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Coping with excessive solitude
Old 10-23-2015, 10:39 AM   #1
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Coping with excessive solitude

Recently I've found myself feeling like I should have thought through the "social isolation" aspects of RE a bit more carefully before pulling the trigger. As a pretty young (mid/late 40s), unmarried guy with no kids, I don't have any sort of "built in" group of people to socialize with at home, and now that I no longer go into an office, that ready-made social outlet is also gone. This is especially a problem for someone like myself who is naturally pretty introverted and doesn't seek people out to spend time with. The friends I do have are all very busy with their own lives, typically very work-centered (and family-centered), so I can't rely on them much at all during the week for any sort of socializing. And even as an introvert, I am finding myself craving more human contact with each passing week.

Having read through some other threads where this was part of the discussion, I know that a number of us here have struggled with this to some degree over the years. I also know there are things I could do to help myself deal with this, such as join some meetup groups or get involved with volunteer work or sports/recreation clubs, etc. I have been giving a lot of thought to these types of activities, and more. But I just wonder if there is something I'm missing, something that maybe others in a similar situation have stumbled upon that really was like an epiphany, that would give me some inspiration to go out and tackle this problem head on and with confidence. Any personal anecdotes or recommendations along those lines would be really nice to hear.
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Old 10-23-2015, 10:54 AM   #2
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One idea is to join a gym, pick a specific time between 9-3, and go at that particular time every day. Soon you will know lots of people who aren't working.

I live alone too, with no family around but to me solitude is like water in the desert. It is so nice to not have to interact with people that I don't especially care for, and to have time alone to pursue my own interests and goals. I like solitude more than most people, but not 24/7 so I spend time with Frank too. I met him on an internet dating site about 15-16 years ago, and I *DO* like being around him (as opposed to random people at work). He is like family to me, but he is in my life because I made the effort (not because I just happen to be lucky). Last summer I even bought the house next door to his, so we can get together easily and spontaneously as desired. We spend every afternoon and some evenings together and that works out nicely for both of us.

Speaking of goals, it sounds like you have a definite goal in retirement and that is to establish more contacts with other people. So, make that your JOB, and decide on how many hours/week you want to devote to that task, and how you plan to do it. The great thing is that you will have no boss directing your progress in this endeavor - - you are the one in control now, and you can work on this task as much or as little as you wish. You can't afford the luxury of being shy right now. Don't just plan. Spend time actually working on this task. You owe it to yourself.
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Old 10-23-2015, 10:54 AM   #3
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The solution is very simple. Just get involved with several activities that interest you. My experience has been that some established groups (e.g. at my golf club) may not be all that friendly, while my golf group with Newcomers is a blast. We also do other activities together, e.g. theatre, dining out, etc. it takes time to develop easy camaraderie (especially for us introverts) but I have progressed to doing other activities with some of these friends independently of the group. For example, I've gone on vacation, had movie nights, and volunteered with new friends.

The most difficult step is the first one.
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Old 10-23-2015, 10:57 AM   #4
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I joined a couple online trading groups where we have chat rooms and talk all day.

Not knowing if you have free time available, possibly a volunteer opportunity will get you out and about a bit. Good luck!
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Old 10-23-2015, 11:28 AM   #5
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I guess I'm a bit like W2R - solitude is like water in the desert to me. Something I was missing when I was running to/from work, kids activities, etc.

I have picked up a new social group, to an extent, since I'm now more involved in the kids activities... but am very choosy about who I adopt as a friend... Since you don't have kids you don't have exposure to that social network.

I've also met more of the neighbors - by walking my dog at different times than I used to I have met other folks who don't work. I have my "regulars" at the beach when I take the dog there, and another set of "regulars" in my neighborhood. Just getting outside, and being physical, and meeting/smiling/nodding to folks you see regularly... next thing you know the "hello's" have extended a bit to chatting about the day, etc.

But solitude is still my favored thing - having quiet time to read a book, putz around the house, not have to deal with anyone else.
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Old 10-23-2015, 11:43 AM   #6
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I am more like W2R. Almost preternaturally introverted. I have however gone spelunking. Joined some groups. Even went back to work briefly a couple times way back when. The upshot: Same old hacks. I don't always like being so isolated but it doesn't seem to be harming me and I seem to dislike being around people more than I dislike being alone beyond that far edge of aloneness.

Every group I have had anything to do with were 1000 people who already knew each other or sub-cliques of same and had no real interest in newcomers. Or some sort of veiled Business Interest's networking club. Bring money and a list of what you can do for them. I'm not a Churchy type so that's out. And of course I do not like spending money on trips and projects just to get people to like me. I was a member of a group comprised of people who had experienced serious health issues from being given a certain drug. I had to quit because I couldn't stand the self-obsessed whining. I even quit an opera lovers group due to too many loud mouthed azzholes trying to take over and the sheep who let them. Just like work. Just like High School

Society is no more genial to me now than it was before, sorry to say. It's a good thing I do well on my own :-)
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Old 10-23-2015, 12:02 PM   #7
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I'm enjoying the solitude since I retired nearly three years ago. DW is retiring in December and is worried about how she will deal with her new lifestyle. We plan to do some things together, but realize we need our separate time to do things, or nothing. So she worries, because that's what she does. After she lets go of the stress of work life she'll figure out how to deal with her free time, and I'll continue to enjoy some solitude and time with her.
Meetup groups, classes, the YMCA, church groups, community groups or even getting involved with political groups with an election year coming up. Lots of things you can do if you want. As for me, time with DW is all I need...and some solitude.


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Old 10-23-2015, 12:43 PM   #8
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I agree with Dashman about going to the YMCA or a health club. But church is the easiest way to find quality friends, especially a large church with a good group of adult singles of your age. My wife and I also have been avid square dancers (believe it or not) and met some great singles there.

What's funny is that many friendships were made at work--spending so much time together. When our company consolidated operations and had mass retirements, nobody ever talks to each other. And I'm talking about 75 close workers in our office--going their own way.

Life needs to be spent around people with common interests and a lot of activities.
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Old 10-23-2015, 12:56 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Sojourner View Post
But I just wonder if there is something I'm missing, something that maybe others in a similar situation have stumbled upon that really was like an epiphany, that would give me some inspiration to go out and tackle this problem head on and with confidence.
Is it a problem?

My 'epiphany', if you can call it that, is that I have very limited social energy, but that that's perfectly ok. I realized that my biggest problem wasn't or isn't going out and having a more active social life, but more on accepting those limits and working with them. Fighting those limits is not productive. Don't be at war with yourself. Read the manual, stick to the specs of your system.

So I tend to avoid set social circles and a permanent role in them. It's not for me. What I do like is intellectual stimulation and visiting on my own terms. Or connecting diverse social circles.

I let my intellectual curiosity lead me to places, it is a strong motivator. Sometimes places with other people. I travel, I go to a shareholder meeting, I go after a possible new business venture for a while. Write a friend when I have the energy. Talk to the waiter when I feel talkative. Ignore him very much when I don't.

Most importantly, I listen to my energy levels. If I have high energy, I take the momentum and reach out. If energy is low, I roll up and have a great time with my best friend (myself). In between, I write an ER.org note

When energy stays too low for long, I focus on getting myself physically active and going first. Change up the circumstances, get out of daily routine. And be forgiving towards yourself.

Hope that makes sense ..
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Old 10-23-2015, 12:57 PM   #10
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I'm an introvert and I love being by myself. Sometimes it gets to be too much, and I find it's easy to find different outlets.

I never had a dog until ~10 years ago, and no doubt the lab and golden I now have bring a huge joy in my life.

I play in a pool/billiard league. If I needed more interaction, I'd visit different Toastmaster meetings along with AA speaker meetings. I'm not a good speaker or an alcoholic but I find both groups a lot of fun.

Good topic BTW. IMO this is something that should be explored more. Recently there was a topic about someone dying alone which drew a lot of comments. I easily see that happening to me, and TBH, not a big deal.

I wonder how many see a large funeral procession and they themselves wonder how many will be at their funeral, then proceed to take steps so that they'll have a large funeral procession too. Does that make any sense?
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Old 10-23-2015, 12:59 PM   #11
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That's a hard age group, as you said, with most of your peers working full time and having limited time for socializing, and I think it can be difficult for men to make close friends with other men after a certain point. Are there old friends from high school or college you could reconnect with? Can you reach out to someone else at one of your activities--suggest coffee afterward?
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Old 10-23-2015, 01:18 PM   #12
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There are several guys at my club who are in their 40s and don't work (trust funders) - they play golf and then cards all day.
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Old 10-23-2015, 01:29 PM   #13
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But church is the easiest way to find quality friends, especially a large church with a good group of adult singles of your age.
Church would be an exceedingly difficult way for me to "find quality friends", because (a) I no longer believe the tenets of the church I was raised in and (b) I thrive on having diversity among my friends.
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Old 10-23-2015, 01:31 PM   #14
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Speaking of goals, it sounds like you have a definite goal in retirement and that is to establish more contacts with other people. So, make that your JOB, and decide on how many hours/week you want to devote to that task, and how you plan to do it.
Yes, this is definitely how I'm starting to look at it now. I realize that nothing I want or that can provide true fulfillment is just going to magically fall into my lap, so I have to take the initiative. The problem is that, as an introvert, it's pretty tough to put myself out there and "inject" myself into social situations, especially where there are going to be lots of unfamiliar faces. But I guess it's just something I'm going to have to get over.

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Every group I have had anything to do with were 1000 people who already knew each other or sub-cliques of same and had no real interest in newcomers.
I have noticed this same thing. I was an active member of a local ski club for a while, and whenever I would go to the social events I would see everyone divided up into little "cliques" that you could just sense had been formed and solidified over many years. They never seemed very open or welcoming, although, again, as an introvert, I hardly ever took the initiative and tried to join into their conversations. I did end up making a few new friends through this ski club, but ultimately I decided that it wasn't providing much social value (not the kind I really wanted, at least).

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That's a hard age group, as you said, with most of your peers working full time and having limited time for socializing, and I think it can be difficult for men to make close friends with other men after a certain point. Are there old friends from high school or college you could reconnect with? Can you reach out to someone else at one of your activities--suggest coffee afterward?
It's a really tough demographic, for sure. Forty-something, single, semi-retired guy. I don't know of one other person within 10 years of my age that is like me, because if I did we'd probably already be best friends. The thing about me is that I'm actually pretty good at forming friendships with people... once I've met them and spent time with them. It's the "meeting" part that I'm so horribly bad at. My natural tendency is to stay home by myself, which I do for probably 85-90% of the week. Those times when I do get out and socialize, it's typically with people who are already close friends and can't really do much to help me broaden my social horizons. If I were religious I would definitely look into some activities or groups related to that, and if I were more of a "gym" person I would go that route. I guess what I need to do is identify some specific things I'm interested in and just make it my day job to find as many ways to meet up with like-minded people as possible.
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Old 10-23-2015, 01:57 PM   #15
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Is it a problem?

My 'epiphany', if you can call it that, is that I have very limited social energy, but that that's perfectly ok. I realized that my biggest problem wasn't or isn't going out and having a more active social life, but more on accepting those limits and working with them. Fighting those limits is not productive. Don't be at war with yourself. Read the manual, stick to the specs of your system.

So I tend to avoid set social circles and a permanent role in them. It's not for me. What I do like is intellectual stimulation and visiting on my own terms. Or connecting diverse social circles.

I let my intellectual curiosity lead me to places, it is a strong motivator. Sometimes places with other people. I travel, I go to a shareholder meeting, I go after a possible new business venture for a while. Write a friend when I have the energy. Talk to the waiter when I feel talkative. Ignore him very much when I don't.

Most importantly, I listen to my energy levels. If I have high energy, I take the momentum and reach out. If energy is low, I roll up and have a great time with my best friend (myself). In between, I write an ER.org note

When energy stays too low for long, I focus on getting myself physically active and going first. Change up the circumstances, get out of daily routine. And be forgiving towards yourself.

Hope that makes sense ..
+1
Great metaphor and philosophy for enjoying life.
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Old 10-23-2015, 02:12 PM   #16
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Church would be an exceedingly difficult way for me to "find quality friends", because (a) I no longer believe the tenets of the church I was raised in and (b) I thrive on having diversity among my friends.
I am in the same place with you on these, I love being able to be with and talk to generous and charitable people from lots of different viewpoints and origins. Surprising how often you find great common ground and expand your world by being with a diverse group (like er-org, by the way).

Surprisingly I have recently been slowly reconnecting with old friends from high school, people I have not talked with for decades, and some I didn't really talk to in HS either. We already have a connection, some common ground, but have taken completely different paths in life. We are at an age now where nobody seems to really want to prove anything, and hey, you can't BS someone who knew you when you were a shy pimpled nobody anyway

Also really enjoy meeting neighbors, many good people with different political, financial, etc perspectives. I take time as much as possible to get to know them, just wish more were retired so they had more time.
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Old 10-23-2015, 02:14 PM   #17
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I know what you are feeling, when I was younger I had a shift work job so I had mornings and early afternoons off.
I'd sit out on the balcony and think how all the old folks figured I was a bum.
I'd go to the parks and the only people in them would be me and the maintenance crews
It was lonely.

How about you take on a part-time job, sure you will earn money, but you will get that forced socialization opportunity. Of course the issue with most jobs is that most of the relationships you think you make disappear once you leave the job.
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Old 10-23-2015, 02:19 PM   #18
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A few months after I retired and after returning from a couple of long trips I found myself missing the intellectual stimulation that the job offered as well as the social interaction with people. DW volunteers 3 times a week with a church group so I decided to take some courses at an Olli program at the state university twice a week to coincide with her volunteer schedule. This program offer courses in a variety of topics and interests with no homework or assignments. In our french conversation class a bunch of folks have been together for 5 or 6 years taking the same courses and socializing as a group with similar interests. Sometimes we get together with other classmates for trips to the local theater or to have lunch or dinner at local restaurants. The program also offers extended domestic and international trips for people who are interested. We have not participated in any trips as we enjoy traveling alone or with another couple but not with a large group.

There are single people in their early 50's who seems to enjoy the class experience and the social interaction after class. So I'm not sure if this is something that may be of an interest to you.
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Old 10-23-2015, 02:30 PM   #19
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Church would be an exceedingly difficult way for me to "find quality friends", because (a) I no longer believe the tenets of the church I was raised in and (b) I thrive on having diversity among my friends.
Apologies if this offends anyone, but I think there are a lot more of us (let's just say "non-religious") folks than most people realize.

I'm very lucky to have several good friends who share my views on this, and it turns out that we have much more in common as well.

That said, I can easily go without any social activity for weeks at a time and be perfectly happy that way. DW, OTOH, loves her social activity and has scheduled lunches with various people every week. She loves it and understands my curmudgeonliness, so we have no difficulty.
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Old 10-23-2015, 02:38 PM   #20
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Get a dog (or two). Seriously. Not one of those little hawk-bait 5 pound rat dogs. A real 50+ pounder. They will challenge you and force you to walk them, play with them, take them to the local dog park -- where women with their pooches are in abundance.

I have three big mutts, and sad as it may seem, I prefer their company to that of any of my fellow wage-slaves at MegaCorp.
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