Do you have four really good friends?

Laura standing at build site before slab 2014

The topic of the lead story on today’s CBS Sunday Morning, “Going It Alone”, is one of my favorite life-long lines of research: loneliness. There we meet a man who, at age 27, chose to not speak to a single human being for 17 years! He eventually concluded, at age 72, that if you have four really good friends, who understand and appreciate your authentic self, you are truly lucky.

According to a recent Cigna study, loneliness is at epidemic levels in our country.

Their 2018 survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults revealed some alarming findings:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).
  • One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
  • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
  • Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.

How much do YOU need quality connections?

This all brings back my own gradual transition in my 30s and 40s from a true loner, who didn’t trust anyone completely, to a happily married woman in my 60s. After a traumatic betrayal in my 20s I also gave up on people. I did allow a few acquaintances in after counseling in my early 30s, but trust was not my best quality.

My first marriage was a lonely tangle of struggle, criticism and disempowerment. I gradually realized that I would probably be spending the rest of my life alone unless something changed. What changed was a divorce in 2001 and then job/career loss in 2004. Living on severance with only two good friends I saw maybe once a month plus my dogs, I faced loneliness most of the time, providing ample opportunity to consider my options for my future.

At age 49 I decided loneliness was my worst problem and I did not want to live the rest of my life if it was going to be this lonely indefinitely.

Mike snuggling with Rasta 2013

My solution? Since I could not find another job in libraries, I started my own offline dating service where I interviewed local midlifers who were also looking for love after widowhood or divorce. In that way I studied our group problem and decided it wasn’t just me. Then when I found many more cool single women looking for partners, I joined Match.com to attract more cool men for my women. Yep, the first man I met this way was my future husband and partner in crime, Mike. We have been joyfully married fourteen years now.

How to Believe in Love Again! blog sizeMike supported me in a way I have never experienced before, with unconditional loyalty, affection and appreciation. He offered full support to my dream of becoming a professional writer at age 50, back in 2005. This I did with enthusiasm, first as a freelance writer, then as a blogger and finally as an author. In fact, his support led to my second book: How To Believe In Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust, and Your Own Inner Wisdom, the story of how I transitioned from a sad, miserable loner to a trusting, loving person who admits to a need for support from others. 

Since then I am rarely lonely, but moving to this rural area in 2014 has been a challenge in that department. I so rarely meet someone here I can truly relate to, partially because of differences in upbringing and education levels. In the past I made friends at work and in my exercise classes. I still miss a few good friends I made at the Senior Center in Fort Collins.

I’m now retired so I have tried to make friends in my La Veta yoga class, which I attended for a few years, but to no avail. I have also tried a few other groups like writing groups, support groups, etc. No friendships have emerged. Quality connections are hard for me to find in this environment, but I will continue my efforts. Afterall, I just need one or two more friends to have “four really good friends!”

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Asking for help. How do we learn to let in positive support and encouragement?

Sometimes finding support can be so simple, you wonder afterwards why you waited so long to seek it…

why so hard to ask for helpI started attending the Walsenburg Women’s Growing Circle a couple weeks ago. This is a warm and friendly sharing group with emotional support and some guided meditation. That then opened up a great new opportunity in Helen’s tough but wonderful yoga class at the Washington Underground. I find the women in this group and my new class so much more warm and welcoming than those I have spent the past few years with in a La Veta class. I find that I often made some of my best friends in exercise classes, and it looks like this class will be no exception. So I feel so much more optimistic about solving my two main problems here: a great environment for balance and strengthening exercises, and making new friends.

This brought up again a problem I have always had, asking for help from others. This issue is magnified five hundred percent in the new memoir: Educated. She also suffered from an extreme fear of asking for help, to the point of not even asking for medical assistance with a broken ankle. I would say I spent the first few years of counseling in my thirties working on my fear of asking for assistance from anyone.

So, you might ask, what’s the big deal about just asking. When we ask for help we make ourselves vulnerable. When I was a young woman, there was no feeling I hated more than feeling vulnerable. The times I had made myself vulnerable had been so painful and disappointing. I certainly wasn’t willing to trust enough to ask again. Just the act of going to a counselor for help took me until my early thirties, even though I liked the idea of it and desperately needed it. Note the paragraph or so in Educated: A Memoir, where Tara finally tells her story to a woman at the university counseling center:

“I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now, but there was something nourishing in setting aside that time each week, in the act of admitting that I needed something I could not provide for myself.”  — pg. 316

I see now how lucky I was in my early thirties to find the best therapist for me, one who I could finally trust and in that way learn how trust works in human relationships. Re-parenting therapy is powerful stuff if you find the right therapist and then take the necessary time and energy to experience it fully.

asking for helpAnd now I know I would have never been able to trust enough to fall in love again at age 49 if I hadn’t worked so hard at accepting my need for the healthy help of others, and allowing some vulnerability into my life back then. Going it alone is always an option. Just make certain you are doing it as an empowering choice, and not out of anger and future fear of betrayal.

My main complaint about rural living

I really do try to stay positive. I have even been occasionally accused of being pathologically optimistic. Yes, me! I know complaining isn’t particularly useful, but after four and half years of trying hard to find a few good friends here, I need to talk about this issue.

friends help friends pandasFirst of all, I am a master at spending time alone. I have a healthy appreciation of  solitude. I love to let my mind wander wherever it wishes without any outside distractions. I have kept a journal since junior high and lived alone most of my adult life. I am fundamentally a loner who has spent years learning how to welcome special relationships into my life. I now have an amazing partner. We connect very well, and I love talking to him about just about anything for hours. But I also need a few like-minded friends….

making friendsFriends who write and appreciate good writing and art. Friends to talk about films with or gardening or what birds they’ve been seeing at their feeders lately. Friends to share my hopes and fears with, to talk about philosophy or psychology or history with. Friends I respect and who respect me. Friends who understand the solemn bonds of friendship. Friends like I still have up north in Fort Collins.

I cannot find friends like that here, and I have really tried! So many here come and go with the seasons, others work all the time and don’t have time for friends. Many are older with serious health problems, and most apparently already have their friends and don’t want anymore. Yes, there seem to be as many excuses as people I have met.

Please don’t respond to this post with, “I haven’t had any problem making friends here.” If that is your experience good for you! I need friends who are there for more than small talk. I don’t just want to talk about my husband, or the weather or finding services here. I seek a higher level of discussion exemplified by this blog. I seek those who think about deeper issues like meaning, life, death, philosophy and psychology. Please let me know if you can relate to this plea. Perhaps we could be friends.

A Photo Life Review: Adventures with Laura!

Dad Laura Diane and John small January 1961

Dad and the kids.  The junior world explorer is in red, 1961

Recently I have been on a protracted trip down memory lane. Last night I started looking at all of my photo books, that’s six thick albums! I’m slowly working up to possibly reading my many volumes of journals back to age 14.

original_photo_Thailand_1973cropped[1] (2)

Near the Bridge on the River Kwai, northern Thailand 1973

As I viewed many old photos, one thing struck me. I seem to have forgotten exactly how adventurous my life has been. From 18 on I traveled the world. I started out in Mexico, Bangkok and northern Thailand, then spent months in Taiwan and Hong Kong, traveled up through Malaysia from Singapore, and right before we moved here, the Andes and Cuenca in Ecuador.

Cuenca washing clothes in the Rio Tomba

Yes! Women still wash clothes in the Tomebamba River in Cuenca Ecuador!

Wuzhou

Once, before China was officially open to American tourism, I took a trip up the Pearl River in southern China on what I called “the People’s Ferry.” We arrived in Wuzhou, what appeared to be a town made of mud, and much to our surprise there were PRC government officials there to escort us onto a bus to Guilin, but not before the citizens of Wuhan surrounded us to point and exclaim, “What is that? A foreign ghost!” They had never seen a European or American before.

caribbean blueI visited the Caribbean a number of times, and did a couple island-hopping sails with my first husband, a windsurf instructor and sailboat captain from USVI St. John…

Canyonlands

Locally I started out at Colorado College on a backpacking trip to Canyonlands my freshman year. Half of us got lost and I did flyovers with the rangers until my friends were found. Unfortunately the rangers mixed up our names and called my parents saying I was lost, a fact NOT appreciated by my parents. I then spent years exploring Colorado and Utah. So many hikes, backpacking, ski and river trips.

My first professional library job was in Salt Lake City. Luckily I found the BEST group of friends there, including Roy Webb, who took us on a number of fantastic week-long river trips on the Dolores, the Green, the Colorado, Desolation Canyon, etc. He has been a famous river runner for decades now, and the author of many books about river history.

My first husband pretty much insisted that we go hiking, skiing or backpacking most weekends. Those trips included a number of trips to southern Utah like one memorable backpacking trip down into Escalante Canyon to enjoy “some of the most outstanding hiking opportunities to be found on earth.”

sking

I climbed a few fourteeners in my time, and skied from I-70 up to Shrine Pass (11,089 feet) and then into the tiny town of Minturn twice. I never forgot the glisten of fresh snow on that eleven mile trek.

Mtns and wildflowers

So many great memories, so many wild times…

Now I see how fortunate I was to tackle these physical challenges while I could still breathe well above 7,000 feet. I’ve had bronchitis regularly for decades and in some of the most exotic places! With a recent diagnosis of COPD, alas those days are gone. So happy I spent my youth exploring the world near and far when I could handle long flights, driving long distances and the general risk and chaos of getting off the beaten path.

Mike at home

Now I find myself  in this lovely “soft place to fall” with Mike and Rasta, where I can appreciate how profoundly fortunate I am to have done most of what I wanted to do for most of my life, and I even enjoyed most of it!

A Genuine Colorado Country Christmas

First I saw the funniest FB announcement yesterday! On our community bulletin board it said:

“Has anybody lost this chicken?” with a picture and everything.

You’ve just got to love living rural. And the chicken did find his way home too!

fresh Christmas tree 2018

Then we went out to cut our own tree! Pretty nice huh?

Bright Sahara Christmas Tree 2018

We decorated last night…

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…and this morning we had a new coat of six inches of snow!

It feels just like Christmas!

We have fallen in love with living in tune with the sun and seasons, waking up each day amazed to find ourselves in such a beautiful, quiet, natural place…

memoir of retirement 2016

Are you ready to follow your dreams? Here’s how we found ours!

Please feel free to contact me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com to order any of my books as Christmas gifts for family & friends who are struggling with midlife mayhem!

& Please follow us on TWITTER!

Walsenburg and La Veta, a tale of division between two great Colorado towns

Walsenburg city limits signEver since we decided to move down here to southern Colorado in late 2013, I have been studying these two towns. Although only 16 miles or twenty minutes apart, they do differ greatly in style and substance. When we moved here to rent, while building our solar home in Navajo Ranch, I preferred to live in La Veta, but it cost so much more than Walsenburg, that we were happy to find a very hard-to-locate rental near downtown Walsenburg.

Yes, I did have a hard time adjusting to life in Walsenburg. The best way to describe my feeling was culture shock. Coming from a thriving and popular city like Fort Collins, I felt initially let down. And yet what I eventually discovered is that what I found most different here, like few traffic lights or traffic, felt both strange and better. I mean who wants to spend the rest of their life standing in line in traffic? I did struggle at first with the lack of places to buy anything besides groceries. My other difficulty was making real connections with town people. I found most friendly, but also quite hesitant to welcome strangers into their life.

View of La Veta valley from highway

One day when I felt lonely in our first summer in Walsenburg, I drove over to La Veta to shop and hopefully meet new people. There I found most folks I met more friendly and open to talking to a stranger. I felt like I fit in a bit better. Eventually I started attending exercise classes in La Veta and made a few friends that way. As I spent more time with “La Veta people” I learned that they rarely went to Walsenburg for anything except groceries. Most knew very little about the small town 16 miles east of them. I also learned that La Veta people are much more likely to go elsewhere in the winter, usually to warmer climes.

Because we live halfway between Walsenburg and La Veta we must choose which way to go whenever we need something. Now that my La Veta friends have left for the winter, I feel more motivated to get to know more Walsenburg people and a recent “Lunch & Learn” put on by the Spanish Peaks Business Alliance seems to be pushing me in that direction.

Here is my dilemma: Why do most of the people in Walsenburg not hang out with La Veta people? There seems to be some sort of great divide between these two towns, which I don’t understand or appreciate. I believe the folks in these two towns could really help each other out if they would start working together to improve the economies of both towns. Those of us who are relatively new here notice this ‘great divide’ more than the locals. I would love to do something about it.

There must be some way to get a grassroots movement going to introduce Walsenburg people to La Veta people so we can all work together for the common good!

memoir of retirement 2016Please feel free to check out my memoir about choosing to leave a lively, popular Colorado city behind (Fort Collins) to move to rural southern Colorado. We built a passive solar home for our retirement and love it! So many feelings when you make a major life change like this! This book is available in paper or e-book through Amazon or direct from me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Do beliefs about climate change depend on how old you are, your education level or “groupthink”?

I will never forget a discussion I had over ten years ago with a woman in her eighties at the Senior Center in Fort Collins. She said climate change was bull and I said just wait. Then I realized and said to her, “Of course you’re not as concerned about climate change. You won’t be around to see what happens, but what about your children and grandchildren?” I’m certain that woman is dead now.

UN report on climate change 2018

SOURCES FOR THE NEW UNITED NATION REPORT ON GLOBAL WARMING

UN Climate change report-october 2018-Today I did the research on this topic. Please go check out this survey that describes concerns about climate change in the United States between 2015 and 2018, by age group. During this period, over 51 percent of adults between 18 and 34 years of age agreed that global climate change will pose a serious threat. Of those over 55, less than one third felt climate change was a serious concern in their future.  Now let’s ask the thousands of victims of Hurricane Michael. Why was this the first storm to hit this area in decades and why did it’s intensity increase when it headed out over the land?

Further research suggests:

“Climate change believers are generally younger, more educated, have more money, and are non-white (which means skeptics are generally older, less educated, and white). But all these factors are only weakly associated with climate change beliefs… Instead, political affiliation – Democrat, Independent, or Republican – strongly predicted climate change belief, such that Democrats are more likely to believe in climate change than Republicans…

This might suggest that groupthink, the psychological effect of similar thinking to maintain conformity to a group, guides climate change attitudes, not just ideology alone.” “Understanding Climate Change Skeptics” in Nature Education