Somehow I thought that when my kids moved out of the Sesame Street, goldfish crackers and naps stage of life, I’d have more interaction with actual grown-ups. I had this imaginary life planned in which I’d meet friends for coffee (I hate coffee) and conversation. I thought maybe I’d have hobbies I’d share with friends and we’d explore fabric stores, talking while we picked out the perfect fabric for quilts.
My kids kept their end of the bargain. They grew up. And I’m still here, feeding the guinea pig, the cat and the dog and spending whole days in my house slippers, feeling lonely.
Here’s the irony, though.
Tomorrow I have plans to go hear Ann Patchett speak about her new novel and I invited a friend. Saturday night, my husband and I are taking a couple out to dinner. And I’m already kind of sorry that I made plans. Now I can’t just lie in bed and read or drive to the beach and walk in the waves while the sun sets.
Instead, I have to orchestrate my day so I can be at the meeting place at 4:30 PM. We have to contend with Friday night traffic driving into San Diego. We have to find parking and find seats. I’m worrying about these dumb and simple obstacles. I’m even worrying that my friend won’t enjoy the evening (sometimes she reads this blog, so now I’m worried that she’ll read this and think I am truly off my rocker).
Sometimes I think that I’m solitary because I am terrible at making friends. Then sometimes I think I don’t make friends because I’m solitary by nature. Sometimes I think I am lonely because I’m awful at reaching out to people and being vulnerable. And then I think I am awful at reaching out to people because I prefer loneliness.
I am swirling in the whirlpool of these thoughts. I spend time considering why I feel like I have no friends and wishing I had some friends and telling myself that I do have friends but then when push comes to shove (I love that cliche’), I’d rather just be alone with my thoughts, bleak though they may be. And no one calls me, so it’s not all that difficult to isolate myself. (Oh, poor, poor, pitiful me.)
I have never, ever been good at socializing. I plowed through middle school, junior high and high school without ever really eating lunch in the cafeteria because the idea was so intimidating to me. Who would I sit with? What would I say? Even while actively wishing I were a social butterfly, I cultivated an interesting interior life, full of ideas and opinions and stories. I wanted to be included, but if it involved a big group of kids my age I would have declined. (Though I was deeply involved in a youth group through my teen years. I was still on the fringes of that group, aloof.)
This unfortunate trait reads as stuck-up and unfriendly. I know this, so I have practiced making small-talk and interacting like a normal human being in social situations.
And sometimes, I make plans for a Friday night and Friday comes, so I pick out clothes that a grown-up would wear, get dressed, fix my hair and go. Pray for me. Ha.