Solitude

By Susan Harvey

In my younger adult days, I never wanted to be alone. For me, solitude was synonymous with loneliness. Back then being with friends, family and even strangers nourished me, gave me a sense of worth, or as Abraham Maslow labeled it: a sense of belonging. Smack in the middle of his Hierarchy of Needs theory; a logical place to be in mid-life.

Everyone thought I was an extreme extrovert: vivacious, fun-loving, energetic and spontaneous. According to the Myers-Briggs personality test that I took in 1986, I was an ENFP. Translated that means I was an Extrovert who used Intuition, Feeling and Perception to make decisions. This was in contrast to those people, like my former hubby, who were Introverts and use Sensing, Thinking and Judging to make decisions. In other words, to ISTJ people, I was a loose cannon ready to fire.

Then I grew up. Okay, maybe I just began to mature; a mid-life divorce does that to women. I looked inward to find fulfillment. I stopped depending on everyone else to make me happy and began making my own happiness by doing the things I wanted to do. A bit selfish, but once I learned of Maslow’s Hierarchy theory, I had to move up the ladder. I still had two steps to accomplish: Esteem needs – achievement, status, responsibility and reputation; Self-actualization – personal growth and fulfillment.

Of course, this change may have been necessary rather than voluntary because most of my friends were left behind when I moved from my home of fifteen years to attend college in another state. But I prefer to think I was maturing, becoming the woman I was meant to be, facing difficulties and surviving. I know, all you ISTJ people are nodding your heads and thinking, she’s a loose cannon all right.

Being the goal setter that I am, I sat down and wrote my goals for climbing Maslow’s ladder. First, I worked on my self-esteem. Failed relationships have a way of injuring our self-esteem, so after two failed relationships following close after my divorce – guess that makes three failed relationships – I vowed to enjoy life without getting involved with another man until I healed from the divorce.

During this renovation of my self-esteem, I realized I was no longer the ENFP, the loose cannon. I felt balanced in my decision making process. I used head, heart, judgment and perception to make decisions. Heart may have won a few times, but I learned to make better decisions most of the time. The important thing was I liked myself and the woman I had become. I loved spending time alone reading and writing and reflecting on life. I meditated, gave God thanks for my many blessings and returned to that positive attitude I was known for having.

Now in the youth of my old age, I revere solitude. It’s still fun to be with family and friends and to socialize and meet new people, but I’m always happy to take refuge in my home, secluded from the world. I disagree that solitude is loneliness. Enjoying solitude requires loving oneself. I’m not sure Maslow would agree, but I think I’ve finally reached the top of the hierarchy. That’s not to say that I will become static and unchanging. I’m still learning and growing. The difference is that now I know in which direction I’m headed. This is a good thing because even self-fulfilled women can become loose cannons. I only hope that someone points me in the right direction before lighting my fuse.

About this writer

  • Susan Harvey Susan Harvey is a humor writer who teaches college English. She lives in Murrells Inlet, and in her spare time enjoys cooking and reading mysteries.

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