Sunday, May 5, 2019

Why We Should Not Isolate Ourselves

I follow Maria Shriver, a writer and activist for women and for Alzheimer's Disease.  I relate to almost everything she says and does.

In her Sunday Papers today, she says, "Over the years, I’ve learned that a meaningful life is one steeped in purpose. It’s also one grounded in relationships with family, friends, a higher power and community. Yes, you may face failure and hardship and pain along the way, but be brave enough to keep dreaming of new adventures and climbing new mountains. And, also be sure to bring people you love along with you on the journey.

Connection is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other on this path of life. So, don’t hesitate to ask for it or offer it to someone else."

Like my mother, I am a people person. Being with others improves my mood, gives me a high that lasts all day. That is why it is hard for me, at this time, as I deal with my personal problems, to cancel my writing classes, be unable to attend classes for which I registered and paid fees, and to take part in other events I would love to be a part of. I find myself feeling down with little to look forward to right now.

This experience has been a teaching moment for me. I think of the older people in nursing homes, or who are alone in their own homes. Isolation is devastating and relationships with family, friends, and community is necessary for individuals to be healthy, both mentally and physically.

In Assisted Living Centers, the residents are encouraged to take part in activities with others, to attend musical events and to eat together. Sadly, those don't usually involve friends and family, but strangers with whom the residents don't relate or feel comfortable sharing emotional events. They enjoy having their family and friends visit and eat with them or take them out to lunch.

Even my father, who was not considered a people person, found that he was lonely in his old age when family was too busy to come and spend time with him. His wife, my mother, had lost her short term memory from brain hemorrhage, and was not company for him anymore. His own experiences each day were limited. He had hung up the keys to his truck. His time was spent mostly in his garden and with his dog.

The housekeeper, whom he had opposed vehemently, became his best friend. She made his breakfast and lunch. After my mother died, Daddy sat with Barbara and talked. He poured out his thoughts and feelings on everything, much like some women do with their hair dresser. Barbara came every day of the week and my father could depend on her to listen to him and to do small chores for him that he could no longer do for himself. She became so important to him in his later years that he ordered his sons to be sure Barbara was given land on which to build herself a house after he died. I think that gift expressed the loudest message he could have sent.

Some people choose to live alone and reach out to others with telephone and e-mail. One of my friends and a regular reader of my blogs enjoys her solitude, she says, but she stays in touch with her family and others, sharing opinions on politics, photos of her grandchildren, and even her creative writing.

Mother, before she became ill, was lonely after her children married. She wrote letters to all of us when we were away and to her sisters in Florida. She also kept up a relationship with my father's family through letters to his sisters and her nieces. Their love for her is obvious from the letters she saved.

"Yes, you may face failure and hardship and pain along the way, but be brave enough to keep dreaming of new adventures and climbing new mountains." 

I have always been able to keep dreaming and trying new adventures and I'm sure I will now. We all face failures and hardship. We certainly face pain of all kinds.

I am at the place where I must give up some projects, try new projects, and think about my health first. I know you, my readers, have likely been to this point. I find it difficult to make important decisions without input from someone I trust. I need to bounce my options off someone who can be objective. I am fortunate to have close family and dear friends I can turn to most of the time. Like other women who have lost their husbands, I miss that partnership. I miss having someone to share the big decisions. Should I sell my house, move, and if I move, where? No one can tell me what to do. No one can make my decisions for me, and I would not want anyone making my decisions. Too many times, adult children insist their parents move near them because it is easier on the children but the parents find they are more alone because their children go on with their busy lives. The parents have no friends in the new place.

So, I will do the same thing I have always done. Make the Pro and Con list. You know, list the reasons why and the reasons why not. The hardest for me is the Limbo phase. That is the time, like now, when I am doing nothing to move on. I tread water and ponder options. Much like my life was after Barry died. What am I going to do in the next act, the third act, as Jane Fonda says?

When I feel blue and in despair, I am told by those who love me that this too shall pass.
"When you are in pain and don't feel well, you always get depressed. But you bounce back and get busy with something you enjoy."
"Just take time to take care of yourself."
"Slow down. Don't try to do so much."

See why I need my friends? They are wise and wonderful. The sun is out and we had a good rain last night. My deck garden has been watered well, and the air is dryer and cooler now. I have much to do before this Sunday is over, so I'd better get busy.

Do your friends and family help you make big decisions?


Elephant's Child said...

I am endlessly fascinated by people but also a chronic introvert.
I NEED time alone to process things and come to a decision.
That said, loneliness is a killer. I suspect the underlying them for upwards of ninety per cent of calls to the crisis line I volunteer with stem from loneliness and lack of connection.

Glenda Beall said...

EC, you have the perfect polling place to check how loneliness affects people. Sometimes a person just needs someone to listen and when they have no one in their life, I'm sure they call the crisis line where they are assured they will reach someone. Bless you for being that someone.
I was totally an introvert most of my life. I never reached out to anyone other than my sisters or my mother. But in this last half of my life, people who know me cannot believe I was ever an introvert. I wonder if I was just shy and insecure when I was younger. In fact, I know I was. Thanks for leaving your comment.

Elephant's Child said...

How interesting that you have shifted from introvert to extrovert.
I am certainly shy and insecure but I do find people (particularly lots of people) to be energy vampires. I regain my equilibrium with time alone.

Glenda Beall said...

I don't like crowds of people. I don't go to anything where there are crowds of strangers. That makes me uncomfortable. I like small groups of people I know or even strangers. I talk to everyone, too much, I'm sure, but I have an innate curiosity about their stories. Small dinner parties with someone I don't know is perfect for me.
And I enjoy my alone time. This past weekend, I did not talk to anyone for two days and I liked the silence. So, I think I am both, introvert and extrovert. I took that test online that says I am both. I am an INFJ, I think. That really describes me.