This is the third installment of (apparently) my annual blog post on the other side of loneliness. The basic idea is that we can be profoundly lonely at some of the best times of our lives. I wrote the first blog after one of my most stressful academic days. I had to do a presentation for the faculty of my school. This presentation included a video clip of me conducting therapy with a couple and rationalizing all my therapeutic interventions witty explanations on what I was trying to accomplish. This was also accompanied by a declaration of my therapeutic orientation and background information. Needless to say, it was the culmination of two years of clinical work and class work and was necessary in order to graduate. I did the presentation and passed with flying colors with some really positive feedback from faculty. It was a great moment. Hence my assertion that sometimes our happiest moments can be our loneliest because we don’t have anyone to share it with. I still think it’s true two years later. Some people say that you can’t miss something you’ve never had. While I disagree, I also think that you miss something in a different way when you have had it at some point and had to give it up. By this same token, having someone there for one occasion will make you appreciative but it could also make you lonelier when it happens again without the presence of said person. I think that loneliness is felt more acutely when you’ve known what it’s like to have someone there. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because you learn how to truly appreciate the times that were the exception to the “rule.”
Selling things has never been one of my favorite activities. Growing up we had a homeschool business. It was supposed to teach us responsibility and how to run a business. The idea was my mother’s. Granted, the business was never something I cared for and I often found that it was more trouble than it was worth. Fast forward to my life after high school. Finishing at age 17 caused me to evaluate my life. I decided to take some time off and enroll at a community college for a few classes before going away to college. During this period of time I decided to get a job. So I found one selling knives. It wasn’t a bad job for people who are naturally a bit more extroverted or have the gift of gab. I had neither. The job involved going to various houses and demonstrating the product and taking orders. While I didn’t care for it, I did sell several thousand dollars worth of knives. It wasn’t a horrible experience but definitely a reminder that selling knives was not my calling in life. Neither was cold calling people asking to come into their homes for a demonstration. But I survived the experience and vowed to never ever sell anything again. As I’ve gotten a little older I’ve come to realize that so much in life depends on the way that you can sell yourself. While you don’t have to be cocky, there’s a way to communicate that you have the knowledge and skillset to complete a task. I think that’s why first impressions are so important. Once that happens, it’s a lot more difficult to challenge perceptions of you that have already been formed by that first impression. I think that’s why it can be good to cultivate the appearance of a calm demeanor. People want a calm person around them because it feels emotionally safe as opposed to someone who is frantic all the time.
I ran into an interesting article the other day about having children. You can read it here. The article specifically addresses some of the reasons why people decide not to have children. I don’t think there are a lot of people who set out to be bad parents but I can understand why it’s a fear. We all know the horror stories of crimes committed by individuals and the focus automatically goes to the parents as people begin to wonder what bad parenting skills created someone who could do “such a thing.” There also aren’t a lot of people who would argue that the world needs more people in it and I think a lot of millennials have taken on the perspective that they don’t want to add to the already existing problem. All in all, I think the article was pretty thought provoking and it made me wonder about the long term ramifications for society.
I ran across this post and thought that I would share it. While I’m not a professional traveler by any means, I’ve traveled alone enough to know that all these tips are helpful. I would even go as far as to suggest that you arrive in a new city in the morning and that you take the time to familiarize yourself with a map before you get on any sort of public transportation. Traveling alone can be a great experience but I think it requires some additional preparation.
This may seem like a rant but it’s really not. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about some prominent couples that we know of. These couples aren’t celebrities or anything but they are fairly well known in certain circles. There’s also an abundance of rumors that their marriage is on the rocks and that they are on the verge of divorce or at least separation. This is partially due to the fact that while all individuals are on social media their spouses is never spoken of and there aren’t any pictures of them together within the last few years. I’m not a social media expert by any means but when you only post selfies and pictures of your children without your spouse I wonder what that means. We all know people who tend to go a bit overboard on social media exposing every single detail about their relationship, what they had to eat, their emotions at any given time, and their thoughts on everything. I’ve witnessed how social media can affect your romantic relationships and I’ve seen couples navigate those grey waters in a variety of ways. Some combine their profiles in an attempt to consolidate friends and provide transparency on all ends. Others give their spouse or significant other their password so that they can check their messages and communications with others. The level of investment in social media varies depending on the person and everyone is entitled to their personal life however I often wonder what is behind the decision to never acknowledge on social media that you’re married. I think that if you are married your spouse should at least be acknowledged. I’m not saying that you have to tag them in every status or talk about them all the time, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to post a picture of the two of you once a year or so. After all, that’s supposed to be one of the most important people in your life. The absence of a spouse from social media is definitely more pronounced when one of the partners is in a position of prominence. You are automatically subject to more scrutiny when you’re in the public eye and that scrutiny also extends to your spouse even if they don’t care for the spotlight. Do everyone a favor and at least be willing to acknowledge them on social media. After all, you picked them.
When I was younger my family used to make yearly excursions to Florida. We would enjoy the sun, shop and go to amusement parks. While I’ve never had a fear of heights, I’ve never liked the idea of falling. One thing about the amusement parks is that when we first arrived I would immediately get a game plan in place that would allow me to experience all the biggest rides in the most time efficient way. I would wait in line for hours with my dad and then listen to the instructions, hop in and then make sure that I was securely strapped in. Without fail, as soon as the roller coaster started ascending the first big hill or drop from the height, I would regret it. I would sit back and watch the sky get closer and closer while the people on the ground watching got smaller and smaller. We would creep to the top of the seemingly endless hill and then the coaster would stop for a few moments. The view from the top was gorgeous. You could always see for miles around. It was at this point that my anxiety levels skyrocketed because I realized that there was only one way down. That way did not include a soft and gentle ride to the ground. From the initial drop until the time that the coaster pulled back into the origination point my eyes would be squeezed shut. I would grit my teeth, plant my feed and wish that I had never gotten on the ride. The very minute the ride ended I would be ready to do it again. Life happens whether we like it or not. While we don’t choose to be born, we get to decide to stay alive. The thing about the roller coaster is that we don’t know what’s around the next bend. A quick turn can mean a hill ahead or a drop. There are very high highs and then low (or lower) lows. There are times where you have to grit your teeth and remember that everything isn’t permanent. That while things can change for the worse in the blink of an eye, circumstances can change for the better in that exact same period of time. I think it’s about keeping the end in mind and being able to live with the fact that you did your best and don’t have any regrets. You handled adversity with grace and courage and didn’t let the opinions of others sway you from your goals and purpose. Because life is a roller coaster and we all have to get off at some point.
This week has been one of reflection. It’s not that I don’t usually reflect because that’s definitely not the case. As a classic overanalyzer (probably not a word), I have an abundance of reflecting and planning thoughts at the same time. One thing I remembered today is that I promised someone that I would give them the link to this blog but then I thought about how it could possibly skew their perception and decided to postpone it until a later date. After all, I am searchable and if they really wanted to find out beforehand they could. But I digress. I think I have found the perfect way to not get over jetlag. Travel 8 hours back (in timezones), hop off the plane and then immediately start a 72 hour night shift work week. It’s practically fail proof. I was recently in France for some school obligations and also some fun and I must say that it was a raging success. I definitely should have stayed longer than a week but it was a quick trip. After my wonderful adventure last summer, I wanted to try more international travel this year. Unfortunately this meant that I had to schedule most trips in the last six months of the year but as the year is coming to a close, it’s nice to know that there are a still a few places on my schedule. Outside of my school obligations that included sitting in various seminars during the day, I had the chance to explore some of Paris with a few friends who I (ironically) met in Spain. The fact that I was in the city last summer was nice because I had the chance to enjoy the experience a bit more without the need to take a picture of every single thing related to French culture or food. The weather was absolutely perfect the entire time I was there and the food was exquisite. One very nice thing about the trip was that I actually had the opportunity to relax. For the longest time I thought that I just couldn’t relax but I discovered that I just have to go overseas to do it (go figure). The combination of good conversation, good wine, great friends, and an environment thousands of miles away from obligations was a wonderful experience and was just what the doctor ordered. I haven’t been that relaxed in years. Aside from one other thing, the highlight of my experience was traveling to Normandy and seeing some of the historic sites from WWII. We went to the American Cemetery and it was so sobering to see all the white crosses lined up of people who died at such a young age fighting to liberate a country that wasn’t their own. It felt overwhelming to think of all the parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles who had tearful goodbyes to their loved one who they would never see again because they died halfway across the world. Needless to say, seeing the beaches and the plaques and the American flags flying high was pretty thought provoking and reminded me of all the things that I sometimes take for granted. Driving on narrow roads and seeing the beautiful countryside was also memorable. It was the best trip I’ve taken this year and well worth the jet lag and sleepless nights. Can’t wait to go somewhere else.
This particular song has grown to be one of my favorites. Ledisi is an amazing artist with a voice that is so unique that you have to take notice. As with many songs, I associate this one with a particular experience. This song brings back memories of a road trip I did not too long after I moved to the West. I had lunch with a friend who convinced me to check on another friend who I had not seen in a long time. It was something that I was reluctant to do but had positive results. After that I traveled back to my parents house and hopped in the van for the road trip to Michigan. This song was on repeat almost the entire trip as my dad refused to give up the wheel and drove the entire night. It’s a song that I think is a classic. The lyrics show a level of transparency that is missing from a lot of the music today.
Lately I’ve been seeing numerous posts by various people I know on social media. The posts all have a common thread of being willing to walk away from friends or something distracting in order to experience progress. Now, to be honest, I think that’s a great concept and it’s applicable to a lot of situations. I sometimes find myself repeating that same sentiment as I work with people who have made unsafe decisions because of the influences of others. In my lifetime I’ve walked away from a good amount of things. While the results weren’t catastrophic or anything, it was rarely an easy decision to make. Jobs have always been pretty easy for me to walk away from. Or maybe I should say job offers. It’s another thing entirely when you voluntarily give up a job without knowing when the next one will come along (not recommended by the way). One of the hardest things I think I’ve walked away from is the hope of a future with an individual I have felt I’m compatible with. We all know that relationships are a two way street and if one person is disengaged it’s not going to work. You can’t love someone into loving you back–no matter how hard you try. It doesn’t work that way. Luckily in my situation walking away has also included physical distance so while it’s hard, it’s also something that I’m not reminded of on a regular basis. This helps with the discomfort that often accompanies putting a dream to rest. Sometimes this realization causes you to make the decision that walking away is better than wasting your time. I’ve learned that the human heart likes to hope against hope but that sometimes it’s a futile effort. A waste of time. So much emotional health depends on the ability to identify these situations and learn how to walk away. I haven’t mastered it all the way but I will say that walking away in those type of circumstances doesn’t get easier. In fact, in some cases it gets harder because you invest more time and energy into something that will never be. It’s a disappointment and a letdown. But it’s better than hanging out like a pitiful puppy hoping that something will come along and change the situation. That’s futile.