“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat." -- Lily Tomlin

Saturday, December 4, 2021


      I'm alone for the weekend. My wife has gone to meet up with her two sisters. She'll be back on Tuesday night.

     According to an ad from Meals on Wheels, "Social isolation is as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day." I don't know where they get that information. But I think it's probably true -- for some people, not for others.

     I have a sister who was single for about 25 years, between marriages. She lived by herself. But she had a job and several good friends and belonged to a couple of clubs, and so she wasn't socially isolated. 

     I have a brother-in-law who's been single most of his life -- he had one brief marriage back in the 1990s. I've never known him to have a lot of friends; but he is close to his siblings, and he never hesitates to travel alone. He seems comfortable with the situation. 

     Myself, I am not an alone person. I don't do well as a single. I just don't like my own company that much.

     I've never really lived alone. I grew up in a family of six. Had several roommates in college, and a roommate when I moved to New York City. Then I got married. After we got divorced I did kind of live by myself for a while. But my son was still in high school, and we had joint custody, so he slept at my house three nights a week. And when my daughter was home from college, she often stayed with me.

     By the time my son went to college I had developed a relationship with B, my current wife. Technically, I slept home alone most nights, but in fact we were together a lot of the time. I was not lonely. Then we moved into together and eventually got married.

     Last December my wife went away for a month to visit her two grandchildren in South Carolina. I was invited. But it was the height of Covid, and I elected not to travel.

     So I was home alone for Christmas and New Year's. I set up my own small Christmas tree. I put lights out in front of the house. I forget what I had for Christmas dinner. It was probably a Lean Cuisine from the microwave.

     But I didn't feel isolated, because B and I Zoomed or Facetimed pretty much every night while she was gone. I didn't really have much opportunity to sit around and feel sorry for myself.

     And that, for me, is the problem about being alone for too long. I start thinking negative thoughts, going over the regrets in my life. Why did I break up with my girlfriend freshman year in college? That was a stupid thing to do! Why didn't I become a lawyer? I could have. I would have made more money -- maybe had a more interesting job, too, you never know. Why did I get married so young? Didn't work out in the end. The divorce was good for me. But what did it do to the kids?

     That's why I don't like to spend time alone.

     Well, that's not entirely true. Before Covid, I would always go to Florida in the winter -- for a week or two while I was still working, longer after I retired. After I met B, I'd always invite her along, but she only came with me one time. She doesn't like Florida.

     So any number of times I was by myself, at least for a little while. It was fun. I could do what I wanted, keep my own schedule. I'd eat junk food, including dessert. Play music that nobody else wanted to hear. Oldies like Simon & Garfunkel, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, even some Doo Wop.

     But it never took long for me to start feeling lonely. I once went to Disney World by myself. I felt kind of stupid. Many times I sat by myself in a restaurant, amid a crowd of people, and felt socially isolated.

     Fortunately, I now know this about myself. So when I go to Florida I make arrangements to meet up for a day or two with my sister who lives in Jacksonville. And after my Florida sojourn, I reconnect with my wife and family in Charleston, SC. We settle down into our rental near the kids and grandkids, and suddenly I'm surrounded by loved ones -- and my alone time is over. Social isolation, no more.

     B and I are going to Charleston again this winter. We feel Covid is now less of a threat. But because of Covid, I am not taking my extra trip to Florida. That's okay. I've got these next three days to myself. I can do it.


Arkansas Patti said...

You can do it. Just stay away from that 15 cigarettes a day syndrome and find something fun to do that is totally out of character but not in a crowd.

ApacheDug said...

This was an interesting (and frankly, not very surprising) read. I don't know of many men that can tolerate being alone for any real length of time. I know my oldest sister has often complained her husband can't take more than a couple hours by himself. Meanwhile, I think I'm too far in the other direction. I don't do Zoom or any of those other video calls, have only seen members of my family (2 sisters, a brother & their spouses) a single time in 4-5 years. Have never married, haven't dated in 12-13 years. Only have a couple "real life" friends, it's been 2 1/2 years since I've seen them. And yet, I'm fine with it. Hard to explain, but people sap my energy. Now I must return to writing my manifesto!

Rian said...

I think a few days apart isn't a problem... so you will do fine. Now going into weeks or months apart is a different thing altogether. I'm not a social person... meaning don't like to party or be in large groups... more a home body. DH is too, but when with people, he is a lot more social (talkative) than me. But I've never lived alone... went from parents to college to DH... and although I really value alone time, don't think I would like living alone.

Our daughter calls almost every day, oldest son calls or texts several times a week, and youngest son is here, so we see them fairly often and sometimes pick up granddaughter from school. So on the whole, doubt if we'd ever be lonely. And I do try to keep in touch with friends and relatives - some here, some in other states by text, Skype, Zoom, or Facebook... especially the ones I know live alone.

Juhli said...

Being alone feels so did decent to different people and at different times in our lives. Three days sounds like just long enough to have a nice reunion afterwards.

Kay said...

My husband can be perfectly... sort of fine on his own. He was on his own pretty much when he was in the Air Force although he had friends all the time.

Me? I've NEVER been alone. Never. It frightens me to think of that ever happening. I've told Art I need to go first because he would be fine. I wouldn't be.

tahoegirl.blog said...

That is so interesting. I love being alone and when my husband traveled for work,I would be home for a week at a time sometimes more . I loved it. Now that he's retired, I'm almost never alone and I miss it. We do enjoy traveling together and get along very well so that's a plus. But sometimes you just don't want someone else's energy around.

Red said...

I love being alone! I can socialize well but as you say, like my own company. when I was a kid on the farm, I liked to run the tractor all day so I could be by myself.

Mona McGinnis said...

To each his own. There's a difference between being alone and being lonely. I've lived alone for >25 yrs and seldom feel lonely. Company is just a phone call or car ride away. I have to balance alone time with time with others because it's easy to say you're a nice person when you live by yourself.

Tom said...

Mona-- Exactly. Some people, like my sister (and apparently Doug, in a different way), thrive on being alone. I'm just not very good at it. Like you say, to each his/her own. Rian -- I'm going to forward your response to my two kids, one who calls once every two weeks, the other who calls once every two months!

Tabor said...

I can handle being alone for a month or two, but then I wonder if I would be a little crazy. I am not good at trying to get out and make friends.

Carol Cassara said...

I crave alone time. Always have!

Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged said...

I love... and need... alone time. I love my husband but being together 24/7 in retirement is just too much. I think it hurts his feelings when I'm happy when he goes out with friends or when I don't want to go with him on errands. That being said, I think three or four days of constant alone time would be enough. Like the old song said, "How can I miss you if you don't go away?"

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

I love to be with people. But I have to recharge on my own for a while afterward. I do like being on my own.
My problem with being alone is my imagination. My ‘was that a noise?’ reactions every ten minutes or so. Suddenly the house begins to creak and groan like it’s about to collapse. Why don’t I notice those noises when Husby is here?

Wisewebwoman said...

I absolutely love alone time. A solitary state by choice. The loneliest I ever felt in my life was the dying days of a marriage that had become toxic. I am a gregarious loner by nature I truly believe I don't share my space well for any length of time even though I had a small inn and would entertain frequently. Intimate space and responsibility and compromise not my forte.

I don't have any regrets looking back even over the great loves of my life. I have my passions and maybe that is the secret? I write, I read, I listen to music and I knit, I hold weekly writing workshops. I help others in the area of addiction. I engage with my small circle if and when I want. I positively hate small talk and am dreadful pretending stuff is important when it isn't (like new outfits and decor or other people's grandchildren).

And oddly enough, some of my closest friends have been married men. (No, I never and always with the wives' goodwill).


Rebecca Olkowski said...

I enjoy spending time alone most of the time. I think it developed because I lived with guys who spent too much time at home because they were on and off work and got in the way. Sometimes, it's awkward, especially eating out at a restaurant. But, I know not everyone is like that. Now that I have a roommate and a friend next door, it's nice because we are on different schedules so we all have our space but we're not totally alone.

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of the famous quote:

"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." --Blaise Pascal

I bounce between the need for alone time and the need for social time. Never have been good with either.

When I was young, college age, if I was in a relationship, after a few weeks it was intolerable, and I would tell myself 'if I ever get out of this, I will never ever have another girlfriend.' Then a few months of being alone I would get lonely, and I would tell myself 'if I ever get another girlfriend, I will never ever let go.'

And so it goes...

Barb said...

I love living alone. But living alone does not necessarily equate to being alone. If Ididn't want to be alone in this house there are things I could do and places I could go to get put of the house. Or invite others over.. I am rarely lonely or bored although occasionally like this afternoon I feel housebound which is not the same. I've been home for two days without going outside (my max) because of minor toe surgery and the inability to wear a shoe. Most days an hour or so of people time is enough. Tomorrow it'll be the other extreme.but I am never, ever bored at home. Plants and books and TV and cooking and excercise and hobbies and housework and the internet all keep me as entertained as I want to be.

Meryl Baer said...

People are so different. I am fine alone at home for a few days, and actually enjoy it. On the other hand my hub is definitely not an alone person for any length of time.

Anonymous said...

I am a recent widow (9 months) I was married 33 years to the love of my life. I'm struggling to find my way now alone. I am a ambivert, have always been able to entertain myself and very independent. However the thing I miss the most about my husband is just having the comfortable companionship with him. Talking to him about all the "things". I'm too old to start over I tell myself (67) but to young to just pull back from life. I am trying to find my way in this "new normal". It's hard, but something all married couples will face one day. Sherry

Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

Since I'm an introvert, it's easy to get caught up in being alone all the time. Much harder for me to get out and be with people. When I'm alone I can do things like reading and crafting and watching the shows that only I want to watch. It's all about the simple pleasures.

Davey Bacaron Manulife said...

You can do it! :)