In Search of Solitude (with 3 kids)
But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.
― Letters to a Young Poet
I recently read the highly-acclaimed Letters to a Young Poet and I have been enthralled with Rilke’s thoughts on solitude being a necessity for Writers. One fine day, I searched for those precious moments of solitude. These are my journal entries from that day.
This happened in the span of last 12 hours.
Haya had gone down for her nap and Rihab was still logged into her class. Rania asked if I could sit outside with her while she plays. I asked her if I could bring my book. She agreed under one condition. If I would read it out loud.
Out we went. I turned the pages of Wayne Muller’s “Sabbath” and started to read.
“Because we do not rest, we lose our way.”
“What? That’s not true. I’m resting all the time.” Rania raised her brow.
“Adults usually don’t rest.”
“Why? What are they doing? Running after kids?” Rania asked.
After more questions from Rania, I decided to close the book and joined her in observing the sounds of different birds chirping away.
Evening time hit and I wanted to catch up on Natalie Goldberg’s class that I don’t attend live on Saturdays. Natalie started with her 10 minute meditation. In spite of finding it to be unhelpful, I decided to give it a try. The good thing about Natalie is that she does exactly what she tells the students herself. I started to focus on my breath.
Rihab yelled from across the room. “Mama you are watching a paused video.”
“No, her eyelids are moving.” Rania informed Rihab.
“What is she doing?” Rihab asked.
“I’m supposed to be meditating and concentrating on my breath.” I told them.
“Why?” Haya asked.
“It’s supposed to bring me clarity and peace of mind. You guys want to try it?”
5 seconds later…
“How long are we supposed to do this?”
“That’s a long time. Tell me when she stops breathing.” Rania abandoned meditation and ran away.
“Mama, why isn’t she saying anything?”
“Concentrate on your breath, Haya. Watch your tummy go up and down.”
Haya watched her tummy swell and go back in.
“Anchor your mind with your breath,” said Natalie.
“Mama, she’s talking. Talk to her!”
“Haya, this is not a zoom call!”
“Is it 10 minutes yet?” Rihab asked from far away.
I turned off my laptop and decided to try Natalie’s class later.
It was time to pray Maghrib, the prayer that falls in at the time of sunset.
Facing the direction of Mekkah, I started to do the motions of prayer.
When I sat down, Haya piggy backed on me with a strong hold.
I stood up and she was still attached.
I kneeled…still attached.
I prostrated my head on the ground and Haya held on more tight.
“Oh Allah, I’m going to die. This kid’s going to kill me.”
I tried to get her off of me but her grip was too strong.
I was semi praying while getting a ninja kid off my back.
It was an ungraceful form of karate.
Conclusion: Today was not a day to search for moments of solitude.
If solitude is a home then I’m still gathering the bricks and mortar to construct the foundation. At this time, my solitude is five minutes in the bathroom, half hour before the kids wake up from their sleep and the fifteen minutes I steal after they lay down for bed. In those last fifteen minutes, I think about conquering the world and devise great plans. Those great plans are then laid to rest as my head hits the pillow.
I know this period won’t last and one day the kids will be off on their own. When that happens, I might have plenty of solitude to go around. In those long awaited moments, I’ll reminisce about the time spent with the kids when I was yearning for solitude. The irony of life!