aging, doctor, friendships, introvert, joining, loneliness, shyness, social isolation
My doctor wrote down on a report that I saw that I was “Socially Isolated.” I felt like a castaway on an island with only a coconut tree and circling sharks for company. It was pitiful. Where did she get that? She has been asking me a lot lately about how “social” I am. I tell her I get out and about enough, thank-you-very-much. I don’t think she believes me because the next time I see her, she’ll ask again. She sits across the desk from me and says, in so many words, “Ann, get thee out there and multiple your friends!” She is not subtle. I usually, well, actually always, say to her that you can’t just go out and accumulate friends the way you do mosquito bites “Cop Out,” her eyes say.
Anyway, the older I get the fewer people I want to bother with. Well, that may be what she’s worried about actually. But isn’t it true that as we age we get more selective in who, how, where and when we make friends? Basically, there just isn’t enough time left to bother with boring, uninteresting, obnoxious, self-centred people. I vividly remember having that revelation when I turned 40. I can still see myself waking up on December 24th, 1986, and thinking, “I’m 40. I don’t have to hang out with boring people or go to boring parties or date boring men anymore!” (Well, I still did have to deal with the obnoxious bunch of lawyers I was forced to interact with Monday to Friday.) I felt amazingly liberated at the thought of that. If my doctor had been around then, she would have told me I was just fluffing up the pillows of my isolation. But she would have been dead wrong. At the time I had friends, I was going to school, and, as awful as that law firm could be, there were some good folks there — a few who I went to lunch with or went out with for a drink after work.
Ok, there were times, as there are now, when I did feel a little lonely. But a “little lonely” is normal, right? Is there anyone out there who at some point or another hasn’t felt that little pang of sadness that loneliness can bring? But it’s not fatal and sometimes is a welcome break from a too-busy life. It never lasts long with me. I might wallow in it for a day or two and, purposely, not call anyone to break the spell. I just sit with it, and, when I’m ready, I do something about it. My doctor would not approve of that at all so I just won’t tell her.
She really does have my well-being at heart. She’s been my doctor from the dark-ages of my pre-divorce life. So we’ve been through a lot together and I do respect her judgment. However, and it’s a big “however,” when she tells me to go out and join book clubs or writing circles or whatever, I feel an instant dread come over me at the thought of walking into one of those situations. Taking a class, no problem, but the others, I don’t think so. It’s ok if it’s a group that is just starting up, fresh-new, that I could do. But inevitably I trip upon groups that have been together for 25 years and I perceive don’t really want an interloper like me to come on board. Maybe, that’s just my introvert self talking here but it’s my truth.
The next time I go to see my doctor, I’m going to take my calendar with me so I can show her just how “social” I am. Maybe it will convince her or maybe she’ll think I’m just making it all up, which really would be sad. I could gather testimonials as to my sociability and bring pictures as proof. Perhaps those would prove to her that I truly am not in “social isolation” on that island, alone, with only the sharks and coconut tree to keep me company.
I guess we’re always growing up and learning new things about ourselves. Come over and visit, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen you!