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There is this quote by Paul Tillich, the existentialist philosopher and theologian:  “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

It’s an interesting quote and for me, in my 7th year of being a widow after an incredibly close marriage, I am finding there is certainly a difference between the two states.  I can not say that loneliness is never a companion.  It is, especially when I summon up the courage and take a tour by myself with strangers, many of whom are couples.  My husband is not there to sit next to me on the bus or hold my hand in a museum or on a walk along the rim of the Grand Canyon.  The loneliness then is profound.  And while I have made some dear friends on these same tours, I acutely feel the absence of my husband, who was my favorite travel companion.

But I am learning to appreciate solitude and even to discover that I can fully enjoy myself on solitary visits to a museum, a movie (especially with a bag of popcorn), a play (primarily if it’s a matinee when there are likely to be fewer couples) or a walk in the park.

I have family and numerous friends in New York City.    I have been taking classes and belong to The Transition Network, a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 600 women over 50 in New York City who are learning how to enjoy growing older through peer groups, special interest groups, lectures and group activities (  In short, my schedule is usually pretty full with activities involving other people.  Except when it’s not.  And then I have to decide if I am in a state of loneliness or solitude.

I find it’s much better to celebrate solitude than wallow in loneliness and towards that end, I try to make a point of doing something that I know I’ll enjoy doing –seeing a particular movie, going for a walk in Riverside Park when the sun is getting low in the sky with an iPod playing my favorite music, finding a particular museum exhibit I know I’ll enjoy.  I think you get the general idea.  In short,  I am learning to enjoy the times when I am my own company.



TTN group

Not long after I moved to Manhattan about 3 years ago, I joined The Transition Network, a national organization of women with chapters all over the country for women over 50 years old ( Its primary purpose is to offer women “in transition” (from widowhood, divorce, a change of jobs, retirement, a move, etc.) a way to meet other women through peer groups or special interest groups created around a shared interest.

I am a member of several peer groups now and have met quite a few women (many are widows as well). Our groups typically meet in one or another person’s apartment in the evening for 2 hours for appetizers or dinner and wine. We talk about topics that are either proposed growing out of current events or seem to come spontaneously from the fact that as women we are encountering some similar experiences growing older in New York City. Some of us also get together ay other times to go out for dinner, the movies, the theater, opera or just to take walks in Central Park on nice afternoons to collect our wits.  Not everyone I’ve met will be my BFF, but I can appreciate that everyone is an interesting person and I try hard to be tolerant of eccentricities.

The prevailing wisdom about aging is that we need social contact to age both gracefully and with a degree of contentment. I know TTN has chapters in many cities throughout the USA and also has a relatively modest membership given the enormous benefit they offer. I would check them out.