I have just returned from 5 days in the country where I buried myself in doing some uninterrupted writing. It was 5 days with conversations with two or three people in passing, but otherwise simply myself and the dogs. I got to thinking about the difference between being alone and being lonely.
I have been to my cottage in the country in the past, for several days and have come back disgruntled and irritable. But this time I returned peaceful and ready for the week ahead – was that because I had the first registration for my online course, because I managed to get back to Cape Town before the massive rains that caused flooding, or was it simply that I had enjoyed my own company and had not crossed the line to loneliness?
Thinking back to the difference between loneliness and being alone. This morning I listened to Margaret on Sixty & Me talking about those moments of loneliness that most of us experience at some time and the solution she gave was to keep occupied. I realized that during these past 5 days I had kept myself really busy. Walking the dogs between rain showers, read a couple of novels, some tapestry and knitting besides at least 6 hours of writing and editing each day!
For those of us who find ourselves in retirement without a partner, and who miss the camaraderie of work colleagues, how do we deal with loneliness? In my first book I advocate increasing your social network. The gym that I go to has a community of retirees who exercise in the morning and follow the class with a social stop in the coffee shop on the way out. In fact my Aquacise class is so social that the teacher struggles to be heard over and above the chatter of retirees. Living at the foot of the beautiful Table Mountain I know of several walking groups that head out during the week to make the most of the stunning views. But if you do not know where to start and are a little shy, getting going can be daunting. Meetup is one solution because when you arrive at the sea of new faces, you know that at least the others are in the same position.
Margaret talks about making small talk with strangers, in the queue or on a train. That is something I find very difficult. On our local talk show radio on Friday night they were discussing going to a restaurant on your own. Another thing I cannot bring myself to do. But taking myself off to movies, a walk in the Botanical gardens or the forest with the dogs is easy, though not always social.
The response I received on facebook when I proposed keeping oneself busy to stave off loneliness brought this comment from Wendy: ”I think, however, that engineering constant busyness – valid though these suggestions are – is a means of deferring dealing with self/the moment. Those of us who are privileged to have lived longer know that emotional states arise and pass. Sometimes it is good to make peace with the present and whatever is arising in it and reflect on why that might be. Gratitude is a good antidote to depression (aka loneliness or alienation) and the more one is grateful the more reasons the Universe supplies! The converse is also true… your choice!”
What do you think?