The necessary ingredients for a social life

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, following on from feeling sorry for myself earlier in the week. What does it take to have a viable social life?

  1. People, obviously. People you like and have things in common with and want to spend time with and who do not run away when they see you. (There are many people I like, most of whom do not run away. Many of them do not live in viable travelling distance. Most of the more local folk are very busy already.)
  2. The time and energy to go out and do things with people. (I struggle with this one, especially when the only social stuff is in the evenings.)
  3. The means to go where there are people, or the means to have people visit. (Flat is a bit small for inviting people over, no car, often too tired to walk as transport in the evenings, public transport useless after dark, taxis expensive and difficult to sort in the evenings unless you know in advance when you will be leaving).
  4. Disposable income – for transport, door costs, drinks, appropriate clothing etc. (Not currently a problem but certainly has been in the past).
  5. The concentration to engage socially. (Intermittent and unreliable especially at night).
  6. Being sufficiently not anxious and not depressed to be able to function socially. (Unpredictable, gets worse as I become more tired).
  7. Being able to access and function in the space (not an issue for me, but I know other folk who can’t do stairs, or have other practical considerations that make many venues impossible).

We evolved to be social creatures, but live increasingly isolated lives. I remember what it was like being the parent of a small child and being almost entirely dependent on people coming to me for any social contact at all. I had a much bigger living room then. Almost everything runs on the assumption that you have a car, for those of us who don’t, participation in all manner of things is really tricky. I wonder how many other people are isolated by being too tired, by not having the funds, or are not emotionally together enough to be able to face being where other people are. It’s difficult, showing up to anything when you feel like you have nothing to offer.

A tough recognition for me, this week. I don’t have the energy and the concentration to be very socially engaged. I can’t put enough into the world to be a good person to spend time with. Frequently I am no fun at all to be around. I miss having a tribe of people I’d regularly and reliably spend time with, as was the case back when I was running a folk club, and a moot, and meditation groups and rituals. I don’t have the energy to be that person any more, and there are consequences.

Being able to show up is absolutely key to having a place in a social group. No one can do that for me, and I cannot do it for myself. I need to work on accepting my circumstances and limitations, rather than trying to do things that don’t work, or waiting for some kind of magical solution to turn up. I cannot be sociable. Therefore until or unless something changes within me, I had better get my head round mostly being a hermit.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

14 responses to “The necessary ingredients for a social life

  • Elisabet Regina

    All the above make my friends run away! No one has the convenience of living in the neighborhood or the time. You it on the nose.

  • piesandwich

    It is a bugger. I don’t think I would still even go to Kung Fu any more if it wasn’t for the reassuring nature of a regular social event. Without clubs it all tend to fall by the wayside we are all so fecking busy. For what it’s worth, I’m always very happy to see you! XD

    • Nimue Brown

      Really appreciate that. I realised this week that the only people I reliably see most weeks are you and a certain gentleman in an arts supply store, because I can come and bother you at work. And that doesn’t always feel like the good end of stalking.

  • Pat G

    The internet has been a boon and would appear to address most if not all of your points above. You can regulate the amount and frequency of social contact. I realize it does not replace face to face contact but it allows you to keep a social life on simmer.

    In the meantime, one can gather the physical and mental resources to attend specific events which in turn focuses on which of those events are the most important or most fulfilling – quality over quantity if you will.

    • Nimue Brown

      I’ve been trending that way for a while, although I do experience a big qualitative difference between people I can talk to, and people I can engage with in person. I perhaps need to give this more thought (and thank you for the prompt) but I’m a very in-my-head kind of person – which lends itself to mostly living online, but mostly living online perpetuates all the problems I have with not being ok with myself as a physical presence in the world. There’s something about showing up in person that works differently, when I can get it right. I shall mull this further.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    There is nothing wrong with not being socially engaged if you don’t feel like it. I rarely have been socially engaged in my entire life. Sex was the only thing that made me social. I enjoyed it and the people I was with while doing it. They seemed to enjoy me as well while doing it. Men are funny that way. Most of them were as poor as I was, so normal social situations just were not possible.

    I am not a total hermit, I keep in touch with a few people in various parts of the world and that takes care of most of my social intellectual needs.

    Having a tourist shop causes occasional people to drop in. Fortunately that limits the number of people that make it out this far. I can deal with a hour of people and enjoy it. They see to enjoy me while they are here as well. But I really cannot go anywhere as I cannot walk far and I cannot drive. I rarely leave my property and mostly stay inside. I am glad I don’t live around people, and only have no neighbor.

    • Nimue Brown

      I need to figure out the balance between needful quiet and needful contact. I think ‘more cat time’ may be part of the answer. Cats are people too, and a good deal more mellow.

  • Terra

    I have a phone friend who, like me, has physical problems and isn’t always up to getting out. There are a lot of people with physical problems who don’t get out much, but most of them, like most people, are not on my wavelength. I’m very lucky to have found someone I can talk to.

    I also have an email friend. That’s a newer friend, and I’m not sure it’s working out. Without nonverbal communication, I find it’s hard to understand each other.

    There is something nice about being in the presence of someone. It fills an emptiness in a way that written communication does not. But it’s only good if I like the person. I tend to get overwhelmed by loud, pushy people. Social contact can be draining, and it’s only a small fraction of people I meet that way who turn out to be people I can talk to. It would be nice if there was an easier way.

    • Nimue Brown

      Much I can empathise with here. I’m paying more attention now to the spaces that leave me exhausted, and the encounters that don’t – there are some of the second sort, and that gives me hope.

  • Leeby Geeby

    As one naturally disposed to hermeticism. I have struggled with finding balance in my social life, but then realized I was bonding with people over the wrong things. Beer alone will not do the job. Creative endeavors bind people more meaningfully. So once I took up an instrument my social life changed dramatically. I could be in a group but also carry my hermits cave around me (a cavern of sound) Best of both worlds.

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