some solitude.  

While chocolate chip pancakes turned a golden brown, I watched as silhouettes of turkeys flew from the tall pine tree in the woods behind the house, and fluttered down to the ground. Bridger and I outlined our days, and then, I cleaned up the kitchen after he headed to school.  

A friend's invitation to join her on My Fitness Pal, an app to track eating and exercise, had been teasing me all morning. What would it hurt?  If anything, it could be just the thing I needed as I was in pursuit of tending to myself with better "self-care" practices.  

I threw on my parka and hat, and headed out the door. Only slightly distracted, I downloaded the app as I started out of my long, gravel driveway. By the time I had traveled about a third of a mile, the app was downloaded, and I was on my way. The whole day stretched before me, and as the sun came up over my left shoulder, I decided I would walk at least an hour, which would be close to four miles with my typical pace.  

It was my extreme pleasure to observe wildlife throughout my morning. Chickadees flitted from sage brush to sage brush; a small herd of deer trotted down the ridge near the road, and then crossed toward the creek. A flock of turkeys hurried from the hills to the north down through a yard to the south, above the creek. A large group of magpies flew to the bare limbs of a large, old tree to congregate as I headed back down the canyon. There was so much movement this morning, and I was finally out long enough to witness it. What a delight. 

At home, I kept busy, organizing things, washing bed linens, and putting things away. I carried my "ghetto iPod speaker" from room to room with me.  (I simply put the MP3 player in a coffee mug that worked as a makeshift speaker for my music.) 

Finally, I've taken the time to write, now that there is chicken noodle soup simmering on the stove. One of my friends needs help running an errand tonight, and before she leaves, she'll join us for a hot meal.  

Today has been such a pleasant surprise. Simply by switching out the negative connotation of the word "loneliness" for the positive connotation of the word "solitude," to describe my time alone, I had a very different day than I had anticipated. Loneliness is not what I felt today. My solitude was like being with an old friend. One advantage to getting older is I don't mind my own company these days. As I approach the days of the "empty nest," I need to remember that it is a simple attitude adjustment that will determine how I spend my days in a couple more years. 


  1. I love this so much! The Tillich quote on solitude is great, and the way you beautifully describe nature puts me right back at my parents' place in the country, where the sky is black and stars are bright and wild animals share your space (or we share theirs). Lovely writing.

  2. Thank you, again, Deb. I love living in rural Utah for all of the things you remember fondly about your parents' place.


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