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Tearing Down The Walls

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Be the kind of person you would like to be with. Some people come into our lives, make footprints on our hearts and we are never the same. People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.  ~Joseph F. Newton 

 

 

With retirement comes major changes in one’s life.  I anticipated many.  The extra time on my hands with no schedule.  Less money to pay for expenses.  And dealing with finding and paying for my own health insurance.  What I did not foresee was the isolation.  I should have figured this would be the case, but I am an introvert and we crave isolation over crowds and hours of human contact engaged in small talk.

 

For over 30 years, I lived in the realm of the extrovert during work hours, and sought refuge from it all when home.  After all being “on”, at work for 8-10 hours a day, five days a week was exhausting.  My family lives out-of-town virtually unreachable without a costly plane ride or a long drive.  Friends outside of work are few, the hallmark of an introvert.

 

Neighbors were neglected as work wore on me, and left very little time or want for being with “more” people.  So I had built a slick little world with a few friends, co-workers and family all kept at arms length making my world insulated and safe with enough human contact to last a lifetime…or so I thought.

 

As winter has hung on, my retirement has been spent in the cocoon of my home.  I long for my wildlife garden as it brings me hours of pleasure, a refuge for the critters and me.  But with the no garden, few critters and “cabin fever” hitting me suddenly, I found myself craving time with people.  Wow, what was this!

 

So when I had an invitation to a party from a neighbor, I decided to accept.  It was a party where a product was reviewed in hopes those attending would buy something.  In years past, I would have politely declined preferring instead to have respite at home on a Friday after a long week of work.

 

DSCN1215But I was not working, and I thought this would be a great test for me.  The day of the party, I almost didn’t go.  But I made the short walk, anyway, forcing myself forward with each step knowing there would be few people I knew at this party.  And lots of chit chat, a nightmare for any introvert.

 

At first I was quiet.  I listened.  Then I joined in a bit…even with the chit chat.  I found I was calm and let the evening unfold staying in the moment working through any fears.  And I had a nice time for an hour and a half.  I even bought a gift for a friend.  I was pleased with myself.  I had made it through without wanting to run screaming from my neighbor’s house seeking the refuge of my home.  And with this test passed, I even suggested dinner with friends the next evening.

 

Two social gatherings in two days would be unheard of for me usually.   But now I was experiencing more bouts of loneliness.  The well-built walls I had been dwelling behind were feeling far too confining.

 

So I am learning to reconnect.  To join in once again with the human tribe as I tear out the bricks of my isolation.  To seek opportunities in small chunks.  To build new bridges seeking out the company of people I have missed.

 

And as this amazing new discovery has certainly opened the eyes of this introvert, I will not forget its importance…..that continually establishing and maintaining human connections is essential along my life’s path.  

 

Note:  The bluebird pictured here is a symbol of happiness and good cheer.

 

***********

 

Update 8 months later:

This post was originally published March 27, 2014 as I was beginning my retirement.  Just getting used to the new-found freedom, the pros and cons of this new life.  I have kept the connections going although they were not as frequent as I thought due to health issues.

But I hope to keep human connections front and center, as we enter the holiday party season and the isolation of winter.  Here where there is a lot of snow, we tend to remain indoors and not see each other often in winter.

I am also planning a couple of trips to see family over the upcoming holidays.  Sometimes family can also be overwhelming, but I look forward to reconnecting and rekindling the light of my family so far away.

 

 

I leave you with another thought about relationships.  Please feel free to download the photo and share it.

 

bluebird

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

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20 Comments

  1. November 13, 2014    

    One of the most interesting aspects of Introverts is that, while they can be wonderful with people–they don’t DIS-like people after all–what sets them apart is the time it takes them to re-set. That is, for every one day “out and about with people”, it might take an Introvert two days of quiet to garner their core strength once more. I’ve found this very helpful. It allows me to know that I can engage in a social event if I factor in the down day that will be essential afterwards. Extroverts, of course, don’t need this–they relish in activity and actually GET energy from social events. For people like you and I Donna, we pay with the coin of our best energy. I’ve had to work pretty hard to teach some of my extroverted friends about this-:)) They would like for us to do things two days in a row for example. But I have a great article from The Atlantic–the classic in the field–called “The Care and Feeding of your Introvert” and I just send it off to them by way of education! -:)

    • November 14, 2014    

      I have to explain this to folks all the time too Susie. And actually introverts are great communicators…. I find that too many events in a day is exhausting as well and then takes me a long time to reset as you say.

  2. November 13, 2014    

    I am also an introvert. And need my quiet time. Lots and lots of quiet time.
    I am leanrng (too slowly) that I also need to dismantle the walls and use the bricks to build pathways – ensuring that enough bricks remain to build a gate.
    Beautiful post – and thank you.

    • November 14, 2014    

      Soosie I love the picture you painted for me of taking out the bricks and building a path and gate…wonderful!

  3. November 13, 2014    

    Hi Donna, I remember reading your original post well, and recall thinking it was very brave to be so honest and lay yourself open. The connections through blogging are not the same as having folk near by to interact with, but especially during long winters being able to share in a virtual world is heartwarming. I work on my own by choice and can recall feeling very lonely in the middle of a busy place of work and far happier without feeling isolated in a sea of people. I have a very large extended family and can relate to that feeling you have but usually find them (well mostly) to be joyous and enriching. I am enjoying these posts, looking forward to more. 🙂

    • November 15, 2014    

      Thanks Julie for your heart-warming words. It is through the connections we make whether in person or virtual that keep us going. I am so glad to hear you are enjoying my posts, and I look forward to talking with your more here! Thank you for your support Julie!

  4. November 13, 2014    

    Donna, I think this is such a common dilemma for introverts as we retire. For years, we’ve struggled to carve out enough quiet time for solitude and renewal. Then, suddenly, alone time is plentiful and we have to totally rethink our personal strategies to connect with other people. That scene of near-panic as a party approaches and looking for reasons not to go after all was very, very familiar to me. I’ve found two things helpful to me as I entered retirement. One was a personal goal of at least one social engagement per week. The other was to reset my “default setting” for invitations from “no” to “yes.” Often my instinctive reaction, honed over years of protecting my private time, is to say no; but I force myself to say yes unless I have a really good reason for saying no.

    • November 15, 2014    

      I am working on the one social engagement too Jean….hard to get into but I enjoy those little snippets of connecting. And I also have reset my no to yes within reason…my true test will be in December with the holiday parties I always backed out of in year’s past…this year I will be going. My husband and I work this out as he is an extrovert and thrives for hours at these events. We go together and when I am ready to leave, he leaves…if it is closeby, he goes back and I have time to reset in solitude.

  5. November 13, 2014    

    Since I like being with people and getting out and about, I find it really hard to relate to your original post. I do understand how isolation would bring about a whole host of negative feelings. It is why I stay so active and don’t spend all my time at home. Travel is a key, being exposed to different places and cultures. I don’t think being an introvert is as much the problem. There are many successful introverts, they just have different social skills that are advantageous to the careers of their choosing.

    • November 15, 2014    

      It is hard for non-introverts to relate Donna. My husband and good friends are extroverts and it took them awhile to understand although my husband figured it out quickly about my needing some alone time. You are correct it is not being an introvert that is the problem as we like being this way…it is adjusting to the extrovert world and having the extroverts understand us. We enjoy communicating and being with people just not all the time. With working I was on all day and needed down time so I would not socialize after work as I had enough time with people at work. As Jean put it above, we have to change our no to yes and socialize once a week once we retire as we do have a tendency to isolate ourselves. And I like Susan’s idea that introverts need some time to reset.

      One of my favorite Ted Talks is this one about introverts:

      http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts?language=en

      This talk is fascinating…..

      I love to travel and do when I can….and I stay active just not in crowds or with people a lot of the time. For extroverts isolation is deadly as I know from my husband so he will go off and socialize and I stay home both of us happy. Then there are times we go together. But for introverts isolation is necessary alone time we need just not all the time. I know it can be confusing. It took me a long time to understand this all and not feel like something was wrong with me.

      And as you say introverts are very successful. Can you believe a lot of us are teachers. I think that is because introverts are great communicators. I agree It is important to find the right work environment but more to match our social needs more than social skills. I appreciate your reading this and giving input Donna….

  6. November 14, 2014    

    Wonderful shots of the bluebirds. I’m in an opposite situation. For over 10 years I’ve primarily worked from home only going to the office for meetings and occasionally when I needed to be onsite. This spring I started having to work at the office 3 days a week and from home 2 and recent it’s up to 5 days a week at the office. I have been gradually becoming more and more of a hermit so in some ways it’s good for me to be around people more at work although when I’m at home I’m definitely ready for solitude and less likely to do social stuff after work. I hope you enjoy your retirement!

    • November 15, 2014    

      Thanks! I can relate Carver which is why I am taking a year off and not doing any consulting as I need time away from it all. I expect that I will tire of being a hermit too at some point and get back into some sort of consulting but on my terms this time. I like this new found freedom of retirement.

  7. November 15, 2014    

    This leaves me wondering if I am an introvert or an extravert with a tired body as I need a lot of alone time and get overwhelmed easily.. Really making me think Donna

  8. November 16, 2014    

    I am naturally quiet and reserved but I am not sure that I have every been an introvert. I used to lack confidence and one of my jobs thrust me into a position where that had to change. Ever since I have been a lot more extrovert but not to the extent of being life and soul of the party.

    There are times when I like my space, to be alone, to think and to chill out. There are times when I crave the company of others, to sit and chat, go for a walk or share a meal together. I think I like the best of both worlds.

    • November 16, 2014    

      A wonderful combo Cherie. They say there are those that are mix of both intro- and extroverts and you are indeed lucky to have the best of both worlds!

  9. November 27, 2014    

    Enjoy the retirement at its best…

    • November 27, 2014    

      Thank you…I am savoring every precious moment of it!!

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