One hundred years of solitude

With Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s passing late last night, a memory. I open an old copy of One hundred years of solitude and find something unexpected. A note written in my handwriting, addressed to Ben. I gave him this book a few months after we got together. At the time, I didn’t realise how prescient an act that was.

Solitude. It’s what marked us. And what claimed us, too. We were never a typical couple. We never hung out. Not really. Back then he was a music student, down in the practice room for eight to ten hours a day. I spent my time reading, writing, and getting on with my own stuff.

We moved in together knowing it wouldn’t break us, because we spent so little time together anyway. We overlapped between the hours of 2 and 8am. Back to back. Asleep.

In some ways, it was the perfect relationship for me. I tend towards the misanthropic. I crave solitude. So, I found a way to be with someone while simultaneously being alone. But it was a bit too much alone, even for me.

In those days, I wrote a diary, each page filled with the burden of solitude. The years passed, but the entries remained uncannily similar. Even this blog isn’t so different from those early thoughts of long ago.

Here is an extract taken from my diary shortly after Rosie was born and before I knew about Ben’s alcoholism. It could have been written any day, really.

“It is a funny thing, this life. It gives and it takes away. What it has given me has been so wonderful, so beyond what I might have imagined. Yet in my greed, I crave more. And it is this craving that leaves me despondent with grief. I need not detail the colours of my disappointment. I am locked in a room that has little within it that can be called ‘entertaining’. This is my marriage. As a mother, I am elated. As a wife – widowed. This is the reality I live in. So has it been, so will it be. Forever and ever. Amen.”

Marquez’s One hundred years is an ode to love and the solitariness of experience. It was a fitting gift, given some 17 years ago, to the man I loved in solitude.


5 thoughts on “One hundred years of solitude

    • It’s so rare these days, I crave it. My daughter is often with me. And if I’m not with her, I’m alone with my work. I want to disappear sometimes, but it’s not possible. I’m lonely in some ways, but I couldn’t cope with having someone around (a partner, I mean) all the time.

  1. I loved that book and loved the maestro’s work. I was saddened by his passing – not only as a writer, but as a reader of his fantastical work.

    As for the solitude – I am very much about solitude. I mean, not hermit like. But I have come to realize that I need a lot of restorative time on my own. I enjoy just being on my own. Less pressure. Less need to conform or please…not that I do that much these days. But in my active days, I was a ball of fears and anger, so being around others just activated it all. These days, I enjoy my alone time for other reasons. With two young boys, and countless errands and work (and meetings) I am surrounded by folks. So my time alone is to recharge and reconnect to what I need to connect to to keep me grounded. It’s important to me.

    It sounds like you weren’t too keen about all that solo time, in the end. I don’t think I would have done well marrying someone who thinks / thought like me. I’d never see them…lol. The thing about solitude is that sometimes we need to get out of it and stretch and grow and learn to be with others in a way that isn’t frightening or threatening. And that is what my wife has been good at. She knows when I am isolating, and will get my sorry ass out the door…ha ha.

    Thank you for sharing this about the maestro and sharing about your experience.

    Blessings and hugs,

    • Ah yes, I mourn for the loss of a great writer. I don’t read Spanish, so I can only guess how great he was from the strength of the translated work. Fortunately the translations are literary works in themselves.

      As for solitude, it’s an odd thing. I love my solitude as long as it’s self-imposed. So, I can go for days on end in my tiny flat, not going out, not seeing people (that was before I had a child. No more shutting myself away. Boo!). I avoid answering the phone. My husband found this irritating. While he spent hours on end practising music, he was always welcoming of guests in our home – indeed, would go out of his way to invite people round. This would inevitably stress me out. He found it depressing that people stopped ringing us. I was relieved. I guess I just find social interaction cumbersome and stressful. My therapist once asked me why I was so against starting a new relationship. I said, I couldn’t bear the hassle of it. Having to deal with someone else’s baggage – someone new. Having to compromise over different things. Having someone in my face all the time. So, I guess the reality was that what I had with my husband was neglect, not solitude. When I was writing, he found it irritating that he had to be quiet or that I didn’t want to be around him (I went away for several months to write). And whenever I sequestered myself to read a book, there he’d be, sitting at the end of the bed wanting to talk. He wouldn’t bother to speak to me if I was milling. All very frustrating at the time. My desire for solitude stems partly from social exhaustion, but mainly from needing space to think quietly and observe.

  2. Pingback: The sun rises faster over Nairobi | married to an alcoholic

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