Advent is the perfect time to consider a life alone...
Terry, of the wonderful blog Idle Speculations has a terrific post on contemprary hermits and anchorites. I've posted my observations on the life - although these are charred by my own disillusionments and failures - nevertheless, Terry's post is full of light and optimism, read it here: The modern anchorite or hermit.
"The women and men who withdraw to live in the company of God, precisely because of this decision, acquire a great sense of compassion for the sorrows and weaknesses of others. As friends of God, they have a wisdom that the world, from which they distance themselves, does not have. And with kindness, they share it with those who knock on their door" - Pope Benedict XVI on Julian of Norwich