Like a Shag on a Rock

“I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind” ~ Albert Einstein

Australian slang can be a complete mystery to people not from there; as with this title. When “shag” is used as a noun, the expression simply means that one is lonely or exposed, seeing as the regular behavior of a shag is to stand on a rock with its wings outstretched to dry off after diving for fish.

In the past week I read two articles that had me rethink the topics of solitude and being alone. In the Northern Hemisphere it’s vacation time. What could be better than an ice-cold beverage and being alone with your thoughts. As it turns out, just about anything. According to research from psychologists at the University of Virginia and Harvard, people would rather do something – even engage in a little masochistic distraction – than do nothing. On average, most respondents said they didn’t enjoy having nothing to do. The study can be found here.

In a Bloomberg article, doctoral student David Reinhard at the University of Virginia stated, “It seems that the mind may want to engage with the external world, even if that engagement involves pain.” He added, “We may seek out technology because entertaining ourselves with only our thoughts is difficult and technology is an easily available alternative.” “But because we often seek out external stimulation from technology we may then lose practice with entertaining ourselves with our thoughts and that in turn makes it more difficult and less enjoyable.”

Although loneliness and solitude are often thought to be the same experience, little could be further the truth. Loneliness manifests itself as a sense of emptiness and isolation while solitude creates a sense of communion within the self. In loneliness we ache. In solitude we feast. In loneliness we have no one. In solitude we are one with the self.

Personally, I’m comfortable being a shag on a rock. I use that space to ask: What’s really important to me? What do I really want? If you are looking for ways to clear out the clutter or the noise and celebrate who you are, here are three simple ideas:

  1. Start a morning ritual. Wake up little earlier and squeeze in some alone time before you start your day. You can meditate, pray, journal, draw. This process can also give you time to focus yourself before the day.
  2. Be your own muse. When you’re alone, you are the only one stopping yourself from doing something. Discover new foods, people, places, cultures. When you’re alone you have more time to create something meaningful. Get inspiration from your alone time!
  3. Hole yourself up. You can do this in your office or at home. Close the door or find quiet space or use headphones with calming music. Let others know to not disturb you. The key is to find a way to shut out the outside world. Then, be at peace with your thoughts.

48 thoughts on “Like a Shag on a Rock

  1. I actually enjoy solitude. I use it as a time to reflect, to create, and to contemplate. A very useful posting, my blogging friend. Thank you! 🙂

  2. I can lock myself away for hours at a time and be comfortable. I find myself to be a bit of a conundrum though as while I love my solitude, when I’m out and about, I do like to be the centre of attention.
    On an aside, I love the English language and the different meanings for the same word. Shag ain’t just a carpet either.

    • Take a bow for being a conundrum, I suggest. So the question begs, at your core, are you genuinely an introvert or an extrovert? 🙂

      And I see that my fellow bloggers are leaning (perhaps) toward a verb preference versus the poor noun. So much for choosing the high road.

      • I’m probably more of a natural extrovert. I’d have to be with how easy it is for me to be that way.

        I’m trying to take the high road as well. My latest post, just now, has a few snippets of low road depravity. lol

  3. I love solitude! It has helped me discover my real self, given me tranquility, helped me understand values especially forgiveness. I can spend many hours with myself… just with nature and music.

      • I would take no technology over the invasion of it we have now, as long as we have the means to supply food, water and shelter to as many people as possible.

        It’s such a dilemma, our human predicament.

        It also seems, more and more so to me, that ironically, technology makes us lonely by promising what it doesn’t guarantee to deliver; true meaningful engagement. Perhaps no matter where you find someone who is willing to engage, like here, you’ll find meaningful engagement.

        Okay, I am rambling! Thanks Eric, for such stimulating ideas.

  4. Interesting post Eric. I experienced this with semi-retirement. I longed for the time when I didn’t have to do anything and then wondered why I didn’t enjoy it!

  5. Stunning posting, Eric. I am addicted to solitude, but I still find it hard to shut up. There’s another meaning for “shag” in Australia/New Zealand, but we won’t go into that!

  6. Great post, Eric. Is there such a thing as an extroverted introvert? 😉 I do enjoy my solitude. Having been raised almost like an only child (my brother is 11 years older) by older parents, I learned early on how to entertain myself. But put me in a receptive crowd and watch out! 😀

  7. That is a concrete truth. Solitude brings solace. It is much different from being lonely. To be with one’s thoughts, to contemplate for a while… is rejuvenating for the self. A very good article. 🙂

  8. Hi Eric.. It is I omtatjuan.. I abandoned my old blog and now this is my new incarnation… Same words just different name… Om tat sat…

  9. When I’m on the train and my iPhone, iPod, iPad, or laptop are out of reach I have no choice but to look around and take in what’s around me, or worse, make eye contact. 😉

    Self reflection is another, less confrontational possibility. 🙂

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • Gasp! Eye contact. 🙂 So a question that begs is would you prefer eye contact or self-reflection? I suspect you’re accomplished at either. And that whichever, the outcome would be of value.

    • Thank you, Jane, for creating time to stop by and share your thoughts. To your comment, perhaps you don’t need to be one or the other. Maybe what works well for you is a ‘shifting’ between loneliness and solitude — though personally and obviously, I encourage the latter. 🙂 It’s a choice. And yes, the noun use was appreciated by most readers. 🙂

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