Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is being alone always a good thing?

Is solitude over-rated?

This morning I am wrapping up chores so I can go to the winery a little later on for my afternoon shift.  I love my job, but there is no question that on cold, cloudy mornings like this my first instincts are to hunker down in the quiet comforts of pasture, fireside and kitchen instead of heading away from the homestead for the sometimes crazy, lively bustle of life behind the wine bar.

There are even times when I think I should go ahead and retire, or at least find a job where I can work from home; standing behind the bar all day and sometimes lifting cases of wine is difficult physical labor, especially if you're over 50. It's especially hard on the feet, legs, and back.  But like exercising and cooking dinner, I can honestly say that my job at the winery is something I enjoy once I'm there.  

And usually, once I'm in the midst of pouring Rousanne and discussing the finer elements of Rhone varietals or telling out of town visitors about the great restaurants in town, the thought of being at home becomes a distant memory -- something I know is there for tomorrow, or the next day, but which can wait.

The bottom line is that I intend to keep working, the same way I intend to keep exercising, and for the exact same reason:  Social skills are like muscles, and once you stop using them, they atrophy -- they shrink, they weaken, and it's much harder to get them moving again, when you need to. 

I'm thinking of several women I know who have moved to the country in search of new, more rural lives, who are not the better -- at all -- for all that tranquility and time alone.  For some, I have seen an actual break with reality -- the desire-turned-into-wish-turned-into-belief they are living the fictional-type life of a movie or book character, or that they are living in a certain era, with an exclusion, suspicion, or outright derision of all that lies outside of that restrictive boundary.  

A couple of others I know decided there was no longer any good reason to bathe regularly or wear clean clothes.  And sometimes, the prolonged isolation just shows up through a distinct lack of social skills, which can sometimes get rusty as the person spends more and more time with only their own company to keep and only their own opinions, thoughts and voice to listen to.

I'm not knocking time alone -- I am, by nature, an introvert, and after any social gathering I tend to find myself physically craving several hours of peaceful time alone to balance the scales.  But like any balance, the scale can also tip the other way at times, and sitting atop my hill, performing tasks alone and only seeing my husband for companionship become things I realize I need to break away from, in order to keep my "social muscles" flexed and strong so they are toned and ready to put to use when I need them.

  My rural life might be different and less isolated if I had several kids of school age running through the house, as we did years ago, but as I've grown into an almost-empty nester, I've realized more than ever that I don't want to give in to the eccentricities and quirks that come from rarely interacting with another human. And it's easier to do than you'd imagine, when you live in a place where you can avoid actual human interaction for days or even weeks.

And so, it's into the car, down the hill, and then behind the wine bar I go in order to chat, schmooze, joke around, and generally pretend I'm an extrovert for a few afternoons a week.  It's the equivalent of a gym membership for my social skills, and they're muscles that usually feel good to flex, once I put myself out there and do it.  

It's use it or lose it, whether you're talking about your biceps or your ability to shoot the breeze.


  1. Hello! I'm back! Haha I've been reading but something with blogger and my phone just doesn't work with word verification on comments. And since I do most of my blog reading at the salon on my phone, I have trouble commenting. Anyway, you're right on with this post. I so relate to you in terms of pretending to be an extrovert. It's funny because I don't know if I'm introverted or not. My Meyers-Briggs tests were always ENTJ, but I've never agreed. I prefer to analyze in terms of astrology; which has much more appreciation for nuances and shades of grey in personality.
    I think it's great that you keep your job at the winery. It's part of many-a California dream to live and work in wine. Of course no job is perfect. I doubt when people fantasize about working at a winery they imagine cleaning spilled wine, politely ignoring drunk tourists, or snakes on the patio! You're a true part of your community. That, to me, is a huge part of homesteading or living mindfully. It's lovely and almost quaint to live and work and truly exist all in one community nowadays. Which in turn makes you better at your job. No one wants to visit a winery and talk to someone who seems ambivalent and unaware of the community around them. We want to imagine you all meet up and have dinner parties in the vineyards!

    1. Thank you for those words -- we DO function very much as a community, and really do meet up and have parties in the vineyard, so I guess we're pretty authentic in that regards! So my Meyers-Briggs comes up INFJ every time I have taken it, from high school on. I THINK I've changed each time I take it, but it always comes back exactly the same so I'm definitely the same deep-down I suppose. But if yours keeps coming up ENFJ, you might be an extrovert on the cusp of introversion -- just one or two answers to certain questions could probably shift the balance. Maybe you are right in the middle of the two. (probably a healthy thing!)

  2. I have the same conflicts of when I retire. I generally don't like people & my husband definite doesn't like the 'public' (meaning retail a-holes). We are both ready to be our only, except for the occasional cousin, companions for days on end. Our goal is to 'dress up & go to town' once a quarter. Wonder if we'll loose our 'social' skills from being isolated for 3 months?

    1. That is a tough question to answer. I always thought of myself as wanting isolation until several months after we moved here, when I realized that while I did like my alone time, I was also missing a sense of community and having some social activities. I think when you first retire, a period of slowing down and even isolation is good -- you need to decompress, but then after that you realize you'd like some contact with like-minded folk. Just not the annoying types you had to deal with most of your working life lol.