M E R I D I A N M A G A Z I N E
An Island of Solitude By Debra Sansing Wood
As my husband arrived home from work this evening, I stumbled past him out the front door, grumbling that I needed to go for a walk. I told him I’d be back — later. The walk marked the end of a difficult day, the kind that feels like it will never end.
After a few minutes of walking alone, I was able to calm down and reflect on my day. Admittedly, the kids and I had some fun, and I accomplished some necessary tasks like paying bills, cleaning the bathrooms and taking care of an overdue oil chae for the car. Even so, I was beginning to feel terribly burned out. It didn’t help that I had begun the day without visiting what I call my island of solitude. In fact, I hadn’t been there all week, not even for a brief, soul-nourishing visit.
As a mother, I benefit from having some time to myself each day. I travel to my island of solitude by waking early, sometimes as early as five a.m., to have an hour or two alone before the house fills with the energetic activity of young children.
Waking early can require a lot of self-discipline or, in my case, a supportive husband. I often sleep through the alarm clock (despite the fact that the clock is on my side of the bed). When this happens, my husband gives me a gentle push and some encouragement by saying all I have to do is get out of bed, take a shower; then if I really want to, I can come back to bed and sleep until seven a.m. This tactic rarely fails. If I can just put my feet on the floor for more than fifteen seconds, I am on my way to an energizing retreat.
Once showered and dressed, my choice of an early morning activity is guided by the desire to nourish my spirit and limited only by my imagination. Most mornings, I will spend some time in focused scripture study and then in writing a journal entry, a letter to a friend, or an essay. In addition to scripture study and writing, I may enjoy a cup of warm cocoa or pore over a favorite magazine, reading an entire article without interruption. I often end my time alone with a walk, absorbing the tranquility and freshness of nature as the day unfolds.
Early morning solitude, regardless of one’s pursuits, seems to instill a deep sense of reverence for the gift of a new day. During my time alone, I make a commitment that this day will be special for my children, my husband, and me. Such a commitment, made each day, can add up to a lifetime lived in joy.
I smile when friends or acquaintances express disbelief that I would wake so early “just to have some time alone.” I suggest that before discarding the idea, they try some early morning solitude, doing something they love.
These sessions of solitude truly influence the quality of life for my entire family. When I return from an early morning walk just as my daughters are waking, they are quick to catch my calm, yet enthusiastic mood. This positive atmosphere seems to wrap us all in a wonderful sense of anticipation for the day ahead.
Of course not everyone can, or should, be an early riser. There might be opportunities to create solitude in the midst of a busy day, without giving up precious sleep. For example, ban housework during naptime. Assign bath duties to Dad, and take yourself for a walk at sunset. Limit one’s own television watching. Swap child care for a few hours a week with a friend. Sometimes just getting a shower before the kids wake up is sufficient!
Taking a walk this evening has reminded of how important solitude is to my well-being. I am ready to renew my commitment to taking time each day to gather wandering thoughts, regain perspective, and refresh my tired spirit. When I visit my island, however briefly, I wonder how I ever get along without it.
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