THE TERRIBLE DIS-EASE OF LONELINESS

loneliness1Loneliness.  Now that’s a surprise of retirement I hadn’t planned for.  Foolish perhaps but since solitude is something I revel in I’d not thought much about what it would be like to spend so much time alone once I wasn’t heading out to the office each morning.  Sometimes it seems that I’ve lost an anchor and I definitely feel adrift.  It’s not just that most of  my friends are still working and so not available so much during the week.  Even those who retired a while ago seem to have already settled into new patterns and rhythms and aren’t so much available either.   It’s deeper than that though.  Kurt Vonnegut said that “the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”  I’ve lost a community of co-workers and colleagues, a room with my name on it, a place at the table.  Yes, yes, I know … this is something that I chose to do and that is definitely a gift to those of us with privilege.  That said, the pain of loneliness isn’t lightened by this understanding; it travels with me as I go through each day and throws its pall over much of what I do.friends-1It’s become pretty clear to me that once we retire we need to find ways to build some new communities of friends.  Children have no problem making friends (mostly because of how friends are defined; anyone available to play).  Parents of young children make friends with the parents of their children’s friends.  Students make friends with other students.  Workers make friend with colleagues.  If you’re not a child, parent of young children, a student or a worker, well … making new friends isn’t so simple.

I’ve been going to the Y for aquafit workouts since well before I retired.  Only recently, though, have I really felt that I’d made friends there.  What a difference it makes to be able to go out for lunch after a workout with a new friend …. terrific.  Last night I connected with two women in my meditation class (good thing, we’ve only got one more class to go) who’d like to join our monthly meditation “club” … another source of friendship perhaps.

This loneliness “thing” has caught me quite off-guard.  I guess I should have anticipated it, but I didn’t.  Now I just have to try to keep scraping my chin off the ground and press on.

Friends; the ones who can sing you the song of your heart when you’ve forgotten it.

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6 responses to “THE TERRIBLE DIS-EASE OF LONELINESS

  1. I think so many of us have forgotten how to reach out. Making friends is more of an effort now. I think somehow it has to with our culture now, maybe we’ve become too wary.

  2. “Children have no problem making friends (mostly because of how friends are defined; anyone available to play). ”

    I’ve been amazed at how much applicability this has to retirement as well. Friends who were very close prior to my retirement are consumed with their work/families, and contact must be very, very scheduled.

    Alternatively, more peripheral friends have become incredibly close because of our mutual “retired” situation, because they have the ability to be spontaneous and are open to experiencing new things together. The downside can be, however, that old friends start to harbor jealousies about the new things you are doing with new friends – brings back shades of those awful teenage years.

    Having lived now in three major cities, each for a number of years, I’ve had to learn to make new friends – but have also spent many lonely hours in those new cities during the process.

    But I have also had the joy of making those new friendships, whether meeting at a new job, a dinner party, or in the Y pool, and for that I am grateful.

  3. I have been thinking about what you wrote here as I too have been sort of broadsided by a little nagging loneliness lately. This surprises me too as I am a lover of solitude, rarely ever feeling lonely. Am not sure but I think this loneliness in retirement is different than what one experiences when working. I think of it as a disharmony stemming from not being in synch with the rest of the world or the majority of most people I encounter. Most of the the people in my life are working still and even the few who are retired have totally different goals, interests and outlooks on life and retirement. I think my loneliness is one from having no one around me who has the same interests now that I do and a large part of that is because retirement has changed me. What to do? I think I must find “my people”-(defined as those who have the same interests) now that I have and am changing. This retirement is a lot of work sometimes!

  4. Sylvia
    Dear friend, loneliness is not something I associate with you, what a surprise. You who always has six or seven projects on the go at once and always pushing the boundaries. Having been retired for three years now I can honestly say I am never lonely. Yet I do spend a lot of time alone; and probably the hardest time may be the continuity of home meals alone. Other than that, I have found an inner solitude of perception in questioning nature’s meaning. I truly ask the questions of life now.. and what am I leaving behind?

    The corporate world was thrilling and all encompassing but in reflection, cold. Friends still remain from those times but meetings are infrequent. Family has become so precious and I am making up for time I missed with my children, having to work to provide and the drive to be successful.

    However, I cannot imagine life without grandchildren…our immortality.

    Without that I would be truly lonely.

    • How little connection there seems to be between being busy and being lonely. You’d think that doing a lot means not being lonely, but it sure doesn’t. What I think I miss the most is the just being with friends without having to make plans; remember how nice it was when you worked in the school office and we’d just see each other through the day? Maybe I just have to make a little more effort around this. So, Hazel …. when shall we have lunch?

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