"It scares us more than anything except death. Being alone. Our fear of aloneness is so ingrained that given the choice of being by ourselves or being with others we opt for safety in numbers, even at the expense of lingering in painful, boring, or totally unredeeming company."
These are Celebrating Time Alone's opening words, its central theme and guiding premise. For being alone, whether by circumstance or choice, is far from tragic.
What is tragic, and so wasteful of the sanctity of life, is that we seek our happiness, our fulfillment, our answers, our very identity in others when first we must find it in ourselves.
We can only find it in ourselves.
Instead, we cling to others for solace, safety, nurturance, and comfort, believing we are nothing alone--insignificant, empty, lost, unfulfilled. We accept our solitude in the tiniest, most reluctant of slices, which is sad and utterly wasteful of the precious gift of life.
People who need people are threatened by people who don't. For them, the idea of seeking contentment alone is heretical. To them, society steadfastly decrees that their wholeness lies--not in themselves but in others.
And so they accept that a life unshared is hardly worthwhile, that sunsets viewed singly aren't nearly as spectacular as those viewed with others, that time spent apart is fallow and pointless.
They grow old shunning the opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth that time alone could bring them.
The premise of this book is timeless and simple: There are gifts we can only give ourselves, lessons no one else can teach us, triumphs we must achieve alone.
Celebrating Time Alone affirms that it's all right to be alone, to want to be alone, to be alone and not lonely, even to be lonely at times because the rewards of solitude make the loneliness worthwhile.
This book sings the triumphs of those who have found amazing grace on their own. The people in the stories are real, what they tell of their lives is true.
Their messages of inspiration and hope are filled with the resilience, courage, strength, redemption, and hope of people who have dealt gracefully, even heroically, with being alone, with a life they may not have wanted but have accepted with equanimity, gratitude, and grace.
Because not to do so would be a repudiation of life itself.
If you are one of those seekers, then, in quest of your undiscovered self, who hasn't been able to find and hold the peace of mind, gentleness of heart, calmness of spirit, and daily joy in the press of humanity around you, Celebrating Time Alone was written for you.
Demographic trends analyst Cheryl Russell predicts that single-person households will become the most common household type in the United States by the year 2005. This is a major lifestyle shift in American history, one that interests Lionel Fisher. He is a great believer in solitude himself, having spent six years alone on a Pacific Northwest beach. Then he took off on a 15,000 mile journey to 15 states interviewing men and women on their own in a variety of settings across the United States.
Anyone who is single has felt the sting of being an outsider. Or as Fisher puts it: "We've even coined a word for those who prefer to be by themselves: anti-social, as if they were enemies of society. They are viewed as friendless, suspect in a world that goes around in twos or more."
Fisher calls individuals who like being alone new hermits. They relish their solitude as an opportunity to find their own path. They no longer feel the need to find their worth in the evaluations of others. They admit that they don't enjoy being with others as much as they savor time alone.
Fisher shows how these men and women are handling time, sexuality, regrets, simplicity, and more. They see themselves as works-in-progress and are not worried about what others may think. Fisher concludes: "There are gifts we can only give ourselves, lessons no one else can teach us, triumphs we must achieve alone."
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
"Still, in spite of all the civilization and people around me, I find it amazingly easy to reach a transcendent state of aloneness, as if the years of solitude at the cabin were so intense they laid a well-worn path of synapses and relays in my brain, providing a familiar shortcut."
~Sean Gardner (as quoted by Lionel Fisher)
Over the summer, I had the chance to read Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude by Lionel Fisher. In this book, Fisher weaves together his own story of time spent in intense solitude with the stories of many people that he interviewed who had chosen similar periods of aloneness to explore the many aspects of solitude.
He shares the stories of a wide range of people, coming from many backgrounds and circumstances. Some chose solitude intentionally and structured their lives in ways to give them that time away. Others had periods of solitude thrust upon them through the death of a loved one or the loss of a significant relationship. The situations defining their solitude varied widely, but each person found solitude to be a life-changing experience.
Fisher explores both the good and the bad that come with solitude: the loneliness, the freedom, the lack of sex, the authenticity, the fears, the joys, the challenges, and the gifts. At the heart of each person's story is the tension between the desire for solitude and the desire for relationship and connection with others. This tension is one that I know well from my own journeys into the small amount of solitude that I am able to create in my own life, so having the opportunity to view othersf struggles with this tension was helpful.
The story that has stuck with me the most powerfully since I read the book is the one of a woman who chose to live for eight years in a remote Idaho cabin (9' x 12') with no bathroom, electricity, or running water. After taking four years away to earn a graduate degree, she returned for another seven years there.
During the final seven years, she worked part-time teaching Freshman English that required a stay in town two nights a week; the other five nights were spent back at her cabin. The story of her experience with solitude and the hardship she was willing to endure to obtain that solitude was remarkable. But the part that really stuck with me is how she was able to carry that inner solitude with her when she then moved to downtown Santa Fe, living in a small apartment in the middle of town. The quote that opened this post is her description of having solitude always available to her despite now being surrounded by people with whom she interacted regularly. This is how she described it after having lived in Santa Fe for four years and having undergone enormous changes in her life. (I wonft ruin the story by telling the details of this part because itfs too beautiful a story to reduce to a summary here.)
That idea has stuck with me, and I find myself pondering it frequently. What would it take for me to reach a point where my experience of solitude is so well-worn into me that I can bring it up any time, where ever I am, no matter who is around me? What would it be like to have all of the solitude I crave right where I am without having to upend my life and move to the wilderness? If is possible to cultivate that level of solitude without having ever experience that kind of intense aloneness?
I donft know any of the answers, but I am intrigued by the idea of reaching the point where I carry my solitude with me. What a treasure that would be! I believe the journey to discovering this for myself is one well worth taking.
JOURNEY THROUGH THE CHRYSALIS/Reflections on a Life of Transformation
Not long ago, I was looking to buy a car because my old car wasn't worth what it was costing to continually fix. So, one night, after a pretty exhaustive search, I happened upon a used 1996 Toyota Camry with 42,000 miles on the odometer. The salesman told me the car had just been traded in that day for a new car and a car as such, with so few miles and in such pristine condition, appeared on the lot once or twice a year. The rest is history. In other words, the car was a rare find. That's exactly how I feel about Lionel Fisher's book---a wonderful and rare find that has left an impression on me that I know will not fade with time.
Folks, here's the truth---I love this book. If I could dress it up and make it human, I'd be in love. It is an amazing portrait of not only the author's journey into solitude on a beach in the Pacific Northwest, but also includes many other individual stories of people who, for various reasons, have plumbed the deepest depths of solitude in a grand, inward trek tailored to their own specific needs.
The stories in this book touched me. They really did. In this volume, you will find people dealing with death, regret, a search for meaning and validity in a world of unknowns, those attempting to live in accordance with their own inward nature, those using solitude as an exercise in self-indulgence, etc. The chapter dealing with regret and the individual stories contained within really spoke to me in a very intimate way. The chapter on dying brought tears to my eyes. So many of the individual stories I could relate to on a deep level, and in a very real way, I could see myself in those people.
I felt empathy and connection with many of the people in this book. You'll find so many different portraits in this book and the author, to his credit, uses this diversity as a way to impart the many different ways people use solitude to deal with whatever is happening in their respective lives and individual circumstances.
I came away from this book with a renewed sense of compassion and understanding for my fellow human being. I'm a life-long loner. I really appreciate this book. I want to thank Lionel Fisher for writing it. You've done a wonderful deed. This book has brought me comfort and a heightened sense of all that is noble in this world. It has given me a glimpse into the struggles others have gone through, and I'm so grateful. Solitude has been my constant companion in life, and it has taught me much. Lionel Fisher, thank you for allowing all those who have read "Celebrating Time Alone" to participate and share in the tribulations and triumphs known as life. This book will forever be on my bookshelf, and I rarely re-read a book, but this will be one of the rare exceptions.
For those who happen upon this review, please know that if you are interested in the subject of solitude and the inward journey, this book is a wonderful find. Read it, absorb it, let the stories of fellow travelers speak to you. If you allow it, this book has the capacity to heighten your awareness and who knows, possibly change your life....
D3Jr "A reader and viewer," Amazon.com
Even though I'm happily married; I consider myself a loner. I value time spent by myself, deep in my own thoughts. The world is directed in such an opposite way, that it makes a person such as myself feel as if there's something wrong with me, simply for enjoying my own company. I've been this way since my earliest memories, always enjoying solitude more than social gatherings. Reading this book has made me feel so much better, and reading all of the other reviews from people like me has also added to my understanding that I'm not the only one who feels this way, So many people are afraid to do things by themselves, or are in constant need of companionship. It's such a pleasure to read a book that emphasizes the fact that you can be alone, but not be lonely. That's how I feel. I only wish that others would have an understanding that people like me are not abnormal; we just choose to live a different type of life. If you can enjoy solitude, yet not be lonely, you've found one of lifes greatest pleasures. This book could not have put it better. I thank the author for writing it.
Andy Rosenblum, Amazon.com
I have just finished reading this remarkably human and compassionate book by Lionel L. Fisher. I read it in two days, and I heard myself saying out loud. "My God this is so true." This is an extremely valuable book that should be read by many people who question their own self-worth. It should be read by the young adults who are rushing around, and who never take the time to realize what is truly important. Everyone is just doing, doing and doing. No one seems to know how to just be, and to take the time to really value what is so important in life. Please do not wait until you're old to realize this, do it now and enjoy your life to the fullest, by being in the now. I applaud the author who had the courage to be by himself, walking that long stretch of beach and facing all the demons of his past. I applaud all the brave and intriguing characters that he interviewed for this book. But, most of all, I am so grateful for this book, because it has been so remarkably helpful to me in my own personal life. I have just ordered five more copies. Why? I wish to give a truly wonderful gift to the people that I hold most dear in my life. I know that they will benefit both spiritually and emotionally by reading this book. Thank you Lionel L. Fisher for giving us the opportunity to read such a wonderful down to earth book that is both witty and poignant at the same time.
Bonnie Resnick, Amazon.com