I just returned from a walk in the park. My mind needed some air. Yesterday I woke up to an inch of snow on the ground. Today the snow is gone but it is cool, overcast, and a bit dreary. I decided I needed to get out of the house. There were only a few other people in the park and all of them seemed to find smiling a challenge.
As I walked along the paths, with only the trees as companions, it occurred to me that I have spent much of my life alone. It is not the aloneness of solitary confinement. It is often a self-chosen solitude. Other times it is a sense of feeling alone even when other people are present. On rare occasions I actually feel like I am really with another person or persons. Presence can be a wonderful experience.
The picture above is not me but it could be.
It is well documented that I am an introvert. In general, introverts are more comfortable being alone than extroverts. Can introverts feel lonely? Let me assure you that we can. Introverts do not hate other people and we are not really anti-social. Many of us are not the least bit shy. I would imagine that a shy extrovert could be very lonely if they don’t have the social skills to put themselves out there and mix with other people. We introverts often enjoy being with other people but it is usually exhausting for us. At some point we need to break away and be alone to re-charge our batteries.
When I feel lonely or down in the dumps, I wonder why. These feelings have been quite common in my retirement. What is it I want or need? I do enjoy my own company. Solitary walks in the park aren’t all bad. Solitude can be a very good thing. However, I think it is the lack of connection with other people and a lack of purpose that can make us feel lonely or lost. It is not enough in life to just enjoy your own company, at least it is not enough for me. All of us need some level of connection to someone and something beyond ourselves.
A friend in Scotland wrote to me and informed me that my recent thoughts on loneliness were being used in discussion groups revolving around loneliness in elderly and retired people. It made me happy that my current struggles and pain were serving some good purpose. It also reminded me that most human struggles are universal. An old person in Scotland is really no different than an old person in America. At the end of the day we are all human beings with a need for love and connectedness.
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