This morning I was listening to a back episode of Desert Island Discs while I cleaned my flat. It was a show with Tom Hanks, and near the end as he was being cast away, he talked about the difference between loneliness and solitude. He said before he tried to escape he would first languor and enjoy the gulls, and the sand, and the wind in the trees.
It is a nice idea and I admire the sentiment, but I couldn’t help thinking it seemed idealistic, imagined through an actor’s eyes. Would he really enjoy that desert island without a film crew documenting his experience? We are literally wired to connect. When you’re forced into isolation, how can you see the experience as one of solitude? How can you escape the feeling of loneliness and seek a sense of peace and contentment when alone not by choice?
It’s nearly 6 months now since I moved away from home into a flat on my own. Anyone who knows me would describe me as an extrovert so being here — especially after 18 months of already shielding with my family —isn’t easy. Most days, if I were honest, I would describe myself as lonely. But there are minutes, sometimes hours, where I feel that sense of solitude and I wonder whether someday when I look back on this, as I surely will, I will think this time of shielding helped me to grow in comfort with myself.