Anna Neagle On Solitude.

By Alison March 7, 2006 No Comments 4 Min Read


"In the late 1950’s, Anna Neage wrote a series of articles for "Woman" magazine. As you would expect from a woman renowned for her beauty, her column was refined and elegant and whether she was commenting on the folly of regret or the glory of independance, her writing was, and remains inspirational. Here Anna persuades us to learn how to be alone…"

I was cross. I was tired. It had been a long hard day and now I was rushing home to change before going out to dinner. Or rather crawling home, the car enmeshed in a jerking, hooting, petrol-smelling traffic-jam. "Eight million people living in London" I thought. "And they’re all packed into Oxford Street. I wish they would go home.

I didn’t even stop to consider that that was exactly what all the people around me were trying to do. I didn’t even congratulate myself on having made a mild joke. It had been that sort of a day.

Then when I finally reached the flat it was find a message awaiting me to say that my hostess had gone down with flu and the dinner was postponed. I had a whole, long, delightful evening free.

I was, as it happened quite alone that evening. my husband was booked for a long standing engagement with an old friend.

I can’t now remember exactly how I spent those few hours of solitude. But that doesn’t matter. It was the breathing space that counted, the opporttunity for self indulgence of the best, most restorative kind- relaxing, thinking, dreaming, re-charging the battery that keeps us going through the busy day.

Everyone needs some time to themselves. No matter how much we love our family and friends, a part of us needs the occasional moment of solitude as a plant needs water. It is the inmost core of each of us that, that part which nobody can define but which we all recognize because it never changes.

It’s the same when we are children as it is when we’re old. you say to yourself, ""this is me, the real me," and you mean that secret self which perhaps only you will recognize.

You probably don’t think of it very often, but how delightful it is to let it out for exercise in some odd solitary moment!

When you are alone, then is the time your wings can stretch! You can be anything, do anything. you can pick up a book an be transported  to the farthest place on earth. You can dream about the stars, and life and death. you can cook yourself a kipper if you feel like it, and there is nobody to think you odd!

But the delights of solitude don’t only consist of dreaming. Next in enjoyment, I think, comes planning. "I note that there is a cobweb on the ceiling," you may remark to yourself. "I can see this whole room needs to be thoroughly spring cleaned." And as you relax, you plan it all so neatly, so carefully, so practically- changing all the furniture around, deciding that you really do need new curtains or fresh paint.

And plans concieved in these blessed moments of solitude have an odd habit of working out. you may actually start to learn a language, go to a new place for a holiday, take up yoga, diet or take a more informed interest in the events of the world.

Bu even if nothing results, if you spend your solitude doing nothing more constructive than dreaming, it is time well spent. For you are being yourself, and getting to know yourself. And in a world as rushed as ours is today, how rarely do we get an opportunity to pause and think?

It is the secret core of ourselves that keeps us young in heart and spirit and adventurous in mind, and that is why being alone with ourselvesoccasionally is a necessity and not an indulgence. But there is another reason why I think solitude is as important as it is pleasant. We are, no matter how many friends we may have, nor how loving a family surrounds us, basically on our own. We come into the world alone and we go out of it alone, and no human being can ever know the heart of us.

So it is necessary that we should learn to be alone. Solitude is pleasant. Loneliness is not. Each of  us has been lonely at some time in our lives and will be again. But if we have known and used the delights of solitude, we have a weapon ready to use against the real angusih of loneliness if it should come…

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