I was on the West Coast recently presenting "Got Your Attention" for a conference. At the speaker dinner, we were going around the table with a "Review - Preview." Each of us had a chance to reflect back on the first six months of the year and share a couple of highlights - and then look ahead and share what we were looking forward to in the second half of the year.
I told the group about my Year by the Water. The woman next to me asked, "What's your favorite place so far?"
I told her, "It's not really the places that I remember. I've been fortunate to travel to some really marvelous places - Maui, Morro Bay, Marina del Ray - but what really stands out are the experiences and epiphanies."
She asked, "Like what?"
I thought about it for a moment and lit up with a memory. "Here's an example. I'm driving along in the middle of Texas listening to the Audible version of Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road.
I had pictured Texas as flat, barren and hot. But this was Texas hill country in spring. Much to my surprise, everything was green, rolling and beautiful. I am reveling, reveling, reveling because everything I see is new. All is right with my world.
Gloria was talking about Virginia Woolf's insight that "Every woman needs a room of her own.
I started laughing out loud. Even though I was "all my myself," what burst out of my mouth was, 'I have a ROAD of my own.'
That's one of my favorite memories of this adventure. I love having an open road and open space."
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to train the President and International Board of Entrepreneurs Organization in public speaking.
Our meeting was at the top of CEB - the Corporate Executive Board Building- looking out over the Potomac River and the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech that inspired millions and helped changed the course of our nation.
That night, we went to Lincoln's Cottage in Northwest DC for a private dinner. This is where President Abraham Lincoln rode his horse from the White House to write the Emancipation Proclamation.
I got there an hour early, before any of the EO'ers arrived.
As I walked in, it was as if the walls were whispering to me, "Space to think. Space to think."
The cottage was very spare. Each room only had a handful of items. A table. A chair. Maybe a picture on a wall. That was it.
I got it. This was where Lincoln came to escape the "madding crowd' and be alone with his thoughts.
This was where he could temporarily be free from his many obligations and demands.
This is where he found solitude and was able to both reflect and think ahead, and conjure up visionary words that that also changed the course of our nation.
Time, space and freedom to reflect, think ahead and be alone with my thoughts is a primary reason I am loving every moment of my Year by the Water.
I had a great life before this. However, like everyone, I had obligations and demands and not much time, space or freedom to be alone with my thoughts, much less reflect upon and write about those thoughts.
Now I do. Bliss.
How about you?
Do you have time, space and freedom to be by yourself?
Do you have a room - a road - of your own?
Do you ever get a respite from your obligations and demands?
Many of our greatest creative minds talk(ed) about their need for solitude. This is where they did their greatest work. This is where they were able to dig deep, without distraction, and conjure up new ideas, visionary documents, first-of-its-kind art.
I'm sharing a few favorite quotes about solitude (with some comments about them).
I hope they catalyze reflection (and maybe even a conversation with friends and family) about your own personal and professional need for solitude and a room/road of your own. Hope you find them inspiring and thought-provoking.
1. "A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free." - Arthur Schopenhauer (That's what being alone means to me. Total freedom to go where I want, when I want, do what I want, with whom I want.)
2. "We need society, and we need solitude, as we need summer and winter, day and night, exercise and rest." - Phillip G. Hamerton (Agreed. I don't want to be by myself all the time. I don't want to be around people all the time. I want, need and enjoy both. Solitude and society are two sides of the coin of creativity.)
3. "Being solitary is being alone well: luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than of the absence of others." Alice Koller (When I am writing in nature, hours go by and I'm not even aware of the passage of time. I am totally immersed. It is presence, not absence.)
4. "To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude." - Jeanne Moreau (If the sun, ocean, birds, sand and wind are there ... the beach is alive, not empty.)
5. "The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude." - Aldous Huxley (The best solitude is indeed a deeply spiritual, holy experience.)
6. "It is only in solitude that I ever find my own core." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh (What a wise woman. How I wish I could have walked the beach with her, shared the gifts of the sea with her.)
7. "When you acknowledge the integrity of solitude, and settle into its mystery, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder." - John O'Donahue (You've heard the saying "Absence makes the heart grow fonder?" The luxury of alone time makes people time even sweeter ... because it's rarer.)
8. "Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away." - Barbara de Angelis (Truth. In solitude, we give our attention to our work and our surroundings, however we receive so much back. It is energizing and fulfilling rather than draining or exhausting.)
9. "Who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once." - Robert Browning A woman asked, "Don't you get lonely?" I told her, "I'm never lonely as long as I have a good book, good music and can write. And I'm never alone because my friends/family are with me, even with they're not with me. I ride a river of relationships, everywhere, always.")