Middle Life

I blogged last week about the situation at the horse barn, wherein a critical player–our Barn Manager–is laid up, leaving a lot of work to be temporarily covered by those willing, able, and available. The result has been more time for me at the barn where I’m not riding. I’m mucking, hand-grazing, sweeping, and odd-jobbing. I’m slow at all the manual labor, but one reason to go there is to break a sweat, and any sweat will do.

I’ve always known though, that part of the appeal of riding for me has been its social aspects. Horses are a lifestyle choice, and though my barn acquaintances might be on vastly different political wavelengths, come from faith traditions I’ve never experienced, and work at jobs I can’t wrap my head around, we all get horses. At this barn at least, there’s also a shared value that the welfare of the horse comes first.

Because pandemic limitations are easing, and because we’ve all been on the ground at the barn a little more, I’ve been able to regain a smidgen of the social aspect of riding lately. I’ve gone trail-riding with one lady I know only in passing, had a good talk with another one about our riding histories, and visited briefly with another about our tastes in travel.

As introverted as I am, I need these casual, middling-close relationships, and I’m really glad to see them re-emerging from hibernation in my life. I tell myself that being unable to travel has been a challenge to my creativity, but being unable to shoot the breeze at the barn, unable to gush over somebody’s grand-baby pictures, and unable to hold a friendly exchange with  stranger in the produce section has, I am sure, also taken a toll.

Research tells us that it’s acquaintances, not friends and family, who are more likely to put us onto new jobs, introduce us to our new bestie, help us rethink problematic beliefs, and expose us to new information and perspectives. I have wondered if our political polarization wasn’t made worse because for two years, we were less inclined to chat up the stranger on the subway or even visit with the new neighbor over the back fence. Many of us also didn’t have to go to the office where we overheard small talk in the lunch room, or debated sports loyalties while waiting for a meeting to start.

I am not yet ready to book a month in Scotland, but I am very pleased to have livelier interaction with a broader circle of acquaintances. What about you? Did you miss the chit-chat and office gossip, or would you just as soon keep the social clutter to a minimum? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Yuletide Gems (which for some reason, I keep typing Yuletide Germs).




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16 comments on “Middle Life

  1. Oh, how true. I very much missed the chats I had before and after my Pilates classes, at the office, at my favorite coffeeshop. I never realized how important these connections and conversations are: it is all about finding common ground and sharing the parts of one’s self that thrive in a social setting. I retired last year and found myself really missing these regular, familiar acquaintances. I recently started taking water aerobic classes at a local pool and joined an in person Romance Book club * and feel invigorated.
    * A wonderful independent romance bookshop just opened less than a mile from my house, Meet Cute. They have so many online and in person events. And yes, they have your books on the shelf

  2. I am mostly retired, having left the 9 to 5 workforce involuntarily over 12 years ago when the print shop I worked at reduced staff. Fortunately I picked up the best gig in the world, watching my newborn grandson while Mom & Dad were working. I did that for 4 years, during which time his little sister joined the fray. When they moved too far away to bring the kiddies to my house on their way to work, I became unemployed for real. I traded four years of constant talking and teaching moments for dead silence! It was quite the adjustment. Years later a volunteer job I had turned into a real job and I once again enjoyed the chit chat that occurs while working. Sadly, Covid changed that and I was once again sharing my own company much too often. Now that things have been opening up again, I realize just how isolated we had become. Just a smile and wave when someone I know comes into the office or joins our Fitness class can brighten my day. So, yes, even though I am an introvert, I really missed the daily checking in with acquaintances, oohing and aahing over a new grandchild’s picture, exchanging recipes with a fellow foodie, commiserating with someone experiencing a loss, or just catching up. Those interpersonal relationships are all important even though on the surface they seem to be very shallow. Stay safe. Stay well everyone!

  3. I worked throughout COVID so was able to be someone everyone else could turn to for small-talk during that time when others didn’t have anyone. Now I don’t work for health reasons so I end up talking to folks in stores and looking for ways to help them while I’m shopping.

  4. I should have saved the graphic I saw in a newsletter just last week. It was something to the effect of “I don’t need people. I have books.” And that is so true of me. I don’t miss people particularly. In fact, I did attend my niece’s wedding 2 weeks ago (my partner and I were the only people in masks, with the bride’s permission) and I was happy to leave the 200 people and go back into my shell. I’ve already decided to stay at home again this Thanksgiving because “peopling” wears me out and the rewards aren’t enough to compensate.
    I do take your point, however, about the missed opportunities to interact with people with differing opinions and the chance to show them that we are not the enemy just because we disagree politically. I’m too selfish to make the effort so I appreciate those of you who do.

  5. I’m not very patient with idle chit chat, but I am making a concerted effort to increase the amount I do, to improve happiness! I am an intro set, for sure, and COVID’s shut down was not too hard for me socially. The opening back up is more of a Challenge!

  6. It’s certainly easier to have some social interchange (aka smiles) and chit-chat without the masks (tho the mask is always available in case of a crowded location). I might be nice to get a little more social, but that will probably have to wait for spring.

  7. I will have to say that I truly missed the social interaction at work, but now (I am retired) I have to say I like this… I volunteer for things and go to senior gatherings to hear a speaker, and totally enjoy the company and the activity. Work was more than a little stressful rather often and I don’t. Miss that one bit. As I think about it , I really need my family to feel I don’t know, whole maybe? But the activities with acquaintances are often much lower stress and enjoyable. So what if I say “it depends on the day and on the circumstances” LOL

  8. Yuletide Germs… am hoping to avoid them in spite of events starting before Thanksgiving running straight into New Years. And there many in this neck of the woods who don’t really believe in germs, only every whacked out conspiracy theory you may care to bring up!

  9. I retired several years before the pandemic so I slowly adjusted to a reduced level of chit chat and daily banter amongst work colleages.So it hasn’t been so difficult but I certainly appreciate meeting new faces when out and about.Also recognising old faces around town that have made it through the ordeal.It makes me realise how precious and significant we all are in so many ways.Just a smile or words make a difference to a day that started badly or helped someone’s feeling of loneliness disappear for a moment.Empathy reminds me that I am fortunate and in a good place but many are struggling so need a helping hand,we are in this together and like you Grace helping in the stable when needed is good for all.Be strong and brave and most of all be good to each other,keep safe and well.

  10. Due to mobility issues, I actually became housebound even before the pandemic began. So I think it was less of a blow to me. I am also an introvert, so solitude doesn’t bother me as much as it does some others. For much of my adult life (at least two-thirds) I have lived alone. When I had others living with me, I would become cranky it I didn’t have enough alone time.

    But I found that I do miss the chit-chat that I had with casual acquaintances – folks at church, water exercise class, or even just the interaction with store clerks. I do still chat it up with some of the neighbors when I sit on the porch – but winter is coming so that will end.

    Love your books Grace.

  11. I moved to Florida in May of 2019. In the next nine months I broke my ankle, then my knee, finally my wrist. Then I was laid off from my job. All before COVID hit so I was hibernating before Covid. Didn’t have a chance to make acquaintences, let alone friends. Still haven’t as I work at home. I’m an IT consultant and an author. Your barn community sounds wonderful. And I also think the polarization of our society has contributed to isolation and people not willing to engage with those they don’t already know. I’m taking greater joy in my remote friends.

  12. A woman chatted to me on an elevator the other day and I learned about her cat rescue. I have realized that these smaller chats have been missing! In lock-down times, no chatting on elevators, so it’s starting to emerge again which is great, imho.

  13. I believe you might be right about the isolation because of Covid contributing to the political divisiveness right now. It was much easier for people to only be around those with opinions that reflected theirs. Just like the anonymity of many types of social media makes it easier to say anything without having to be concerned with how other people are hurt by what is said.

    I retired before covid hit so I was no longer getting the day to day chit chat from work and honestly, I am a super introvert so I didn’t miss the day to day that much. I did miss getting together with friends, but we’ve been getting together again this past year.

    I loved Miss Dauntless by the way!

  14. Can you tell me which book features Marcus Tremont previously. I would like to find out more about his back story, please. Lovely story! Hate Harry!

  15. I am purposely trying to add this acquaintance socializing and it is hard. Mostly other people are also struggling to have natural casual conversations but it is going ok all in all, a lot of smiles even if there are some awkward silences too. Trying to build back the skill is one thing and then there is this strange surprise after every positive interaction like I am discovering how satisfying this small interactions are again and again each time. That probably shows that I am so out of practice that I basically forgot both the mechanics and the existance of the skill.