“I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” Henry David Thoreau
When Jake and I first started dating, I made the mistake of telling him “Being with you is almost as good as being alone.” I meant it as a compliment, but it has taken eleven years to prove that to him.
I love to be alone. It is where I find my strength, soul, and energy. In a social situation, I may be the loudest one in the group, but when I get in the car to drive home, I’m spent. Yet another reason becoming a mother has been a massive adjustment for me.
Jake, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. The more interaction with people, the better. Get him in the car after the rendez-vous and he is atwitter with energy. Keep him home alone for a couple days and he starts to look a little wan.
Despite our gross differences, each of us has come to an understanding about the other. Jaime needs her solitude and Jake needs his get-out-and-aboutness.
So I was especially touched that my dear husband gifted me with a two-night stay at the New Camoldoli Hermitage in Big Sur for my birthday. The Hermitage is a monastery perched high in the Santa Lucia Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean where monks welcome weary travelers of all religious backgrounds to retreat with them. I had stayed there many years ago during a tough time, and the solitude was a perfect salve for my troubled heart. This time around, I just needed a break: From my beautiful Seabass, from cleaning the dishes, from picking up dog turds in the backyard.
The Hermitage is perfect for loners like me because you really don’t need to talk to anyone the whole time you’re there. Meals are taken alone in your room, and the unwritten rule is to protect the silence of the property. (Among the retreatants, let’s just say there is a lot of nodding and smiling.) The Ritz it ain’t, but each room is adequately comfortable with a single bed, a desk, a rocking chair, a bathroom, and – best of all – a private garden overlooking the ocean.
As I prepared for my visit, I told a couple of people where I’d be over the weekend. I could tell the kindred spirits from the, uh, non-kindred spirits by their reaction. Simply put, I received either a deep sigh and a lot of jealousy, or something along the lines of “You’re going up there alone???”
I’ve thought before that the Hermitage would be a wonderful spot in which to write. The quiet and the uninterrupted hours of nothing lend themselves beautifully to it. But the last thing I wanted to bring was my laptop and a long list of writing to-dos. Instead, I brought my journal and a couple of books to help me focus my thoughts and come away from the weekend feeling filled-up and satisfied. Other than hopes of taking long walks, waking up late, and drinking coffee in bed, I really had no plans.
Oh, how glorious to fall asleep looking at the stars, undimmed by ambient city lights! And to wake to the sound of birds chirping and waves crashing! The hours were entirely, blessedly mine, without a schedule or any responsibilities other than to enjoy myself and relax. The food was delicious, the weather was impeccable, and truly, I couldn’t have hoped for a better time.
But, surprisingly, when I awoke Sunday morning, my heart burned for home. Quiet mornings and days full of nothing may be a rare occurence and special treat, but on the whole? I’ll take waking up to the contented chirps of my Seabass and days spent caring for my family. Retreating didn’t just give me rest; it gave me an appreciation for every poopie diaper, dirty dish, and basket of laundry I deal with on a daily basis. I am so lucky to take care of my boys, and so blessed to bear another child within! So I packed up the car early and headed home, eager to smell Seabass’ neck, see Jake’s smile and have a meal together as a family. I wasn’t disappointed.