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watchingamovielighter

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 (thetransitionnetwork.org).  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.

 

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If you’re reading this and are a person of a certain age, whether widowed, divorced, single or married, the value of friends is a truism.

I’ve written about The Transition Network (TTN) before (thetransitionnetwork.org) but it’s such a valuable organization that it’s worth writing about again.

When I moved to Manhattan almost 4 years ago, I hardly knew anyone. A woman I met in a memoir writing class told me about TTN. I checked out their website, looked at all the activities they support, paid the membership fee of $100 per year and joined.

TTN is a community in NYC of about 600 women (there are chapters in many other cities as well) and includes countless peer groups and “special interest groups” focused around particular member interests.  I’m in 3 peer groups that meet once a month in the apartments of one of the (typically) 8-9 members and we discuss different topics that have some relevance to us as women over 50 living in NYC.  My special interest groups includes one that is called “Travel Mates” (which has a long list of TTN members interested in travel who can be contacted by anyone in the group planning a trip and looking for company) and “Culture Mavens” (which also has a long list of TTN members who can be contacted if you’re looking for someone to join you for a museum, theater or movie excursion, for example).

TTN also includes the option to join The Caring Collaborative, to which I also belong, and which is primarily neighborhood based.  We also meet once a month in someone’s apartment on the Upper West Side and, over wine and appetizers, discuss an interesting topic with some relevance to our lives,  health or well being. Because we are neighborhood-based, the idea is that we are available if any of us need someone to ‘get our back’ in an emergency : a visit to the ER, a trip back home from a colonoscopy, etc. You get the idea.

The drawing shows 12 of our 15 person Caring Collaborative Group meeting recently at my place to discuss the topic: “Who Was the Most Influential Person in Your Life”.  I think we all agreed it was an extremely interesting evening and reminded us all of the importance of social connections as we get older.

 

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I do have to say that, overall, I’m doing pretty well and am very lucky.  I have a wonderful family and many friends.  My family consists of two devoted children, their spouses of whom I’m very fond and with whom I get along well, and 3 incredibly adorable grandchildren.  My friends fall into two categories:   “good friends” to whom I can tell just about anything, and know that they are listening and care.   And other friends with whom I enjoy spending an afternoon or an evening going to movies, the theater or out to dinner.  The women’s organization, TTN, of which I’m a member, has been enormously helpful in creating networks of other women who are widowed (or divorced, or never married).   I’m in pretty good health (so far), and am very active.  I have a small business creating art objects which provides an outlet for my creative energies.  Also,  I’ve been auditing one class each year, and am about to take a class in making art with an artist from a local museum.  I’m very active as a volunteer in trying to raise awareness (and funding) for research to help find a  treatment for PKD, the kidney disease that was responsible for my husband’s death.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t bumps in the road when things aren’t always hunky dory.  The emotional triggers are always situations when I sense my husband’s absence acutely, even 7 years later.  I had one of them recently when I saw a young couple walking down the street, holding hands.  It’s something my husband and I did all the time.  There’s something about walking down a street and holding the hand of someone you love that’s almost magical.  You are two against the world and nothing seems impossible.  Sometimes, I’ve even walked along and held my hand out, expecting, and hoping, it would be grasped. It obviously never is now and that really does make my heart ache.

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The leader of a bereavement group I joined 6 years ago had been widowed 17 years.  At that time, I had been widowed about 3 months. As 15 of us sat in a circle one evening toward the end of our 6 week, once-a-week meeting session at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, she announced that she was no longer sad.  She said the void left by her husband’s death had been filled by many friends and family members.

I listened very skeptically and wondered how that could ever be true for me.  It is slowly coming true.

I have made many new friends in the past 6 years whom I’ve met traveling, in classes and programs I’ve taken, as part of organizations I’ve joined and who are neighbors.  I have also renewed friendships from high school and college which have since deepened as we confront our years as senior citizens.

In an earlier post I mentioned The Transition Network (thetransitionnetwork.org) as being particularly helpful in my effort to fill that large void left by my husband’s death.  The organization functions to help women over 50 deal with life’s transitions, whether they have become widows, or are experiencing a divorce, a job change or a physical move.  There is a chapter in New York City with about 500 women which offers different peer groups and special interest groups.  There are also chapters in other parts of the United States as well.

I am in 4 different peer groups or special interest groups and have become acquainted with about 60-70 women. Among the nicest aspects of these groups is the opportunity to find friends with whom to have lunch or dinner, see a movie, go to the opera or see a play.  I have a theater subscription this fall to see 3 plays that 5 other women are going to as well.  I also have an opera subscription to see 3 operas with another group of women.  And opportunities to go to see a movie or have dinner are plentiful.  One person in a group may send out an email asking if anyone is interested in seeing a particular movie on a particular day.  That almost always results in company.

Tonight, 3 of us from one of my groups are going to see “Grandma” and have dinner afterwards.  It should be a lovely evening and I’m very much looking forward to it.

 

 

 

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 (www.thetransitionnetwork.org). 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.