Well, it finally got me. I was feeling rather invincible. The IT being the Great Interrupter, aka COVID-19. It spread through the entire family, younger ones being done in three days; us older folks more like 10 before we were back to normal. But amid it came great joy, a new grandson! I’ve been writing away to meet my October deadline and we will publish the book next year. Once I submit it in October, next on my list is that community platform we’ve been discussing, alongside caring for my grandson, continuing the home restoration, and any additional writing/editing that may need to be done.
As I am writing this book, I discover that as I approach 70, my engagement with getting older differs from when I turned 60. As we know, my response to that was Accidental Icon. As her, I was jet-setting around and very involved with many people on any day. These days my mission is no longer how to not be invisible but how to keep my body and brain in the best possible health they can be. I think leaving the city, connecting with nature, having way less to do with social media, and being closer to my family have all made me thrive, yet there are times I feel a little isolated. While I know folks in my new city to say hello to, I’m not seeing people often enough to have these relationships progress to friend level. Right now I am working on the chapter that addresses how important social connections are to maintaining good body and brain health. I’ve discovered in the course of my research that it takes at least 40-60 hours to form a casual friendship and 80-100 to become a friend and then over 200 hours to become a good friend. When we are older, finding friends through the channels we did before through parenting or work is no longer available. I have always been the type of person who has made friends through my work, probably why I loved social work and being a professor. My need for interaction and stimulation is why I went back to school on so many occasions. Now what I do each day, primarily writing, is a more solitary pursuit, and I am feeling the loneliness of it. “Work” is no longer a way to meet and make friends.
I’ve been lucky to have friends from my past that remain in my life, including best friends from childhood, college, and my doctoral program. None of them live that close that I can spontaneously say meet me for coffee later. I feel lonely today. I am so fortunate to have a life partner, but there is something about the company of women that meets my need for connection differently. I also have made some good friends through Instagram, who I now connect with via phone or zoom. I often feel known by the comments you leave here. But there is something about in-person contact I am craving. Living outside the city also means that people and events are not as immediate as they were then. I took it for granted that there were always people around me who would be willing and open to meeting for a drink, brainstorming, or cooking up something new. It was easy to attend events that did not mean an hour train ride to and from besides whatever subway or uber time it might mean from Grand Central. I think about doing all the things I’ve done in the past, finding another job, or going back to school, but they don’t feel right for me now. It’s time for something different and new.
I guess the question I need to determine now that my life is slower is whether I am craving companionship or stimulation. I imagine it’s a little of both. Still searching for that elusive “What now” but this time I am in no hurry.
So let’s talk about social connections; how are they found, especially when you have moved somewhere new and have retired, how many, what kinds and for what purpose, and what to do when you might feel lonely. Can’t wait to hear your experiences and wisdom.