On Solitude, the “Witnessed Life”, and that Big Question

“Solitude is good for you,” someone dear to me said recently. We were catching up over moonlit drinks, and he was telling me about his life in a new country.

“Hmmm, yeah. Solitude challenges you and helps you grow,” I mumbled back. It was the best I could offer in terms of a reply, but I was clearly just trying to convince myself that I felt the same way.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind solitude, and on many occasions, I welcome it. As I had written in “Table for One,” I’m someone who enjoys dining and traveling alone, and I actually enjoy my own company. I am not going to depend on anyone in order to live my life in the best, fullest, most amazing way that I can… but, I have to admit, I do want Someone to accompany me on that awesome adventure.

(And, of course, I’m not completely on my own. I have a great family, a really amazing group of friends, and a tribe of other people who inspire me and my work, every single day. I am surrounded by inspiration, support, and filial love wherever I go… but, I’m sure you know what I mean.)

La Boca Latina
Taken at La Boca Latina, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, December 2011

In the movie Shall We Dance? , Susan Sarandon, who plays Richard Gere’s wife, says what for me is the most important quote from that film:

“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

And as someone who had always envisioned such a “witnessed life” and even tried it (albeit disastrously, the first time around), I often find myself wondering if I will still ever meet The Right Someone (not just anyone) to have such a life with.

* * *

The Big Question has become more pronounced recently, as certain events have brought the issue of “alone-ness” (which I feel is different from “solitude”) and loneliness right smack in front and center of my consciousness.

One of these is having to care for my single mom, whose health has taken a bit of a dive since our family trip to Bangkok a couple of weeks ago. I see her struggling with what she calls “emptiness,” with the feeling of being “so alone” in the twilight of her years (while all of her kids are busy taking life by the horns–as she had raised us to do)… and I ask myself, Is this what my future will look like? My mom had always been ambitious and driven, and she never let a man (or not being with one) stop her from doing or achieving anything. In some ways, I’m like her when she was my age (sans the children), so I find myself wondering if I’ll be just like her when I get to her age.

This is not to diminish my mother in any way. I love her dearly. But I see her go through “seniorhood” and this illness without a partner, and I ask myself, Would things have been different if Mom had a life partner at this stage in her life? What can I learn from her and her life so that I don’t end up making the same mistakes (or ending up even worse)? What is God teaching me by bringing me here and showing me these things?

* * *

And there are moments when you really just want Someone to share life’s little joys and pains with. Like moments when you need someone to just hold your hand, look you in the eye (like no one else would), and reassure you that things would be okay. Or when you’re experiencing something utterly wonderful, and you want to share it with Someone special (who’s not any of your girlfriends) who totally gets you and understands why you’d feel that way. Or when you just need to snuggle up to someone and hide in the crook of his arm and not have to do or say anything, when you’d rather just hide from the world. Or Sunday mornings, when you just want to lounge together and talk about the books you’re reading (yes, we’ll both have to be a little bit nerdy that way) or any random thoughts over breakfast, and not have to think about going anywhere. Or just plain let’s-go-through-life-together-and-enjoy-loving-and-learning-from-each-other-as-we-go-along.

(See? That was the longest paragraph in this post, so it obviously means a lot to me.)

But I also know that I am no longer going to settle for less than what I deserve–and what God has planned for me. The world these days is full of opportunities for instant-casual-everythings, that being in a committed, long-term relationship now probably means (and appeals) so much less to so many people. (What for? You can get everything you want with no strings attached–all with just a few swipes!) Despite that, believe in committed love. I believe in being there for someone through their ups and downs. I believe in being a witness to someone’s life. I believe in an Ed Sheeran-“I’ll-be-loving-you-’till-we’re-seventy” kind of love. (I’m a sappy, hopeless romantic, and unapologetic about it–take it or leave it.) And I believe that–someday, somehow–I will get to experience the fullness of God’s love for His church through a deeply intimate human relationship unlike any other.

I also understand that now may not yet be my time for this. Everything happens in God’s perfect time, and we just need to be open to His workings in our lives. In the meantime, I shall keep on learning and living the best way I can, and keep my eyes peeled for God’s revelations big and small.

(But okay, God, here’s my request: when that time is about to come, would you please show me very clear signs so I’ll know what to do? You know how stubborn and headstrong–and, sometimes, dense–I can get, so please tell me what to do, and I’ll listen! I promise!)

Here’s to what solitude has teach us–for now.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Matt Stewart says:

    Nina – many thanks for your words, I have missed your emails recently and not sure if maybe you are not posting as often. I know we have a common love for Paulo Coelho and his writing and must say your style of writing and skill is very much appreciated to me.
    Sending you happy thoughts
    Kind regards

    1. ninaterol says:

      Hi, Matt, thank YOU for your very kind words! You’re right–I haven’t been posting as often, but I do hope to write more often as it’s really such an important part of who I am. And thank you for the reminder about Paulo Coelho! I’ve been thinking of rereading Manuscript Found in Accra–but perhaps you have another recommendation while I’m in this sort of reflective mode? I’ll make sure to read your writings, too.

      Kind regards,

  2. Matt Stewart says:

    Thanks Nina – I really do enjoy your writing, it appears to me to be a great gift you have. Re Paulo Coelho, I do enjoy his writings with my favourite being “The Manual of the Warrior of Light” an book of short recommendations and insights into the mind of people like you and I, people who are full of humanity and love and frailty.
    Kindest regards

    ” The warrior of light tries to establish what he can truly rely on. And he always checks that he carries three things with him. Faith,hope and love”

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