Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SOLO


            I have put off writing this post as long as I can.  The SOL end is near.  I know I have to write this because I need to get these thoughts out – for myself – just myself.  I also feel marginally safe sharing with this community – and maybe some of you will have some insight or answers.
            I hesitate because…I am afraid that exposing what has GOT to be some sort of character flaw will cause others to think less of me, or have pity on me – and this is NOT NOT NOT what I seek.  I have wallowed in enough self-pity to last multiple lifetimes.  AND, I have worked VERY hard to improve myself, change my thoughts, be proud of who I am.
            Here’s the deal – I have no friends.  NONE.  This may not seem like a large thing to many.  But it has consumed me.  I am in my early 50s and friendless.  This is not a new occurrence.  This has been my reality for as long as I can remember.  I have had many “friendly acquaintances” over my lifetime.  I might even have called some of them friends – but they all eventually moved on – not even necessarily to other people – they seem to maintain their ties with their other friends – they just seem to move away from me.  (Perhaps that is a warped viewpoint – it is so hard to look at any of this objectively.)  I have colleagues, long distance connections with others, family – but no friends.
            I have struggled with my want of a true friend my entire adult life – as far back as middle school.  I was always initially shy, a bit of a wallflower, and a tomboy.  Most of my early “friends” were guys because I enjoyed their company and conversation.  But I was not a guy so I was still on the margins.  My mother always told me “to have a friend you have to be a friend.”  I was not good at that in my teen years.  Shyness and poor self-esteem made it almost impossible.  But I finally found a niche in Choir and made some temporary friends. In college, this trend continued.  Find a group – meet some nice people – fade away.
            I have a loving and large extended family, and a good husband and kids.  But what I have always longed for is a true friend – one who is in it for the long haul, one who is loyal and trustworthy, one who seeks me out rather than vice versa, one who wants to spend time together, who calls, who joins me for coffee or a movie or just comes over for a visit, one who offers support, genuine care, unconditional love.  A girlfriend.  I marvel at others who speak of their friends of ten, twenty, forty years.  How does this happen?  What must this feel like?
I have always regarded my solo status as MY FAULT.  I must be doing something wrong to put people off.  So, many years ago I consciously made some changes.  I tried to appear happier (I tend to wear a more serious expression), I put myself out there, I smiled and acknowledged others, I complimented, praised, asked questions about other people’s lives.  I showed interest.  I worked on my self-esteem and began to realize my value, talents, potential, worth.  I joined groups.  I called people.  I watched their kids.  I invited them to dinner.  I offered help.  I made an effort.  None of it has worked. 
            So now, I rely on my loving family.  I am content.  Yet, I am left with some nagging questions.  Outside of my family interactions, I am a loner.  I have learned to enjoy my own company.  But am I this way because I have no friends, or do I have no friends because I am a loner?  Perhaps I expect too much from others?  Perhaps I need to redefine what a true friend is?  Perhaps my best efforts were not actually good enough?  I know that I don’t try so hard anymore – but isn’t this self-defeating?  When does one throw in the towel, however?
            I stress that I am not looking for sympathy or pity or accolades from others. What I could really use is some concrete answers.  Why is it this way?  Is it just me?  Is there something I can change even yet?  Do I have blinders on to an answer clearly in front of me?  OR, is this just the fate of some people and I should continue to just be grateful that my family loves and supports me?  I REALLY, HONESTLY would like to know.
            However, I no longer count on answers.  At my age, I have come to terms with this situation.  Now I focus on more important issues.  I look for the beauty in life.  I seek new knowledge.  I look for new opportunities.  I cherish my family.  I live in the present moment.  I try to be grateful every day.  I wake up everyday and count my many blessings – one of which is finding this amazing group of supportive writers.  I am so grateful for each of you who have taken the time to read my posts, to make loving, thoughtful, inspiring comments, to offer support and kindness.  Even if I never hear from many of you again after this challenge is over, I want you to know that the support of this group has given me the confidence to move forward as a writer.
I AM fine, and happy – but I can’t help feel my life could have been so much richer if only –
            Perhaps this is why I love dogs…

Quotes for the day: 

She is a friend of my mind.  She gather me, man.  The pieces I am, she
                                    gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.  It’s
                                    good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your
                                    mind.                          ~Toni Morrison, Beloved


            The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.          ~William Blake

45 comments:

  1. I wish I could give you an answer. My mom has struggled with this for a big portion of her life as well. I've tried to give her advice as best I can, but I'm not sure there's anyone she considers a true friend anymore, or since I was about 3. If she ever comes up with an answer for herself, I'll pass it along to you.

    I'm glad you've been able to find happiness in your life and family without having friends. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words.

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  2. Hard stuff because I can really relate...having a best friend and losing that person's friendship felt like a death to me. For the last 15 years since my loss I've wondered so many times if I will ever have a friendship like that again...or if I'm worried. My husband remains my best friend. The last few years I've tried volunteering to build my relationships by serving. I am finding joy also in this community of writers. xo nanc

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    1. I am sorry you went through the loss of a close friend - I did as well - at least I thought she was a friend - but it has been unbelievably painful. I hope you find comfort. Thank you for your very kind comment.

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  3. I know what you mean, Julie. You mean a 'kindred spirit' like Anne and Diana in Anne of Green Gables. I yearn for a kindred spirit, too. I thought I had one, but our paths diverged, and we rarely seek one another out anymore. It seems that people are too busy in our society these days to nurture that deep kind of lasting friendship. I, like you, have just decided to enjoy the relationships that I do have rather than lament the absence of a kindred spirit, . . . but I would really like to have a kindred spirit.

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    1. Yes - a kindred spirit. It makes me sad that we are so busy in this life that we cannot take the time to cherish and grow our relationships with others. Thank you for your support.

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  4. I don't know the answer. When I think about my friendships its a lot like a marriage. You have to work at it there are rough patches and times when you get your feelings hurt. Sometimes things happen from miscommunication. There are lots of blessings with friends. But it requires both people working to keep the relationship strong.

    No one person can fill all emotional needs. Most friendships take time to become deeper. I like lots of people and try to do things that are fun. I don't know if this is helpful. I can tell that it has been a painful challenge for you. I am glad you have your family. Many people wish they had closer friendships with family members.

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    1. I learned much of what you said in this comment over the past decade through study and observation but I tend to lose sight of it, so thank you for the reminders. I am grateful for my family... and your kind thoughts.

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  5. You are a very strong woman to share this. I have friends, but not that one true girlfriend who I share everything with. There have been opportunities for me to solidify friendships in this way, but I do not work to nurture these friendships. I have always believed that true friendships should be low-maintenance, but as I get older, I am realizing that this is not true. Real friendships need to be nurtured, worked on, and valued. I do not really know where to begin this because I am unsure if I am supposed to attempt to repair my former friendships or work on building new ones with new people.

    Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I agree - I like to think a real friendship should not require so much hard work - but this just doesn't seem to be true. I have many of your same questions. I appreciate your insight and thank you for your kind comment.

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  6. I have had many rich relationships in my lifetime and I value all of them. But not unlike you I have moved on physically and emotionally and the friendships though never forgotten are not always in the present except for my husband who truly is my best friend. I have thought about this a lot too. I think people are different for all sorts of reasons. In my case, I like being friendly to lots of people. I spread around what I have to offer instead of devoting all my energy to one person or just a few people. Don't beat yourself up about this. It seems like you have two choices. Accept it for the way it is or go out and seek that special relationship you feel you need.

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    1. I used to beat myself up. No longer...life is too short and I deserve better. I have adopted many of your suggestions. Thank you for your support!

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  7. This could have been written by me.

    I have had close friends, but something always makes us drift apart. I think I could still call on them, and they sometimes call on me... but the busy lives we lead get in the way.

    Wish I had answers.

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    1. I hate that busy lives get in the way of what is really important. I am sorry you have felt the same way. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. It means a lot.

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  8. By reading the comments, it seems you are not alone. Family is so important, so I am happy to read that you have that group of people. I do not know the answer to your questions. Think about how you define friend. To me a friend is a person who I enjoy being with, we have some things in common, we can talk about anything (if needed). When I am hurting, my friend will come to me and do what it takes to comfort me. Not a lot of people fit that, nor have they stayed the same through my life.

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    1. Nope, you are right. It appears I am not alone. I don't know if that makes me feel better or just very sad. I have tried to redefine "friend" and expect less. It has helped some. Thank you for reading and commenting and for all the wonderful comments you've share in the past!

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  9. I'm not sure one person can ever be "the soul sister" many people crave. I have found that I have different friends for different reasons. I have teacher friends, summer friends, fun friends and old friends...now, of course, I have blogging friends. It's hard sometimes when I see a friend doing things with someone else, but I remind myself that maybe they need each other at that time...

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    1. Great perspective, Deb. Thank you. Gets me thinking.

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  10. As I read your post, and the comments here, I remember my mother's words, "If you have 1 really true friend (a soul sister) in a lifetime, consider yourself lucky!" I am thinking that in general, the demands of daily life, the distractions and all the other stuff keep us from sometimes bridging close friend relations.
    I was thinking about this in terms of seasons too...the seasons of friendship... My husband and I were among the first in our circles of friends to get married-all the single people led different lives (we went through a winter season with them-they were in a different place than us-we just didn't have the same interests), then it was the spring season-we all started having kids (now we're active with our kids-the summer season) and rarely have time to do the fun things we used to do b.k. I can't really say I have a "soul sister" right now either-but I do consider my husband my best friend...sorry no answers here for your questions...
    I understand your pain...Thinking of you...

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    1. I am sad that the distractions of life get in the way. I have thought about the seasons thing....it makes sense. Thanks for the reminder and for the kind thoughts.

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  11. It certainly took a lot of courage to put yourself out there. I can relate also. I think my friendships have changed overtime. I do have one friend that we have maintained a connection through the last 20 years. It does take time...
    I have no answers just admiration and heart thanks...

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    1. I appreciate your support. It really means so much - even without any answers. Thank you!

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  12. I was looking for the poem for you and found it here on an interesting blog:
    http://lifelessons4u.wordpress.com/2009/03/01/are-you-a-reason-a-season-or-a-lifetime/
    I think sometimes we look at others and try to compare their lives with ours. What looks like a wonderful, close friendship between two people, may still only be for a season or a reason. When you were being outgoing and friendly to others, people probably looked at you and thought you were loaded with friends. It can be just a matter of perceptions. I liked your openness. It is something I've thought about myself at times. No "kindred spirit" friendships. Just friends for seasons and reasons. Hope this is some help. And realize you are not alone!

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    1. WOW - what an amazing poem. Thank you for sharing it. This one will get printed and posted where I can see it and read it everyday. Thank you for your support and kind words. I really appreciate it.

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  13. Julie, thank you for sharing yourself with us. I'm in agreement with the comments above, especially what Donna wrote about having friends for seasons and reasons. I have many "friends", and know that I can count on them when I need them, but as for a "soul sister", I don't have one. My daughter is perhaps the closest thing that comes to that term. My husband is my best friend. Be yourself, enjoy the friendships and relationships you currently have.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate your support.

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  14. The courage and honesty you wrote about this issue is admirable. You wish there were answers, and people may offer some, but they might not be the answers you hoped for, because others have many unanswered questions of their own. You have heard the voices of many people in the comments. I don't have many friends and I don't have a best friend. I have felt lonely. I have my sister and my husband. May-be sometimes the best thing is what you have done - acknowledging life as it is now, appreciating the good things, and not giving up yet. And writing.
    Terje

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    1. Thank you. I think you are absolutely right about how to move forward. I agree also that writing is a big part of the answer. I value your opinion and cannot thank you enough for your support and past kindness.

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  15. I don't think everyone has a "soul sister." I know I don't have one because I don't think I can be one. My family growing up wasn't close. I had one brother who I started to get to know only when I was 55 years old and then he died suddenly. I wasn't close to my mother. I'm a loner as a rule, always have been. I had a bad experience with a best friend in middle school and have been afraid to call anyone my best friend since. I need friendship and value my friends wholeheartedly. I have one friend who I have known for 39 years. We can call each other and laugh over nothing at all. Sometimes we see each other frequently and then we don't. I don't call her my best friend because she has never called me that, and I don't want to ruin the friendship we have. She doesn't have to say it to me either. Maybe I'm not her best friend. Some people need to say/have a "best friend" or a "soul sister." That would be nice but I don't "need" either. I have a loving husband of 42 years, 3 grown sons, 3 grandsons, and one granddaughter. I yearn to get together with friends and family and laugh, and experience things together. Maybe you need to hear that not everyone has a best friend or soul sister. Maybe some day you will if you stay with the search. Hope some of these comments click for you. I could have written a slice on this today!!! What I do know, Julie, is that you are a writer. I enjoyed your blog the first time I read it and look forward to it every day. Being a writer may bring you some of the joy you're looking for by another name other than "soul sister." Keep writing in the meantime.

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    1. I am not sure I am necessarily looking for a soul sister - but someone who likes me enough to want to spend time with me and will stick by me. Anyway, your comment really means so much to me. I completely agree with you and Terje that writing is one big solution. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and kind words - and support. I am slowly seeing myself as a writer, but comments like yours go a long way to making me believe it. Thank you so much.

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  16. Julie, to open up and share such personal thoughts is amazing at best. I've read many of your posts and have felt a connection to you for one reason or another. You are right on when you say you are lucky to have a wonderful family.... my best friend is my sister. I wish I had the right words, the words that will help how you feel. I guess my only advise is to maybe find outside interests that give you the opportunity to meet new people. Maybe start a book club with others who love to read, join a class. . . once I joined a painting class (and no talent did it for fun) and during class while we were painting we chatted and got fairly friendly. And really maybe your soul mates are the people in your family . . .Just keep in the present and enjoy what you have. . . best always to you.

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    1. Thank you. It was a hard post to write and an even harder decision to publish it. I, too, have felt a connection to you through many of your posts. I cannot thank you enough for your kind words. I AM enjoying each moment of each day. All is well.

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  17. Julie - I am awed at the courage it took to write this piece. I have never had a best friend and I am not close with my two sisters. I also work on a grade level team where 3 of the 5 are BFF's. So when I hear about them planning a girls trip to Florida or a group of sisters getting together for a grown up pajama party I am completely green with envy. It hurts. I don't know what to do about it either. I do know that our lives are so very busy. I have developed some connections through my blogs and on-line friends in art groups. I spend time developing my many interests. It is okay with me, I'd love a close friend - but I'm not going to spend precious time in my life, searching. It seems like I'd know if I saw a connection. If you find the answer, please let me know. If you are ever in Maine, I'd love to have coffee with you and maybe we'd have a connection. Sounds like we have a lot in common. BIG HUG!

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    1. Thank you cannot come close...I really value your thoughts, wisdom and insight, Janet. I hate that our lives become so busy that what means the most is often lost. But, I have given up mourning over it and just enjoy each day and all the blessings I DO have. One of those is YOU. Perhaps I'll make it to Maine - have only been there once but I remember loving it. I adore New England (went to Mount Holyoke College for a year) and a trip there is long overdue. Thank you again.

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  18. I think that the determination you have to enjoy your life and be glad for the things and people who are in it is one of the most powerful things you wrote about in this post. I admire your persistence and your willingness to write openly, but mostly I admire your spirit.

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    1. Thank you so much. These really thoughtful words were just what I needed!

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  19. Your post has made me look at myself and my life. A dear friend and I have drifted apart and I miss her and what she means in my life. Thank you for being so open.

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    1. I am sorry you lost an important relationship. I hope it is replaced by another. Thank you for reading and commenting - it means a lot to me.

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  20. I've always had friends but as I've gotten older I've realized the work I need to put into maintaining relationships. I've openly made a commitment to two of my best friends, telling them that I promise to do what it takes to maintain our relationships. I like my alone time, but I also know that friends are treasures.
    You have opened yourself up, taken a risk, that is huge. This community here will remain committed to you.

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    1. I really appreciate your comment, especially your last line. I hope to maintain a connection to this wonderful community in some way.

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  21. Writing this post had to be difficult. Putting one's self out there always is like that. I applaud your willingness to write about this topic. I have friends, but those from high school I connect to online more often than in person. I have a few friends that I see for coffee or lunch a few times a year, but find myself not as involved in deep friendships as some others. I, too, have an amazing husband and a family I enjoy spending time with. I find happiness there.

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    1. It was a hard one to write. But I'm glad I did - it was necessary - for me! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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  22. Thank you for sharing from your heart. I hope that just the writing of your feelings was helpful. I am sure all these comments have been affirming, too. I love the term "kindred spirit." Although I have friends, I don't feel like I have a kindred spirit, either. I agree that we relate to different people at various times and for lots of reasons. I know I have not been as good a friend to others because my family is so important to me and I invest most of my emotional time with them. I do hope that someday you will find the kind of friend you seek. Meanwhile, I am so glad you have found other things to devote yourself to. Keep sharing your insights as you did here. Thank you.

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    1. These comments have completely blown me away. What kindness, caring, love. I really appreciate your kind words and support. I am FINE and moving forward. All is well. Thanks again.

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  23. Julie, thank you for the courage to share and share from your heart. Kindred spirits are hard to find. My friends are those from long ago. Family and dogs are integral to mean. I remember my aunt saying she had lots of aqauintances and few friends. What an amzing journey you are on.

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