Alone vs. Lonely

Being alone is a privilege and a curse.  Alone can turn to lonely in the time it takes for dusk to move into a room.

Still, I have that inner urge for blocks of freedom, which I create by traveling to foreign countries.  And then, when I am away from my own home, I have moments of panic.  Will I be totally alone?  What if I am lonely?

At times, then, I recreate exactly the situation that I left behind so that I needn’t face my fear of an emotional vacuum.

I encourage the village children to read bilingual books and use art supplies on my front porch.  Their eagerness to congregate here creates contact for me, goodwill with their parents, and a sense of shared creativity with the kids.  It’s a privilege.

The curse is that the children don’t give up easily when I am busy or not in the mood.  As I lie in my hammock behind my open door I may hear a slight noise and look up to see one small eye peering through the crack.  Or I hear my name and look up to see an agile little guy hanging from the grillwork of my kitchen window.

I have other social outlets.  I can go to the beach palapas or wander into the courtyard of a local B & B.  Most days there are plenty of English speaking people scattered at tables.  In varying degrees they are welcoming and inclusive.  Some, I have grown to know through the years so I can share a meal, a walk, or an occasional refreshment.  And there are usually a few invitations to dinner.

Here’s the curse.  The ex-pat society is a bit puzzled if I separate myself from the camaraderie.  When I choose solitude in a hammock away from the crowd, I’m considered a bit odd.

The curse also includes the social side of my personality that enjoys new people, new ideas, and a sense of belonging.  None of this is a problem.  But it isn’t what I came here to do.

When I calm my fears of loneliness, my place in this village is a perfect retreat. I am accepted without obligation other than a warm greeting to those I meet.  I am welcome to stop and visit and I am free to pass by without further engagement.  I can enjoy immersing myself in the culture of the community or listen and watch without comment or participation.

The key, as always, is to make choices for myself that allow for my time alone.

Hmm…sounds like I could do that at home.




  1. A preference for solitude is highly recommended for spiritual seekers in all traditions. In fact, it is almost compulsory! Loneliness is a different state of mind. Not better or worse, just different.


  2. I smiled as I read the title of your post. When my children were younger and would find me, sitting by myself, reading a book (you can imagine that didn’t happen too often), they would ask, “Mommy, aren’t you lonely.” And I would reply, “No honey, I am alone, not lonely.”
    But I do agree, that alone can become lonely…sometimes it is a fine line we walk.
    Enjoy your alone time…and if you are feeling lonely, come and do a post…we’ll all be on the other end, reading it. 🙂


    • Thanks for your comment, Vivian. I got so far behind when my internet was spotty that I am just now discovering comments that I missed. Your words take me back to when my kids were small. I usually didn’t read when they were up because in those days I would become so carried away by books that I had trouble taking care of all of the business necessary with four small children. Ahhh…the days…


  3. I very much need my alone time. *A lot* of it. While I also enjoy social contact, I’ve observed through the past year that I need approximately 4 or 5 hours for myself for one hour spent with others. (This of course also depends on the company, some people are so easy to be with that I can spend a whole day with them, while others exhaust me so much that I get flight impulses after half of an hour.) I also need freedom to regulate social contact because it is potentially straining due to overstimulating me.

    I live alone (two years in a flat share are enough for this life), and usually I never feel lonely, as long as I know there are people I can contact when I want. I can call my mom or a friend, for example. When I need to reassure myself of the presence of others, it is usually enough to do a short trip to the city or go grocery shopping. 😛 Apart from that, I like deep conversations, and I have a few friends with whom that is possiible. Also, the internet is my friend because I can have contact with my blogging friends whenever I feel like, and I feel there are a few like minds out there. I know I’m a little special with this, and it has been a source of conflict in the past (what usually drives me into my snailhouse even more :D).


    • It’s a strange mix, isn’t it? I’m lucky because my husband likes time alone, too.

      I love being in my house by myself, to follow my nose wherever it goes. And I’m especially blessed to be able to travel to places for solitude. It feeds my soul. (I can tell I would never be a recluse, tho, because I am especially bummed on the days I can’t get the internet:)


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