Woolf and solitude

November 9, 2008

First, thanks to Dan for sharing your karmic connection to INTROVERT POWER, and how reading the book affected you. It was a joy to write, and to hear from readers brings the experience full circle.

These days, I wish I could write to Virginia Woolf and tell her of my connection with her work. It hasn’t been an easy connection. I read Mrs. Dalloway a few years back and slogged my way through, often lost in the internal dialogue of her characters. I was inspired to tackle her writing again after reading a wonderful book by Woolf scholar Danell Jones, The Virginia Woolf Writers’ Workshop.  Jones artfully wove Woolf’s actual words into a single writing course, allowing me to feel as if she were speaking to me. Woolf’s quotes are so beautifully quotable, that I was inspired to read To The Lighthouse. The intricacy of the inner worlds of Woolf’s characters can be daunting, but there is such beauty and wisdom and humor — and truth to be discovered, that I found it well worth the effort. I was particularly excited by the way Woolf captured the joy of solitude. I underlined many quotes, but I’ll limit myself to those that come from the mind of Mrs. Ramsey, after her children had gone to bed and she is alone:

“…it was a relief when they went to bed. For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of–to think; well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others.”

The darkness is not a depressive darkness, a reality often missed by light-dwelling extroverts. Mrs. Ramsey’s thoughts continue their narrative:

 “..it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless…the core of darkness could go anywhere, for no one saw it.”

Now that’s introvert power, that freedom we feel in being removed from external stimulation and expectation.

What if we thought of these dark days of November, so often associated with depression, as a time to sink down, to allow our thoughts free reign, and to experience the adventure of limitless vistas?

And while you’re at it, sink into a book by Virginia Woolf.

By the way, it’s 5:34 pm and already dark. Party time (introvert style)!

Best, Laurie