Be the kind of person you would like to be with. Some people come into our lives, make footprints on our hearts and we are never the same. People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges. ~Joseph F. Newton
With retirement comes major changes in one’s life. I anticipated many. The extra time on my hands with no schedule. Less money to pay for expenses. And dealing with finding and paying for my own health insurance. What I did not foresee was the isolation. I should have figured this would be the case, but I am an introvert and we crave isolation over crowds and hours of human contact engaged in small talk.
For over 30 years, I lived in the realm of the extrovert during work hours, and sought refuge from it all when home. After all being “on”, at work for 8-10 hours a day, five days a week was exhausting. My family lives out-of-town virtually unreachable without a costly plane ride or a long drive. Friends outside of work are few, the hallmark of an introvert.
Neighbors were neglected as work wore on me, and left very little time or want for being with “more” people. So I had built a slick little world with a few friends, co-workers and family all kept at arms length making my world insulated and safe with enough human contact to last a lifetime…or so I thought.
As winter has hung on, my retirement has been spent in the cocoon of my home. I long for my wildlife garden as it brings me hours of pleasure, a refuge for the critters and me. But with the no garden, few critters and “cabin fever” hitting me suddenly, I found myself craving time with people. Wow, what was this!
So when I had an invitation to a party from a neighbor, I decided to accept. It was a party where a product was reviewed in hopes those attending would buy something. In years past, I would have politely declined preferring instead to have respite at home on a Friday after a long week of work.
But I was not working, and I thought this would be a great test for me. The day of the party, I almost didn’t go. But I made the short walk, anyway, forcing myself forward with each step knowing there would be few people I knew at this party. And lots of chit chat, a nightmare for any introvert.
At first I was quiet. I listened. Then I joined in a bit…even with the chit chat. I found I was calm and let the evening unfold staying in the moment working through any fears. And I had a nice time for an hour and a half. I even bought a gift for a friend. I was pleased with myself. I had made it through without wanting to run screaming from my neighbor’s house seeking the refuge of my home. And with this test passed, I even suggested dinner with friends the next evening.
Two social gatherings in two days would be unheard of for me usually. But now I was experiencing more bouts of loneliness. The well-built walls I had been dwelling behind were feeling far too confining.
So I am learning to reconnect. To join in once again with the human tribe as I tear out the bricks of my isolation. To seek opportunities in small chunks. To build new bridges seeking out the company of people I have missed.
And as this amazing new discovery has certainly opened the eyes of this introvert, I will not forget its importance…..that continually establishing and maintaining human connections is essential along my life’s path.
Note: The bluebird pictured here is a symbol of happiness and good cheer.
Update 8 months later:
This post was originally published March 27, 2014 as I was beginning my retirement. Just getting used to the new-found freedom, the pros and cons of this new life. I have kept the connections going although they were not as frequent as I thought due to health issues.
But I hope to keep human connections front and center, as we enter the holiday party season and the isolation of winter. Here where there is a lot of snow, we tend to remain indoors and not see each other often in winter.
I am also planning a couple of trips to see family over the upcoming holidays. Sometimes family can also be overwhelming, but I look forward to reconnecting and rekindling the light of my family so far away.
I leave you with another thought about relationships. Please feel free to download the photo and share it.
All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014. Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.