Q: I am not the type of friend you ask out to dinner. I am the type of friend whose call you sometimes answer and whose invitation you accept, when I make it.
As I approach 50, I can see this very clearly. I have a handful of "friends" but for whatever reason, I don't often make it to the top of anyone's list. I'm an afterthought, I'm a filler. I'm about to give up and accept my lot in life: I'll always be lonely unless I constantly do the legwork, call again, make another invitation, etc.
All of this makes me sad. I "should" focus on the positive — if I make a lot of effort, I have an almost decent social life. But I'd much rather my phone ring, rather than leaving another round of messages, hoping one of my few friends will have a cancellation this week.
My therapist tells me I'm making myself unhappy by focusing on the process (always initiating contact) not the results (that I do get out some). Should I accept my fate in life and enjoy the results, despite the fact that the process exhausts me and makes me question my friendships?
A: I suspect there's something less Darwinian at work, for example, that the people in your life are not terribly proactive.
I also believe that loneliness in general is epidemic. What you describe is so binary and it's increasingly what social lives look like now, when there used to be more of a community element to them.
I agree with your therapist on approaching the call-and-make-plans aspect of socializing, but also think you should expand your efforts to introduce some form of community to your life.
All of the ways you choose to live can be opportunities to circulate, if you make them. The exercise class you go to regularly will make you a familiar face to others there. The place you volunteer regularly will, in time, host pleasant exchanges about how everyone's week was, etc. Choose places that align naturally with your interests, and it'll just be an effort to live a full life, versus fill a particular void.