Hissy Fit - February 2019

Love Thy Neighbor: It’s Good for You

February 2019 Issue

It’s February, and I’m still feeling guilty for not taking some cookies or a pie to my neighbors over the holidays. However, I should also feel guilty about not even knowing some of my neighbors. In my defense, I’ve only lived here 17 years. Lame, right? But being social goes both ways. I didn’t receive any cookies or a pie from them either.

That’s not the point.

This kind of thinking helps no one, and two wrongs don’t make a right. I take full responsibility. After all, I am healthy enough to walk over to say hi, and I’m not shy. There is no excuse for me not to know my immediate neighbors’ names and recognize them in the grocery store. What’s even worse, I know many of their dog’s names—Cinnamon, Buddy, Bell, Lola, Cowboy.

To my good fortune, I do know—and interact— with the neighbors directly beside me…on one side. They’ve lived here longer than me. We actually borrow sugar and eggs from each other and take care of each other’s pets occasionally. I can count on them for help when I need it, and they truly are a blessing. Plus, they got a golden doodle puppy for Christmas, and now I want to borrow eggs every day just to get a puppy kiss, along with a tiny whiff of puppy breath.

One positive thing about the devastation of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 is all of my neighbors interacted with each other. Some came in my home—albeit destroyed— for the first time ever. Most have never been back. I enjoyed the camaraderie the powerful winds of Matthew blew in while it lasted. Now everything is back to normal, and we are all snug in our own homes, garages down, front lights off, and not checking on—or acknowledging—each other anymore.

It’s not anyone’s fault. It is the way of the world now. We have the most conveniences we’ve ever had, and yet, we, as a society, are the busiest we’ve ever been. Perhaps busy isn’t the word. Consumed. We, as a society, are the most consumed we’ve ever been, and it’s taking a toll. People are losing face-to-face connection at an alarming rate. Service organizations are down in membership.
Voluntarism is reducing. Less people attend church. More people are divorcing. Less people are entertaining in their homes, and most don’t have any interaction with their neighbors.

There are many reasons for these trends, but let’s just focus on the solution: Including people in your life again—real people!  Social isolation is a hazard to both physical and mental well-being. Humans are wired for companionship; basically, human connection is the heart of human well-being.

Various studies have shown social isolation contributes to increased risk of heart disease, suicide, stroke, cognitive decline, sleep disruptions, stress, premature death, and this list doesn’t even touch the emotional sadness and hopelessness that can accompany social isolation.

Other important factors that decline with social isolation are fun, joy, a sense of belonging, purpose, happiness, peace, comfort and a sense of security—in essence the key ingredients of well-being. The good news is re-connecting with people is easy and free, in most cases. My parents always told me, “You get out of something, what you put into it.” In other words, good effort equals good results. This is your year to put forth good effort to reconnect with real people and start living a real good life.

Make it a goal to meet and interact with at least one new person this month. If you don’t know your neighbors, go meet them this week. Remember how you felt when you were growing up and your neighbors were your closest friends? It felt great! Don’t you want that back?

Here are a few suggestions to conquer social isolation. Maybe one will inspire you to get out there and feel connected again:

Join a club:
There are so many clubs in the Lowcountry in which to get involved. I am a longstanding member of Hilton Head Island International Toastmasters, and I have met many of my best friends through this club. Find an organization that suits your interests, whether it be crafts, choir, acting, service, nature, charity, fraternal, religious, travel—whatever brings you joy and piques your interest. Find your tribe and become a member.

Get creative:
After the death of author Pat Conroy, I started a book club to study his works. I stated my intentions on Facebook, asking who would like to join me. From that, a group of 11 ladies expressed interest, and we studied Pat Conroy together for 14 months. Of course we all became friends in the process, and now we have moved on from books to art, meeting once a month with an art teacher to create fun projects. Think about what you want to do, and then find those who will do it with you!

Have a dinner party or standing lunch: My mother is in her upper 80s, and I have encouraged her to have a standing weekly lunch with one of my cousins, who live in the same town as her, or her friends. Mom is shy and feels she isn’t a good conversationalist, so she hasn’t done it yet. However, any time one of them comes to visit her, she loves it. My idea is for her to pick a day of the week to go out for lunch, get out her calendar, call each one, and start booking them a month at a time. Another suggestion is to have a monthly dinner party. These can be so fun because it takes away social isolation from the moment you begin planning.

Join an exercise class/tennis team/golf group/Bridge group: I have made friends in all these types of groups except for Bridge. (I haven’t learned to play Bridge, yet; it’s a time-honored social game/experience I don’t want to see go by the wayside.) There is nothing like finding an activity you enjoy and then doing it with others who enjoy it, too. This formula for combatting social isolation makes as much sense as 1+1=2. It’s just that easy.

Put a flyer in your neighbors’ paper boxes, inviting them over for a social: The first house I lived in as a newlywed had a large, wrap-around, front porch. We would host lemonade socials on the porch on occasional Sunday afternoons. (Writing about this reminds me of how idyllic I was back then.) The neighbors would drop by, and we would catch up on what was going on with everybody. We always knew if someone was sick, or going out of town. It created a bond and a trust. It has been proven that neighborhoods tend to be safer when neighbors know each other.

Be a friend: It takes being a friend to have a friend. Be prepared when you introduce yourself to your neighbors. Have your name, address, and phone number printed so you can leave it behind. People remember names when they see them in print, and they can keep your info handy. Be sure to smile, and don’t complain.

Come to a Pink Partini: Have you ever been to a Pink Partini? It’s a great place to meet new friends! I can’t tell you how many people have met best friends—even future husbands—at the Partini. It’s a fun, friendly environment, where all are welcome. Turn to page 4 to read all about our next Pink Partini. And… be sure to smile, and don’t complain;)