Loneliness. 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.It’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.