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A Matter of Definition
There's a difference between solitude and loneliness. Most people don't get that. True, the dictionary lists them as synonyms. But to me, they are worlds apart. Solitude, in my eyes, is being alone by choice. It's the ability to derive pleasure from one's own company, the art of self-sufficience, the enjoyment of silence, the need for seclusion, even. Loneliness, on the other hand, happens when nobody wants to keep you company, and you realise you wish they would. The physical and emotional longing for a warm body, a soothing voice, a kind word.
I used to be of the former disposition. I like solitude. With a family history like mine, you learn to love being alone. At some point, it becomes the only way to keep your world from crumbling down around you. Even in relationships I found myself incapable of bearing too much time spent together, without ever feeling lonely.
But things have changed with her. Sofia is the only person that I don't feel like decapitating if she talks too much. Which she rarely does. She has never felt the need to find out everything about me in one week or to cling to me like a sticky lollipop. There are things about me that she doesn't know and things about her that I don't know. We both like it that way. I need my space, she knows that and respects it. She has a very good sense of when I want to be alone, and she lets me be, without having to analyse why I am the way I am. Sofia's the least clingy of all my relationships, and the funny thing is, it makes me oddly comfortable to take one step after another into this thing that is us. You know that corny saying about setting someone free and if they come back, they'll be yours forever? That's a little how I feel with her, though admitting that there's some truth to the saying makes me want to wash my mouth out with soap.
The fact that I'm now able to bear, no, enjoy, someone's constant presence in my life means that I have to adjust my notions of solitude and loneliness. Without Sofia, solitude shifts to become loneliness, without her, being by myself ceases to make me feel complete. It's not that I can't stand being alone anymore, I'm still very much capable of that. But it has become harder to enjoy it, knowing that there is something better, and I find myself missing her, missing the little things that I used to roll my eyes at when others gushed about them. Perhaps I'm turning into a sap. Perhaps people will now say that I was never the solitary person I thought myself to be, that perhaps I was a lonely person, with my mind avoiding certain disturbing realities and finding comfort in the illusion that I liked the state of being on my own. But the truth is, I did like solitude, I still do. My problem was not being alone, it was to not be alone. It's a strange thing that only now that I am with Sofia, I experience what loneliness truly means, in those moments when she's not here with me. At the same time, there was no need to give up my retreat of solitude with her. It's merely a new level. I can still enjoy all the merits of it. She has a wordless way of communicating that I can have my peace and quiet while simultaneously providing the comforting security of her presence. We can sit for hours without talking, each of us absorbed in thought.
Like right now. I turn to the armchair in which she is curled up, staring out of the window, her fingers absent-mindedly playing with the drawstring of her sweats. I reach over to take her hand, she focuses her gaze on me, lightly squeezes my hand and gives me a warm smile. I don't understand why people are so afraid of solitude. It's a wonderful thing when you share it with someone.
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