The last time I had my annual physical, my doctor asked me what I was doing to keep my mind busy. “I write a blog,” I told him. “That’s good,” he replied. “Do you do any kind of puzzles?” he asked. When I told him I liked to do crossword puzzles, he said that was also good. But when he asked me what kind of interactions I had socially, I wasn’t as quick to respond. I had to fish around for the things I do that involve interaction with other people. For seven months of the year, I volunteer on Monday mornings at church. Once a month I attend the Hampton Roads Writers board meeting. Every few weeks we see my brother and his family. We’ve gone out to eat with friends or invited people to dinner only several times in the four years we’ve lived here. My doctor nodded, and said those things were fine, but I needed to make sure I found as many opportunities as possible to be with other people. He said, “We see a greater incidence of dementia in retired people who stay at home and have little social interaction.”
If I had stayed in San Antonio, I would have plenty of opportunities to get out with others for lunch or shopping or going to the museums. Many of my long-time friends have retired also. But when you move at sixty to a place you’ve never been before, it is hard to establish those kinds of relationships again, though I have started making some wonderful friendships with several blogging friends in the area. And most times, I don’t even mind being alone. I am a person who is seldom bored. I treasure my quiet times.
Yesterday, during my yoga class, I thought about what the doctor had said about the need for social interaction. Most of the time, when we talk about a community of believers, we talk about a congregation of people meeting to worship together. That certainly qualifies as a community of believers, even if their individual beliefs aren’t quite the same. They all acknowledge the singular belief in a Higher Power. But that’s just one example of a community of believers.
In my yoga class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the same four of us take our places along the back, against a wall of mirrors. We have taken that spot for several years. It’s like our pew in church—we can’t concentrate if we have to be anywhere else. So we’ve gotten in the habit of putting a mat down to save a spot for another one of the four. Three times in a row now, C. hasn’t shown up. It’s not like her. She’s one of the faithful, always there. We’re getting concerned, and our instructor is going to give me C.’s email so I can check up on her. It struck me today that our yoga class has become a community of believers. We believe in the power of yoga to make us feel better, physically and emotionally, but even more, we share those beliefs within the body of those who regularly attend the class. We care about each other. That is the power of being involved in social interaction. You know that you are thought of and cared about. Your presence is welcomed and your absence is noticed and makes you missed.
Whether it is a yoga class, a Bible study, a scrapbooking group, a book club, volunteer work, or whatever kind of activity you choose to be involved in, you are in a community of believers. And I can see why it is so important for mental functioning to be a part of a community like that. We need each other.
It sounds like you have a wonderful doctor. 🙂 M and I have moved so much over the years that I know how hard it can be to establish relationships once you reach a certain age. It seems like it was much easier when we were younger, and now that I’m not working outside the home, it’s become more difficult. That’s one of the reasons I joined the Lousy Bowlers League. To get out, meet people, socialize a bit. Otherwise, I could easily become a hermit.
I’m very much like you, Robin. The more I stay in by myself, the harder it is to make myself get out and socialize. I would love to be on the Lousy Bowlers League with you!
Maybe, your doctor wants you to plan a trip to San Antonio to social with new and your old friends. 🙂 🙂
Ha-ha, Amy. Nice try. I wish flights were not so expensive and I had more time to travel. Plus, I’m not a good traveler. I’m pretty much a homebody except for seeing the kids or going on road trips.
Oh this is so good. Why is it so hard to say “I need”? It’s refreshing to be honest and say there are times where I just need other people, more than I probably realize. I have seen both sides of the situation in my grandmothers; one active in studies and workshops, while the other hardly leaves her front steps. Relationships take work but they are definitely worth it.
Loved you r comment, Country Wife. Studies show people live longer if they have friends.
So true. Even though we may cherish our alone times, without social interaction, we can get lonely very quickly. I’ve been there and I know that loneliness is one of the hardest emotions to have in this life. It’s all about that connection to one another that gives us strength. Like you said, if we know someone cares about us, that means our existence matters. I wish everyone could feel that sense of caring in this world. We all need each other.
I, too, feel sad to think of how many people are out there, Darla, who don’t have a network of friends.
I, too, can be a solitary soul because I have so many interests that I do alone. As my work has declined, I’m more so, which is why one of my New Years resolutions was “get out among the peeps.” Problem is, my Inner Curmudgeon is fussy about the peeps he wants to be among, so I haven’t figured out how yet. But I know I need it.
You are probably like me, Bud. Your best friend is Muri, just as my best friend is George. We’re content to be with them, and it’s hard to make ourselves develop other relationships, but it’s important. If something happened to George or to me, I don’t want the one who is left to be without people to be around.
This is such a great subject. You didn’t tell your doctor about your little 4 year old visitor! Lord knows she is social interaction to the 10th power.
I sure hope your yoga friend is well, it’s so kind of you to inquire on her well being. It’s a reminder to us all to be aware of those around us.
Ha-ha, LWTTD! I’d forgotten all about how much stimulation I get from my weekly visits with N. Surely she qualifies for social interaction! My yoga instructor got in touch with C., and she’s fine. Every time she was supposed to come to class, something unexpected came up. She appreciated that we cared enough about her to check.
You are so right about the need for social interaction! I am an introvert and like others I am perfectly content to be on my own. But i crave that social contact too and can tell if i have gone too long without it. Work connections are not always the same as the sort of community you are describing. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for commenting, Patti Ross. I’m pretty much an introvert, too, though most people don’t see me that way. I do love some social interaction, too, even if it isn’t initially something I want to do. Now I know how important it is, so maybe I’ll force myself to get out more.
I had a similar conversation with my doctor. I had put off my annual pysical for two years while going through the major part of hubby’s illness. His doctor appointments have slowed down and we are no longer going to two doctors a day, so I made an appointment. I was asked about how I was doing. After tears and realizing I don’t get to talk much, it occurred to my doctor and I that having moved, I haven’t established a group of support around me. I don’t know what I would have done without my blogging friends this year. Thank you, and I hope that soon you will have a group of like minded people, in the flesh, whom you will have lunch and laughter and hugs with. That is a goal for me this year also. Thanks for this post, it is excellent. DAF
Thanks, DAF, for the wonderful comment. You don’t realize what you are missing until someone asks you and you reflect on it. And, yes, our blogging buddies have become a huge community of believers!
Excellent post Susan! I too am one of those personalities that is never bored and could go for days without human contact. The last 3 months have contained a sequence of unexpected losses that have really sucker punched me. My “community of believers” have stepped from the background to the forefront to embrace me and lead me out of the funk and into the light. Much like your yoga friend, and your emails to me encouraging me to get back to my writing, it makes all the difference! I have found that many times our CoB seems like the wallpaper of our lives until they are needed for special duty, then step forward front and center to create a cocoon of caring.
I have missed you, Carol. I have kept you in my blog roll and keep checking in to see if there has been any activity. I’m so sorry that you’ve suffered some losses, but I’m glad you have people there who can help you through the dark days. If you need to get away, come visit me. Your room is ready. No kidding.
I live in San Antonio (where you came from). I do interact with others in a semi-private yoga class and with three advocates as a Peer Coordinator for CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates for children) and with my supervisor and my one case of CASA kids and their foster parents and their parents. My psychiatrist tells me it’s good to interact with others. I also am learning French and she tells me that is good for warding off dementia and Alheimzer’s. I belief her. It really occupy’s my mind. My mind is constantly busy, if not with writing court reports for CASA or helping my advocates with theirs, than with learning French. The main thing is to keep busy, I think.
Good for you Maire. Does it have to be French? LOL. I didn’t worry about keeping my mind busy when I was a classroom teacher or a dean, but being retired, I find it more of a challenge not to sink into laziness.
Well written and I absolutely agree that we all need social interaction. I saw my adopted Mom (Nora) go all day without talking to anyone until one of us called to check up on her. She refused to go to a senior day care where she would have had other seniors to talk to. She did not go to the Jewish Community Center, synagogue or any other place where she would have had interaction with others. Her memory loss and confusion was rapid. So glad that I am still working and interact every day talking to people. Sales is like that.
Great comment, Ro. Nora was a perfect example. It is so easy for those of us who are out of the work world to get complacent and stay at home. We need to make ourselves get involved, even when we don’t really want to make the effort. On e we’re out, we do enjoy being around others. They need us as much as we need them.
I sure hope your yoga “friend” is okay…! Keep us posted on that.
Sounds like you, Patti and I need to plan a lunch soon….. we need that interaction!!
Yes, Dianna, I would love that. In fact, I just amended my post to mention that I was making some wonderful friendships with several blogging friends. You are one of them, of course! I look forward to getting to know you better.
I had to take care of the neighbor’s dog today, so I had some social interaction! I was thinking the three of us need to get together again, then I saw rain in the forecast for next week. Maybe we should leave our cameras home (or not) and just go, anyway!
I’m game for anything, Patti, though it would be a lot more funny if it weren’t raining.
Beautifully written and sounds like you have a very caring doctor. There are days I don’t talk to anyone- writing at home can be quite quiet and lonely. This is good advice.
He is a very caring doctor, and unfortunately, I have to find another one this year because he doesn’t take Medicare and I’m nearly 65. I hate losing a good doctor because of that. As to his advice, it makes me get out of the house sometimes when I really don’t want to because I know it is important for my mental health. I don’t want to end up being one of those old women who sit home all day and watch TV.