Thursday 21 February 2013

It hit me

Yesterday at the Tate Modern,  it hit me when I was quietly looking and almost gently engaging in Gerhard Richter's Transformed Visions, that I have become more and more alone as I have got older. It made me think about what loneliness is and what being alone is. It scared but, also calmed me somewhat. I realised that I have a lot of people I call friends but no real friends (maybe by what the world defines friendship by). Does that make sense? 

What I think I mean is that I have slowly cocooned myself away from having meaningful girl friendships over the years. I've thrown myself body and soul into raising our girl (whose company by the way I adore...well mostly!), being the main bread winner and living in an almost virtual reality through social media and most of all being nostalgic and living on snap shots of my beautiful girl friends lives from University days and before I left South Africa to the day yesterday (19/2/1996)seventeen years ago. 

It was eery and weird thinking about who I really am and what path my life has taken since I came to these shores. And how I have grown, changed, who I have morphed into and become. I usually keep these thoughts locked away and rarely give them freedom to roam any of my grey matter. 

Don't get me wrong, I am not without friendly people in my daily life and I have wonderful work colleagues who have become friends, but whom I do not generally see outside of work and this is just fine by me. I have some wonderful women around my age who live in my street and we have "street conversations" and these are good but rarely go beyond these. I do meet up with Alice's art teacher J and some of her long term friends from time to time and it's good fun, but I don't really see them in-between these planned gatherings. And yet I am completely not lonely. In fact, I crave time on my own away from the hub bub and responsibilities of everyday life. I love to potter in my own company, reading, listening, making, doing, learning, observing and then returning back to the business of my daily life. 

I think I have become beautifully alone and it hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday. Whilst Alice continued onto the next gallery I allowed myself to come full circle with my thoughts and almost had to double check with myself that "Was I kidding/convincing myself that I'm not lonely?" just to make myself feel better? I feel like it's my life in reverse...when I was younger I got bored and really hated being alone and was the first to find and make friends wherever we lived or went on holiday to. I'm an extrovert at heart and love conversing with people, however as the years have rolled by my extrovert nature remains, I know I can just about have a conversation with anyone, yet I want to be more and more alone.

Strange realisation to come to in the middle of sipping on a bottle of water in an old London power station, but true.

Maybe, when life becomes less busy one day I'll have time and energy to invest into more meaningful girl-friendships. I wonder if this is selfish of me? Hmmmm something to think about. 

How about you? 
Do you like your own company?
Or do you prefer to be in company?
Do tell, I like these kinds of conversations.

See you all soon

ps. I like to think of blogging pals as company too, and have had the pleasure of meeting up with a couple of great bloggers over the last couple of years. Thanks to all those who visit this blog, I do so appreciate the time you take to chat to me and I do try and to pop into your blogging worlds too.


  1. My mother always told me that the people that are most content with their lives are the ones that are happy in the own company. In the last few months I've come to realise that like you I enjoy and even look forward to the rare hours that I can get on my own.
    Rosie xx

  2. Penelope,
    I know exactly what you are talking about, as I am going through the same thing right now. I have always been outgoing, but through the years I needed to have 'alone time' for myself too. I just updated my address book, and realized that I don't keep in contact with some of them, but kept them on there because they are school friends I grew up with. I do love being by myself at times, but I also love being with husband and kids, who are now grown. I have a few close friends, but only see them once in awhile. I'm so glad to know that you are on the same page as I am, my friend. We will live and grow and change together. Maybe this is all part of getting older.
    ~Sheri at Red Rose Alley

  3. Wow, every word you said struck a chord. I feel exactly the same (except that I've never been an extrovert).

    I suspect that our husbands' states of health have something to do with the state of our social lives and friend-making habits. Also just the fact that life IS very busy. My three best friends are my husband (whom I see every day), my sister (with whom I work), and my old best friend from high school (with whom I get together only every couple of years as she lives across the country from me). Being at work satisfies any social desires I may have. And I have friends galore in Blogland - perhaps not close friends, but many happy acquaintances, and among them a few special ones with whom I seem to click. And that's more than enough for me. I love being alone and having time to myself. And, like you, the older I get the more I enjoy my own company. I think I've finally grown into my own skin and am now comfortable there. :)

    That last photo seems to perfectly sum up your post. Thanks for starting this conversation, Penelope!

  4. Hi, Penelope!
    I can understand you. Very frequently I hear from parents that they just don't feel like going out, gathering, communicating. Because they had done it all before, now I guess they want some rest, thought both work, they also feel that their circle of friends have become narrow. I think this can happen when you finally feel that you are all-sufficient.
    What concerns me personally, I do NEED friends. I left so many of them when I moved to India, that here I feel such an urge to make friends, as seems if I don't, that will be a catastrophe. My husband is not that concerned, and he is happy the way we live..but my wishes are slightly different. I want to interact, share, chit chat, have friends with whom I can go on trips, and who I can call in the middle of the night to ask for help. Let's see if my thinking changes with ages :)
    Be happy, and as soon as you are comfortable where you are, it's good.

  5. I know what you mean. I cannot feel exactly the same in this moment of my life because I have a baby and she takes all my time...but yes sometimes I have felt as I wanted my time for myself, it wasn't being rude or antisocial, trough the time, you realize that you feel so comfortable with your own company. In youngest times maybe we need to be surrounded by friends and I think that is totally right for then to become this mature and confident person who enjoy on its own company....

    Lluisa x

  6. Um. Yes. I am the same. Can socialise comfortably when the occasion arises but much prefer to be alone. I have always been this way - actually when I was very young I'd go to birthday parties or visit friends for the afternoon and would often slip away to a corner and play an imaginary game by myself or pick up an interesting looking book and read. I was, and am still, happiest like that. Alone.

    I had a chat to my Mum recently, and we are cut from the same cloth. She goes out to her activities and groups, and enjoys them, but looks forward to getting home and her hobbies and interests. Neither of us has close girl friends.

    On Tuesday, hubby went to France to fetch Fabien and I was alone from 5.15am until 11.30pm and although I found the house deeply silent I kind of relished it too. And boy did I get a lot done that day!! Loved my aloneness.

    Can't remember when last I felt lonely. Long time ago.

  7. Completely understand what you're saying Penelope. When I was a child I was on my own a lot in all adult company. Being an only child and having cousins who were all a lot older than me I played mostly in my own head and got lost in books. I struggled to properly connect with my peers, although I had friends I always felt an outsider. This always bothered me as I couldn't understand why I didn't connect in the same way as other people. It took me until my 30's and meeting my man (who is very wise) to realise it didn't really matter if I was accepted. Rather than being the outsider I realised I didn't actually want to join in with most of the people I met. Then I met the most wonderful woman who became the first close friend I'd had, we're still really close, but not how we'd like to be as her husband took her back to Australia. I've got some really good friends and acquaintances now, in the main my friends are a good 15 or 20 years older than me. Like you though I don't see people too often. I chat loads to people when I see them and am always thrilled to catch up, but don't need company.I do think I should put more effort into relationships than I do, but I am as I am. All week at work I'm surrounded by people and in the teaching I do now which is more like social work it's non stop chat so I need time alone or I'm a cow to my family. I often wonder how people who are always out and about with their friends manage to have a relationship with their partner and children. I now I couldn't juggle it all. I've found that when I was young and wanted friends to fit in with I couIdn't find any, now I'm confident in me I keep meeting all sorts of great people who I really like.

    I have made some real mistakes in friendships and trusted people who turned out to beyond nasty. One day I realised that life was too short to waste it on people who bored me or made me feel down in their company. Not sure what I can do about my lovely friend who has chosen the dullest moron of a man to share her life with. Last time we met up Mike snaffled her and they had wonderful chats about Liberty and design. I was told how to light my fire properly and then informed that he didn't believe in democracy. Apparently freedom of speech and thought is the reason we're in the mess we are. Mike and I tore him apart as politely as we could. Anyways to answer your question. No I don't feel lonely and can't remember when I last did.

  8. Hi Penelope, I feel much the same. When I was a child I always needed a best friend but these days I don't have many colleagues I'm friendly with and like a lot but that's it.
    I guess I've always liked my own company too and am much happier now my children don't need me as much....though I will be very sad when they don't need me at all.
    I always seem to have so many things I want to do that I'm never bored and blog land is great to communicate with lovely people , like yourself, on my own terms.
    Jacquie x

  9. When you think about it you are surrounded by people from an early age and just expected to get on with it. Even before school you are placed alongside other toddlers and admired for interacting well (I know I certainly did this with my girls) This continues through school,university and even the workplace. There are 'ready made' peer groups for you to enter or ignore as you please. The cycle begins again when you have children - you make such close friendships with other parents and have that shared experience to bind you. As my girls are growing more independent some of these friendships have faded. In the last twelve months the two couples who I would consider to be our closest friends have had their lives turned upside down - I lost my dearest friend to cancer and her husband has moved away, and the others are going through the most bitter divorce battle in which I can only stand aside and be there when they need me for risk of 'taking sides'. I miss all of them terribly. The gap that has been left is huge but what has hit me is a sudden 'where am I going to find more friends from?' I know it sounds incredibly selfish but all of a sudden you look around and those 'ready made' peer groups have gone. For the first time I have had to sit back and take stock. What do I want from a friendship? Our 'social calender' may not be as full these days but I am now surrounded by people who I actually like! I still have my friends at work, my knitting chums and a couple of girl pals who I can have a good old moan with. I am so lucky to have such good friendships with Mr K and my mum. But most of all I am happy with myself. Being lonely and being alone are very different things x Jane

  10. Penelope I think the whole nature of friendship changes as you get older. People come into your life for different reasons, to meet differing needs - yours and theirs. After the intense friendships of childhood, becoming a young wife and mother far from home, I was desperate fro friendship and leapt into them with little thought for quality; some lasted, some dwindled. As I have got older I have had work colleagues, neighbours and 'husband's friend's wives' friendships - some of whom have become friends others not. With maturity comes the wisdom to differentiate between those who are stayers and those who are merely along for the short ride.

    I have a small handful of true friends, a wider circle of friendly acquaintances, mostly from my textile and music activities. I find more and more I enjoy my own company, no longer feeling the need to be always with others. Having said that, I love spending time with my true friends, even if meet sparingly. I love Plain Janes comments as they reflect much of my own feelings. And, as you say, virtual friends from the blogging community can be just the thing when you feel the need for a bit of instant belonging!

  11. Reading your blog this morning has been just wonderful. I, too, feel exactly the same, and have the same "friendships" as you. It was really refreshing learning that I am not the only one out there in this world of ours that has tons of "friends", but is alone at the same time. I've come out of my shell more and more as I've grown older (I'm very near approaching my 40's). I've always enjoyed my small group of girl friends through high school and university. But life has a way of changing, and one has a way of changing with it. My little girls, my journal, my books and yarn are my best friends now, my confidants. And thanks to you for expressing the same feeling I have had for so many years, I am quite proud of saying I am alright with life the way it is.

    I have a very, very small group of "friends", and we are just now starting to make an effort at getting together a little more often, or at least having a once a year gathering to remember. I enjoy my own company, and have a co-worker that is constantly telling me "the most intelligent conversations are those had with yourself". I think that's very true! Have a great day, and thank you for sharing.

  12. What a very interesting and thought provoking post! It's funny how we think we are expected to have many close friends and in reality many of us don't. Is it a myth peddled by TV programmes?
    I had an interesting conversation with one of the other mothers from the school gates - she teaches a toddler music class so seems to know everyone and, as such, I expected that she would have lots of friends. She told me that she feels like she doesn't have any close friends and is quite lonely as her husband is away a lot during the week! So I think many of us are in the same boat as we get older and we move away, both emotionally and geographically from the friends we made at school/university/ante-natal classes/etc. ! I do sometimes feel lonely, but all it takes is an hour drinking tea with someone after the school run to make those feelings go away. I'm generally quite happy in my own company.
    Have a great weekend! x

  13. I find it hard to be alone - I do need to have people around me. I do have moments when I need my own space but I can find that space within my own home and family as they continue around me. We are all different and that is what makes us 'us'.

    I left South Africa 09/03/2000 (for the second time) I have shut those memories away and I try not to re-visit them too often - it saddens me.

  14. Gosh, I have been thinking along similar lines. Like yourself I enjoy being alone particularly when I can potter about with my art/craft interests. I am noisy and gregarious but when I leave work for the day I often don't speak again till I arrive at work the next morning. I'd love to have a girlfriend that I could drop in on for a coffee and I'd like to have a partner. It should not be assumed that because one feels alone that one is sad or depressed, as I am neither. I guess what I feel is more a yearning for companionship and I'll admit that there are moments when that yearning is a lot stronger. However,those moments can be great motivators and can stir creative flames. I am learning to use those moments. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and thanks also to all the others who have commented, I enjoyed reading it all. We're not truly alone when we can interact with others :)

  15. oh Penelope, I do hear you, and absolutely agree. I love the people I spend my day with, as a teacher aide in a primary school, my days are full of laughter, learning, making, talking and friendship and bonding with little people as well as the very talented and dedicated staff that I work with. I then come home to my own children, and the routines evening brings. By night time, I love nothing better than to sew, knit, crochet, snuggle and slow down. I would love to have a friend that I could just 'pop over' for coffee and she do the same, but then, with us all working. . . . . and kiddies, . . . . . . well I am not sure I am in that 'space' right now I guess. Also, not many of my friends are into the whole knitting/crafting thing either. Not that it makes me sad at all, but now and then I wonder what it would be like. . . . . .. I know other girls/ladies, who go away regularly with their girlfriends, but I don't do that. I guess time with my family is just what I need at this time in my life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and thank you to the other lovely readers for sharing theirs.