Stop ignoring your friends. It's bad for your health. - Joubert Syndrome & Related Disorders Foundation
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By Chuck Soder

A Song for the Lonely

Anyone else feel like they’re slowly turning into a hermit?

Of course, even if you are, you may not have noticed. I didn’t truly grasp that it was happening to me until last year, when I read this column from The Boston Globe.

I realized I had already started down the long road to becoming an old guy with no friends. Or at least no really good ones.

Could that really happen? I mean, I do have friends. I just don’t … see them very often. That’s bad for friendships. And for my health.

Turns out, men in particular are pretty bad at forming and maintaining friendships after they’re no longer in school. They don’t form many new, close friendships, and they often let old friends slowly drift away. Why? They focus on their families and their jobs. Their friends do the exact same thing. And after a while they’re not really friends anymore.

Reading that Boston Globe column scared me.

For one, it contains some frightening statistics about how socially isolated people tend to die earlier. And not only am I in the same situation as the author (guy heading toward middle age, raising children), but I have a daughter with Joubert Syndrome, giving me yet another excuse to stay home at night, every night. Why go to the trouble of trying to get a few friends to carve out time on their busy schedules when I’ve got a very needy daughter at home (not to mention a son who’s also pretty needy)? Why spend money on a babysitter, someone who may not understand my daughter’s needs? And though my wife is always willing to watch the kids every now and then, so long as I do the same for her, why add to her already heavy workload?

We JS parents – men and women – face huge demands at home. So that’s why I strongly encourage you all to read the column. While we men have a few traits that make us especially susceptible to loneliness (we don’t like talking on the phone, we don’t form book clubs, we have a harder time bonding in the first place, etc.), I imagine that many of you JS moms feel the same way I do.

Of course, I know I can’t get all of you to read the entire article (which is highly entertaining). So here’s the advice the author gives at the end: If you never see your friends, schedule a regular time to hang out with them. Once a week. Once a month. Once a quarter. Something.

It’s not easy. Last spring I tried it with a few friends who I “regularly” get together with to play a nerdy board game called Settlers of Catan. I put “regularly” in quotes because, at the time, we’d gone almost a year without playing. We all said we’d try to get together at the end of every month, but we didn’t even come close to meeting that goal. Maybe that commitment was too hard to meet or too vague. So I’m going to try again. Perhaps this time we can come up with a more specific schedule that works for everyone.

Hate board games? Start a poker night or a bowling night. Join a softball team. Any excuse to see friends in an environment that doesn’t involve children and/or a potluck dinner.

It could even be your New Year’s resolution. Sure beats going to the gym.

Chuck Soder JSRDF







Image credit: A Song for the Lonely by Stefano Corso, on Flickr


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