Because I would like it for myself, the gift of solitude is one of my favorites. Deep down, when we are willing to admit it, isn’t it more fun to give the gifts we'd like to get? Take Aunt Jude and her holiday sweaters, for instance. You know the kind: an intoxicating sum of red weave splaying silhouettes of either holly or reindeer across the chest. She gives them because she digs them—she owns several herself—and knows which stores discount large quantities.
Solitude, on the other hand, rarely makes the gift list. The idea sounds absurd to anyone maintaining relations with more than two persons. We don’t sit around thinking: Wow! the holidays are here … who shall I leave alone. Nor do we expect to get any time to ourselves before, say, January 7th (that allots a week for cleanup and regrouping). But that's precisely what makes solitude so precious this time of year. Leaving a special someone alone might be the best gift they receive.
For quality assurance, I decided to test the gift of solitude on our cat. The task would have been easy were it a matter of ignoring the feline at my convenience—like usual. But I had to tweak my approach. You see, to truly “gift” solitude, you must remain sensitive to the receiver’s needs and—as soft as their fur may be—honor the times they’d rather have to themselves. If you pay attention, it's apparent when those around you need a break. Believe me, it saves innumerable scratch marks.
Too bad Aunt Jude doesn’t like solitude ... or cats.
**Go to Psychology Today to see the article of origin and its seven remaining suggestions.