Friday, April 7, 2017

Solo Retirement-Embracing Some Alone-ness

Today is a difficult day in the news and I am sad. While I have long wanted intervention in Syria (and in fact the Republican congress refused Obama's intentions), I am concerned for a variety of reasons:  We killed four children ourselves in the raid (and more in the Yemen mess). The attack was not thought out in military terms. And frankly, if we care about Syrian children dying, then damn it, we should allow them in the country. Now, Now, Now. Assad may not be a Muslim extremest but he's as big a threat and a bully as ISIS. I do think it is amusing that the populist leaders Trump likes are criticizing and the EU leaders like Merkel that he hates are supporting him. Oh, and as for the Supreme Court?  I'm less upset than many of you are.  You see, I feel fairly confident that if the health care debacle continues, the Democrats will easily win the house in 2018. And when they NEED us later on, that price will be paid.  Onward and forward in the resistance!  




Since this blog was begun as a way to share with others how I live richly in retirement on a fixed income, I get piles and piles of comments and private emails with questions on topics ranging from couponing, to getting deals, to affording X on a fixed income in retirement. That's really not a shock I suppose, considering my blog origin and my personal history.

What's more surprising (at least to me) is that I get just as many public and private questions on the subject of living alone and widowhood. Again, maybe not as obvious as the financial topics, but fairly understandable.  When it comes to the social and perhaps emotional aspects of living along, the vast majority of questions have to do with how to meet others to do things with. That's certainly important, and I write about my own experiences with this one pretty regularly.

That said, my experience tells me that the most important thing to learn about living alone (especially for those us of who became single later in life) is to learn to enjoy ourselves, by ourselves, and to learn to enjoy doing things alone on occasion. 




For almost every Thursday since last September, I have been preparing a meal at our church. On Thursday nights we have a church service, then a meal and then a program. The program is as varied as topics on sustainability or Muslims in America or the arts as spiritual practice (in Lent we have done free writing, made two sided masks, written poetry, done "free" dancing and discussed music). Some folks come for all three (church, food and program), and many come for any one or two they choose. Truth be told, I do not cook every week, but I still set up and take down, buy the food and drinks and everything else. I tend to alternate something like last night's Stouffers chicken enchiladas (with salad and dessert), with last week's homemade ham and cheese sliders on Hawaiian rolls. I am reimbursed so this is labor, not a financial contribution.

I'm getting ready to travel and have finished with this responsibility until I start again in the fall. Last night, after my last "cook" for a while,  I got a lovely thank you card. Said card  also included a gift card for $100 to one of my favorite yarn shops. I had absolutely no idea!! None!! 




Now, when it comes to financial types, I am the gal who will not go into debt but will spend money if it is there (my husband was the same money type). I want all my bills taken out electronically and I want my savings done through 401K or some other mechanism so that I know I can spend what I have "in hand". All of which is to say, I fully intended to get that yarn. Today. Without question. It was time for a field trip-in this case a field trip alone. Some shopping?  Maybe some lunch?  Just me and my gift card (s)?  You bet!!

I am someone who loves to yak and who loves to do things with others.  My knitting and crafting groups regularly have field trip and outings that include shopping and museums and lunch and more every few weeks and I enjoy those times. Socialization is surely an important part of my life.

But I also enjoy my own company. I don't have to converse with others, I can sit and read at lunch and I can enjoy my surroundings-and my own thoughts (which are at their most creative when I am alone). My little trip this Friday included a drive to the "good"  yarn store. I spent unlimited time looking at yarn without worrying about holding anyone up while I compared three or four shades of "neutral". I chatted with a couple of women who were sitting and knitting near the front door-they wanted to know what I was making and I showed them the photo below. After spending an unlimited amount of time shopping, I explored the neighborhood which included the ice cream boutique next door as well as the gourmet bakery. Since it's in the mid seventies today, I walked and wandered at will, not worrying about how much time I spent looking in a window. Rather than eating at said eateries, I settles for Applebees, since I had an earned gift card for that. 

From my correspondence, I sense that eating alone is one of those issues that makes people shake their head and go running from the room. I'm never sure if this is because of embarrassment, comfort level or any of a dozen other issues. If that describes you, whether you are single, married or something in between, I encourage you go go and eat and drink-alone. Leave your partner at home. Take the dog if you must. Heck, go to Starbucks if that works better. Get coffee.........but don't wander off with the cup, or open your laptop in work mode. Sit inside or on the patio. Respond or nod to folks who nod or say something as they walk by. Enjoy the moment. And get rid of the embarrassment or "pity" factor. Realize that if someone IS looking at you as you walk by, they are probably more interested in what you are reading, your dog, or what you are dining on than why exactly you're alone.

A not great picture from the cover of my new pattern. I 've chosen the darker gray and the neutral, still thinking on the middle stripe, am I!


An admittedly dark picture of my choices. Yes folks this is in fact $72.00 worth of yarn after taxes. Note that bright skein on the side.  I'm me, I always have to add some bright.


I usually take my kindle with me on outings, but that doesn't mean I read all the time when eating out. I am a people watcher at heart, and when possible ask to be seated by a window or on the patio so I can see what's going on nearby. I also enjoy the action of eating, even if it's only their homemade broccoli cheese soup with half of a mandarin salad and a frosted Easter cookie. If I read my book while dining, it's because I have interest in the book, not because I  want to "look like I'm not really alone".  I AM alone. I embrace it.

Today's field trip adventure was not nearly as long as it could have been. Mainly because after lunch I wanted to get home and play with my yarn and needles! Friday is my outing day. Sometimes I'm alone (movies and the Silver Diner, visiting a museum, going for a drive) and sometimes I am with friends. Both work, both are full and fun experiences and both enrich me. 


Still needs work and has a cople mistakes but it will be much bigger, so time to knit on the table for this one.

Meanwhile, since my multi color blanket is too large to be portable, I'm starting on my next knitting project, a Christmas gift. I mean, one knitting project at a time?? How fun would that be?  Boring, but unfortunately I also have multiple writing projects, sewing projects and an art journal. Whatever my issues are, having nothing to do at home is well............never really an issue.

Oh, and since Easter is on it's way, it was time to move the spring stuff out...slowly but surely. Every year my decorating for holidays lessens a tiny bit. This Easter, I'm settling for quilts, a couple Easter baskets, my Easter fairy garden and some hand decorated eggs and knick nacks.  Welcome Spring!






16 comments:

  1. I like those painted Easter eggs and your poncho project. Your attitude to being single and enjoying things is great. I've been looking for a movie to watch in a theater, by myself, that way I can go at my choice of time. What a great surprise to receive the gift card in honor of your church meal preparation work.

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    1. Hey Terra. I got a few in Europe and now i try and by at least one from Etsy or somewhere every year. Yes, oved the gift!

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  2. I am married so I'm not really alone but I am not a very outgoing person. Lots of social engagements leave me exhausted. My Unitarian Church offers several opportunities for social interaction and I do volunteer once a week at the local food pantry. But mostly I love being at home.

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  3. I am an introvert, but it took me a long time to figure it out - I grew up in a family of extroverts and they didn't quite know what to do with me. I've always been happy with my own company, so did OK when my husband was in the navy and constantly deployed. I still enjoy being on my own and enjoy my own company, although I can be chatty and engaged with people I know and feel comfortable around. Being alone, if it ever comes to that, does not scare me.

    I really like that poncho! Can you tell me more about the pattern? I used to love to knit (I knit continental style vs. traditional) but it's just too hot here, even with cotton yarns.

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    1. Hey Laura, first let me say it's not a free pattern. I try to avoid paying but this time it's six bucks through Ravelry. Other than that it's very simple. The two front panels are knit, then you pick up the back. The only difficulty I see is that if you add stripes (and I am), you've got to make sure that those match up. I'll start it tomorrow. I can see it's too hot. I made my daughter a WashingtonRedskins scarf and she lives in Dallas. she wears it the three weeks of winter, and then it hangs on her dresser, lol. I have made cotton tanks though.

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  4. You have a very full life. While I am certain you would prefer to not be a widow I think you are doing all the things I hope I will do when and if the times comes. I fear it. But reading some of the blogs of women like you, it gives me hope. I have a lot of interests and before marriage I loved being alone. Now I wonder.
    Your posts always make me think. And for the record, I long for the mid 70's. 33 this morning. Brrr......

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    1. Hey, I understand that it's warmer here than in Dallas where my daughter lives.

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  5. I so enjoyed reading this post as it gives such an empowering message. During my ten-year stint teaching in an MBA program in Southeast Asia, I definitely learned how to be alone and enjoy myself 26,000 miles away from anyone and anything I knew: museums, cafes, tours, browsing. It was the absolute best experience for me as I learned independence and the satisfaction of solitary activities both critical to me as I age. P.S. burgundy for the poncho stripe.

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    1. Wow that is a long way away from home! Burgundy wont work for me, I'm a spring but teal, turqoise or peach will, for sure.

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  6. Wait! Perhaps the stripe should be a gorgeous teal.

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    1. Yep, I was just talking about teal turquoise or peach

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  7. I am totally with you on the political front and can identify with every word. The picture of the yarn shop is fabulous. Have been to 36 of the states but not Colorado. That yarn shop could get me there:) The poncho is beautiful and reminds me of a ruana I purchased in Peru decades ago. I usually think of what it's like to be alone as a divorced person, but it occurred to me that I'v survived as well as I have because I had the courage to work in another country as a 21-year-old. I confess I cried for the first month! I worked at the embassy in Caracas, but I lived alone in an apartment. Your blog entries are invaluable, Barbara. Thanks for sharing your time and writing skills with us.

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  8. As an introvert - I love being alone. Granted I am married to my 2nd and last husband. He is an extrovert but understands my great NEED for alone time. If I am ever alone - I see myself, with animals. Nature and animals restores my soul. People, not so much.

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  9. I've just read your blog post and decided to follow! I'm lucky to still have a partner but appreciated your thoughtful essay on embracing solitude but being open to encounters with new people.
    I am not an introvert but I do value time spent to unwind on my own.

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  10. I always had a hard time going out alone, but then was single for 12 years between marriages. Now that I'm remarried, I realize how much I love my alone time. I also traveled for work for years, so I had to get used to eating alone in restaurants or live on room service and fast food. Ack. I also love nothing better than going to a good movie alone. Not that I don't go with others, just love being alone and experiencing the story for myself. Great post...and I love the poncho. I knit a lot in my younger years and should take it up again. Do you have arthritis? My hands do and I'm wondering how that will affect them.
    --Laurel

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  11. I LOVE my alone time also...I have been married twice to men in education who had the summers off to fish and golf, so I spent a lot of time alone while married. I love reading, visiting museums, waterfalls, etc. and I have even hiked alone, although I'm not going to do that when I get much older in case of an accident. I am an extroverted introvert...I can spend time with people, but I like my own company best. Get a cat. My Maine Coon cat is such good company and I got him from the Humane Society so I adopted an 8 year old rescue. We both hit the jackpot!

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