As I reach the age of 53 this morning, I consider myself lucky indeed, to have lived the experiences I have, to learn the things I’ve learned, and to have met the people I have, both in real life and online. But one thing has always been lurking on the background, and that’s frequent self-doubt as to how good a friend I am to others.
That self-doubt, engendered by my failure to keep in touch with many of those I’ve befriended over the years, was a major cause of the several-month long inactivity on this blog starting in November of last year.
Part of the cause of that is my . . . condition . . . that results in a frequent, totally nonsensical and irrational desire for solitude, even with full knowledge that human interaction of some form is absolutely necessary for my psychological and physical well being.
Every year, I’m required to live alone, tending the house, garden, and cats, as well as my own affairs while family is away, often from a period of time ranging from two weeks to a full month, all on my own. I don’t at all mind the responsibility, so that’s not the issue.
But spending such long spans of time as the only human being at home causes a heightening of that innate, irrational drive for solitude, normalizes it, accustoms me to it, drawing me further from those I know, unless I actively work toward making that needed human contact more frequent.
There’s also my study and work periods spent poring over manuscripts, reading, lectures, work on notes, and the less-often-than-I’d-like practice sessions learning languages. These require solitude in order to focus, as I am a terrible multitasker.
I simply cannot engage in online conversation while at the same time trying to focus on details of a language, or the same while working on manuscripts. I’m 53 now, after all. And one’s ability to multitask declines significantly with age.
That forces me to single-task whenever I can to get anything done. That requires focus, often leading to solitude while working. If I try to do two involved tasks at once, I wind up succeeding at neither. I’m no longer in my twenties, though psychologically, I don’t feel 53.
So there’s that.
What to do about this?
One solution is to schedule my time in an organizer, and to develop more productive habits, like rising earlier while maintaining my sleep hygiene, and spending more time each day interacting online than I’m ordinarily inclined to by my condition. Isolation kills. It’ll also drive me nuts if I let it.
There is also something, more attainable with someone here to help out at home, of simply getting out more often and doing things I enjoy with others. But I’m most definitely not an extrovert, so dealing with others face-to-face can be exhausting, and that can carry over to online engagement as well, even with the seeming anonymity of the Internet.
I have doubts, frequent ones, that I have anything of real consequence or importance to say online, say, in response to tweets sent my way, or in the comment threads of blogs, even this one. It makes me feel as though I’m just not a very good friend to those I’ve come to know through social media.
It came to a head late last year on this blog. And part of the chain that led up to that involved the late Christopher Trommater, formerly known to the blogging and Twitter communities as Skeptic Cat. In February of 2014, he took his own life, and I’d only found out about it from his ex-fiancee the following month.
From then, until late 2016, that has haunted me, along with the nagging, totally irrational thought that maybe I could have kept in more frequent contact with him through email, that maybe I could have talked him out of his decision to end himself.
Maybe, the silent voice within says, I could have been a better friend than I was and he would still be here today. But that’s nonsense. I’ve learned that to give credence to such musings is nonconstructive. I can’t live my life based on what might have been, what I might have done, and yet I can’t shake the mild self-loathing stemming from the feeling that what it says is true.
But suicide doesn’t work like that. I know to a high degree of certainty that there’s nothing I could have done, other than torment myself sooner, and more deeply, than I did in fact. Chris had metaphorical demons to deal with I cannot possibly grasp as a merely online friend, that I’d be no help in enabling him to overcome.
So, happy birthday to me, as there’s a lot of work to do, and things to improve until the day I cease to be and cannot improve anything at all, save the nutrient content of the soil.
When will I reach my ultimate life’s goal, whatever that is? I’ll let you know as soon as I reach it . . . .
Aaand I don’t expect that to be anytime soon!
Tf. Tk. Tts.