Solitary Confinement

Summer 2014. The hottest months Hamburg experienced in years. The sun shined and the sweat trickled down my face. I was fresh off the plane. Life was perfect for me and my family in this quintessential, charming European City.

We enjoyed six weeks of bliss; our minds settled in the mode of an extended vacation. Then the boxes arrived, the suitcases were stored, my husband went to work and the kids started school. The honeymoon phase of our tour was officially over. This was home.

And, I was alone.

It wasn’t the first time for me to be alone. But, it was the first time for me to enter a period of extreme solitude. More than those few moments of silence spent in a ‘Prayer of the Heart,’ or holding down the fort during an unaccompanied tour. This period of solitude came unexpected — partly by choice, but mostly from circumstance.

I found myself turning to social media to connect with friends and family across the globe. Needing to belong somewhere, I threw myself into an online entrepreneurial aspiration, pretending I was still in America. It was too hard to face the truth.

Until I walked out the door.

The sights and sounds of my neighborhood were the first to remind me where I stood. Adjusting to a new way of life, with less support, less hospitality, and less emotional distress, but many more physical demands. My car was traded for the use of my arms and legs.

For eighteen months, I lacked the kindred friendship I desired to share my struggles, opinions and dreams. I felt isolated, vulnerable and lonely. Down-spiraling quicker than my mind could handle. Anger was finding it’s way and settling in.

Daily life continued. My husband and kids needed me to give, to care for them. They needed food in their snack bags, clothes in their drawers and toiletries in their shower. Dutifully, I surrendered to the needs of others. But there was no one to give to me.

After a year, I was depleted. I had nothing more to give. I was strained, stressed and struggling. Feelings of being trapped and controlled overwhelmed and constricted me to the point I felt I was hyperventilating. I needed escape. I needed fresh air.

I asked myself, can I continue?

My heart yearned for more. My soul craved attention. So, as I lay sprawled across the hardwood floors of my living room, I cried. The pain released itself through tears that streamed down my face, forming itself into a puddle, contained and easy to wipe away.

The time to enter a journey for renewal began with the stroke of a pen. Over 28-days, I researched, reflected, meditated and journaled. I began to write myself out of the stupor. There were no outside influences, only the guidance of my heart. At the end, my life was opened to something new. Something sweet. Something generous.

The freedom to be me.

“True solitude cleans the soul, lays it wide open to the…winds of generosity.”  — Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

*****

This reflective piece was published in Currents, Summer 2017, Vol. 33, No. 01. Currents is the magazine for active members of the American Women’s Club of Hamburg. Find out more about the club at awchamburg.org.

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