Sunday, April 24, 2016

Friendships and Loneliness

I've been lacking a good dose of oxytocin lately!  That feel good hormone that primarily reduces stress and makes one feel loved. 
A woman's vitamin pill!
In writing up this blog, it's become clear that friendship and loneliness can be explored together, so I began researching how other women felt, and had long phone conversations with a couple of these 'old' friends on this topic. Had they ever lacked deeply meaningful friendships at one time or another? How did they feel re the ending of some? And others they may have avoided contacting in case another flare-up happened. I don't think there's a woman alive who hasn't experienced a challenge with a female friendship.
In a Melbourne writers group, the following writers and academics - Maya Linden, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott, Natalie Kon-Yu and Miriam Sved, also discussed female friendships, and discovered that they had all been "dumped by a female friend" at one stage in their lives. 
With honesty and humour, their insights revealed how "our friendships with other women define us and shape our lives, even when they end...
Then they wrote a book about the pain of female friendships, and the joys.  
I've also been dumped once!  Have you?
With one of my new friendships of a few years there has been a hiccup or two, but in respectful dialogue we've been able to accept each other and our differing philosophies, understand that we've led contrasting lifestyles, and yet remain friends. I think the important factor is that we're both committed to our shared sisterhood. This has been the glue despite any differences or defences. 
Grappling with this 'friendship' or lack of friends issue, led me to the topic of Loneliness!
In a recent discussion with another, we shared the same sense of occasional loneliness - though technology has enabled us to connect up with thousands of people worldwide, it also has been a curse. We rarely speak to people on the phone, and we both felt less lonely before engaging with FB and the internet. We can have 100's of friends but few to sit with on a daily or weekly basis to share our dreams, challenges or fears.
Did you know that a recent study in the UK revealed that loneliness is in epidemic proportions, across the lifespan? Being a lone ranger in our later years can significantly affect our health and wellbeing. Our emotional life. A six-year [Yale University] study, which focused on people age 60 and older, found that men and women were 45% more likely to die during the study if they reported feeling lonely, isolated, or left out. 
George Monibot, in his article "This is the Age of Loneliness.” says "we have ripped the natural world apart, degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomising, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this, we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness".  
Friendships are a key factor to a happy middle age and beyond, it's good for our souls. It's believed that at midlife its important to maintain and nurture the relationships that have lasted for decades, to experience the timeline of life with friends. But how, as we get older, navigate these lonely times - sometimes without those decade old friendships if we single women have moved away to be with our children?  Some have retired from full time work, with endless hours to fill apart from some possible volunteering, checking our messages on FB, tending the gardening or reading. Many in this age group spend a lot of time watching TV as one woman said in a friendship blog by the Friendship Doctor, Irene Levine! And in a survey on the popular SixtyAndMe website, 75% of the participants felt lonely.

(image: Clauda Tremblay)
Other women found their respective towns or communities where they had moved to, were not very welcoming however much effort they put into making new friends. Conversely, when they holidayed at other places, they found people were very friendly. One woman said "I do not belong to any category – I tried when I first moved here – three tons of parties, invited neighbors over, cooked, served wine etc. Not once was there ever any reciprocity. I won’t go into detail but I tried again two years ago and had awful comments made behind my back – by guess who? Women".
Maybe you have a friendship story to share?  
Please feel free to comment below.