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Festive holiday wreathAs this is the holiday season, I gave some thought as to what might be an appropriate post for “The Healing Project.”  While for many people, this is a joyous time of year, for countless others, it’s a time of stress and despair.

As I am not a particularly religious person (I always call myself “spiritual but not religious”), I have had to give some consideration as to what this time of year represents to me.  In this post, I share some of my personal insights on Christmas and the holiday season and what I consider to be the greatest lesson for this time of year.

It’s the Holidays – Time to Buy!

As Christmas approaches, we start to see the holiday decorations in the stores and television and newspaper ads for gift suggestions and sales.  We are told to show our love for those in our lives by buying them the “perfect gift,” often at a premium price.  Since many people are already strapped for cash in the midst of the recession, the stress induced by the pressure to buy is higher than ever.  We wrestle with questions of who to buy for, what to buy and how much to spend.

We rush out to crowded shopping malls and comb the packed aisles and racks in search of a gift which will either serve to express our love or fulfill an obligation.  Most of us don’t stop to wonder, “Is this what Christmas is all about?”  Religious or not, we can probably all agree that Christmas has been distilled down to a shopping  and buying related event in this country for many people.   If we think about it, we may consider it a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.

No Gifts – Bah Humbug?

In my family and circle of friends, there isn’t much gift-giving that happens anymore.  This started a few years ago with one family member opting out of giving gifts, and like a domino effect, virtually everyone else jumped on the “no gifts” bandwagon.  I now only buy gifts for a few people, although I enjoy spending time around the holidays with a number of others.  I consider it a win-win proposition, as I experience much less stress this time of year yet I still get to enjoy being around the key people in my life. However, without the hubbub of purchasing, wrapping, and sending gifts, I’ve had to give some introspection to the topic of what Christmas means to me.  More on that topic later in this post…

A Thanksgiving “About Face”

On the other hand, for many years, I dreaded Thanksgiving.  As someone with a long history of eating disorders, I didn’t like the association this holiday had with overindulging in fatty food.  I considered Thanksgiving to be a day when I would either have to veer off my Spartan eating plan or be faced with a barrage of questions as to why I wasn’t stuffing my face like everyone else.

I have since changed my perspective on Thanksgiving dramatically and now consider it to be a more authentic occasion than Christmas.  After all, the purpose of Thanksgiving is to simply reflect upon the blessings in your life and express gratitude for all that you’ve been blessed with.  If a person is religious or spiritual, showing appreciation toward God for what he has given you is a part of the occasion, but it also includes the expression of thanks to those in your life who have shown you kindness, respect, and love.

A Beautiful Thanksgiving Gesture…

I received a very touching letter (handwritten at that!) from a friend this Thanksgiving.  In this letter, my friend simply expressed her sincere and heartfelt appreciation for my friendship.  It wasn’t a long letter; in fact, it probably took her less than thirty minutes to write, address, and mail.  Yet this letter is one that I still have on my desk so I can read it every now and then, and it continues to bring tears to my eyes.  It feels so good to know that my presence in this person’s life is meaningful.  This friend doesn’t buy me Christmas presents, but I don’t care.   Her letter meant more to me than any Christmas present ever could.

The True Meaning of the Holidays

I shared the story above because I have decided that the true meaning of the holiday season for me is the message which Thanksgiving represents, gratitude and appreciation.  I’ve decided to not just take one day to reflect upon the blessings in my life, but to consider the true gifts that I’ve been given throughout the entire holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s – and hopefully beyond)!   I believe that most of us don’t take enough time to pause and express thanks for the bounty that exists in our lives.  If we think about it, the majority of us have more blessings in our lives than curses.

The Glass is Half Full

I’ve decided that I’m going to adopt a “glass half full” attitude toward life.  It really is true that whatever it is you are looking for, you are sure to find it.  If you search for what’s missing in your life, a list of the things you lack will be easy to compile.  However, if you take a moment to reflect upon what’s present, you’ll create an even longer list AND you’ll feel much better for it.

Don’t Wait to Appreciate Your Life!

I don’t want to wait until I receive a dire diagnosis or lose someone dear to me to count my blessings.  I especially don’t want to list my blessings in hindsight.  I want to enjoy them in the moment, where they exist each and every day.  So instead of lamenting my lack of significant income, I am grateful for the freedom I have to pursue my interests and passions and to be able to spend the majority of my days doing what I choose to do.  And instead of cursing the wrinkles and gray hairs which now mark my middle-aged visage, I am happy for the wisdom which I’ve amassed through spending 44 years on this planet.

I will not take for granted that I will be blessed with another 44 years or more, as that may not be the case.  The countless tragic stories we hear on the news and experience in our personal circles make it all too clear that we cannot control how much time we have.  In a flash, this miracle of life can be taken away from us.

Fear Not, My Friends…

The uncertainties of life do not have to make us sad or afraid.  If we live in the moment, we can experience joy and gratitude in every breath and in each blessed day.  I am so happy to be alive and I am so grateful for my life, flaws and all!  I appreciate the blessings which I have been given and I vow to carry that appreciation with me as I move forward in life.  As this holiday season progresses, I will strive to make every day Thanksgiving.

Closing Quotes on Appreciation

I close with a few quotes which I feel punctuate my message well:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Hilary Cooper

When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Anthony Robbins

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”  – Meister Eckhart

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus

Related Posts

  • The Practice of Gratitude: It’s been said that the biggest key to happiness is gratitude, and I believe it’s true!  When we are present to all that is wonderful in our lives, it’s difficult to feel depressed and despondent.  In this post, I outline a few simple yet powerful practices to help us stay present to the many blessings in our lives.
  • Missing Tile Syndrome: As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  This post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I present an overview of the concept of the “missing tile syndrome,” as well as the three main ways for dealing with it.
  • Staying Present: A few years ago, I became highly “accident prone.”  A primary reason for this was that my mind was always on what I had to do next, not on what I was doing in the moment. I decided to allow myself more time to get things done and to be more mindful about my actions. This one simple decision has made a significant impact on my life.  This post looks at the dangers in not living in the moment, Louise Hay’s insights on accidents, and how staying present can help us to live richer and more fulfilling lives.
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Gloomy looking womanHave you ever heard of the term, “Debbie Downer”?  This term, based upon a fictional “Saturday Night Live” character, refers to a person who is frequently negative and complaining, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around her.  Sadly, I have to admit that I can be this person at times, and since my name is Debbie, that makes it even worse!

I don’t mean to complain a lot, but there are times when I catch myself spouting out all kinds of negativity.  At least I catch myself more often these days, but I am still dismayed when I realize I am whining and complaining.  My husband gets the worst of it, and this normally very tolerant man has been known to lose his patience with me on occasion.  Yesterday was one of those times, which is what has prompted me to write this post.   I will look at why we complain, when it’s okay, and how to reform our tendency to gripe and moan.

Why We Complain

Why do we complain?  Often it stems from a need to vent our frustration and feel “heard” by others.  We want to be validated for our pain and aggravation, and sometimes we feel better after we get things off our chests.  We’ve all heard the saying, “misery loves company,” and when we complain to others, we often find people jumping on the bandwagon to add their own grievances to the mix.  But do we really feel better when others share in our disgruntled state?

Sometimes we complain because we’re looking for solutions.  In my opinion, that may be the only time when complaining is really okay.  If the person to whom we’re complaining is in a position of power to change the situation, that’s a best-case scenario.  Unfortunately, however, the people to whom we gripe often have no influence over our circumstances and can do little more than helplessly listen to our complaints.  I’ve known some wise souls who have cut habitual whiners off at the pass by simply suggesting, “Why don’t you tell this to someone who can actually do something about it.”  At the very least, that sentiment might make the whiner think twice before complaining to that person the next time around.

People Want to Help

The people who are closest to us want to help us.  They want to see us happy and doing well in life.  If we come to them with a legitimate problem and ask for their help in solving it, they will generally do their best to help us find tangible and reasonable solutions.  However, if we don’t heed their advice and keep coming back to them with the same problem over and over again, they may lose patience with us. We may wear out our welcome with them, no matter how much they love us.

We need to temper our impulse to go to our friends and family with problems on a regular basis.  Our close relationships should be based upon much more than a friendly ear and a shoulder to cry on, although those elements are both desirable and important.   We need to strive for balance in our relationships and ensure that the enjoyable experiences outnumber the trying times as much as possible.  If you think back to your last five encounters with a given loved one and remember complaining to them on more than two occasions, perhaps it’s time to inject a bit more fun into that relationship!  Resolve to either cry on someone else’s shoulder or heed some of the advice you received from a prior confidante.

Taking Advantage?

I often complain too much to my husband because I don’t have many other people in whom to confide.  When I go to him with problems, I feel that I am genuinely looking for solutions, but I have to admit that I often don’t take the good advice he gives me.  I go back to him hoping for different answers instead of first giving one of his useful tips a try.  When I do this, I’m not being fair to him.  I’m taking advantage of his good nature and his love and concern for me. Doesn’t he deserve to have a happy wife instead of one who whines and complains about the same things ad nauseum?

Moral Obligation to Act Happy

Radio talk show host Dennis Prager would say so.  For close to fifteen years, he’s dedicated one of his fifteen weekly broadcast hours to the topic of happiness (he has also written an excellent book on the topic called “Happiness is a Serious Problem”).  Prager asserts that we have a moral obligation to act happy, even when we don’t feel happy.  He believes that happy people make the world a better place while unhappy people contribute to the ills of society.

While one may assume that Prager is advocating inauthenticity with his prescription to act happy, that is far from the truth.  Rather, he values honesty and clarity in interpersonal relationships and believes that we should be open with our intimates about our life challenges.  However, those topics should not dominate our interactions with loved ones by any means.  We owe it to the people who love us to work on cultivating a happy disposition and to overcome our tendency to focus on the negative aspects of life. We should always endeavor to act as happy as possible and we will often be pleasantly surprised to find ourselves feeling more upbeat as a result.

Breaking the Complaining Habit

So how do we break the habit of complaining?  It is helpful to consider the distinction between actions and reactions here.  Often we simply react to situations in our lives without any consideration.  This is the proverbial stimulus-response chain which is cultivated through social conditioning, much like the salivation of Pavlov’s dog upon hearing a bell ring.   But there is another way!

As human beings, we can and should involve our powerful intellect instead of merely acting upon instinct.  It is helpful to take a breath and pause before responding.  During this brief time-out, it is helpful to consider the following related to complaining:

  • Is the person to whom I’m speaking in a position of power to change the situation?
  • Is what I’m about to say constructive?
  • What type of response am I looking for here?  Do I want advice, or am I merely looking to get something off my chest?
  • What is the ultimate result I’m wanting in this situation?

If you simply want to “vent,” I suggest that you either write in a journal about your feelings or set a time limit for your complaining (e.g. “I can vent for 5 minutes, and then I will work on solutions”).  If what you are considering saying will not be constructive, perhaps you should consider not verbalizing it at all.  It’s entirely possible that both you and your companion would be better served by conversing on a more pleasant topic!

Remember the “Law of Attraction”

In closing, it is helpful to remember the Law of Attraction in regards to complaining.  Simply stated, this “law” states that like attracts like.  In other words, when we focus upon something, we attract more of it into our lives.  Focusing on the negative will only serve to attract more negative, and none of us want that!  Instead of looking at what’s wrong or lacking, I suggest you heed the advice given by Michael Losier in “Law of Attraction.”  Ask yourself, “So what do I want?” Then focus on what you need to do to create that result.  Easier said than done, it’s true, but much more productive and sanity-producing than complaining!

Related Posts:

  • Key Principles – Part 1: This post summarizes some of the key philosophies of Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life,” the book which is the foundation for The Healing Project.   Among the principles examined is “we are each responsible for our own experiences” and “every thought we think is creating our future.”
  • Missing Tile Syndrome:   As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  This post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I present an overview of the concept of the “missing tile syndrome,” as well as the three main ways for dealing with it.
  • The Decision: This post outlines a life-changing decision I made in August 2009.  Prior to that decision, I had become increasingly fearful, negative, and pessimistic.  I wrestled with many issues and was worrying my life away.  What I decided was something I knew before, but not “in my bones.”  I get to choose how to approach my life and how things will affect me.  I set the powerful intention to live in the moment and face life with a positive attitude.

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God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Woman Among Lit Votive CandlesThe passage above is called the Serenity Prayer. It is used frequently in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step recovery programs.  It is simple yet extremely powerful.  I believe that if one fully embraces and lives in tune with the words of this prayer, he or she will live a much more peaceful and happy life.

I dedicate this week’s post to the discussion of the Serenity Prayer, as I feel it is integral to my healing project and the healing of all those who have things in their lives they wish weren’t “so.”  That pretty much describes all of us, now doesn’t it?

Can We Save Another?

There is a person I care about who is engaging in very self-destructive behavior and who is greatly endangering her health by her actions.  It is very difficult for me to see this person hurt herself the way she does, especially since she has experienced several periods of recovery that I’d hoped would be permanent.

Over the years, I’ve tried to help this person in a multitude of ways, and I continue to ruminate upon what I could do now to assist her in overcoming her internal demons.  In truth, I vacillate between wracking my brain to determine how I can help her and being so angry at her that I feel like just leaving her to the demise she seems so hell-bent upon bringing about.

The Serenity Prayer in Action

In recent days, I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to deciding what, if anything, I can do to help this person who is very dear to me.  It was during this time that I was reminded of the Serenity Prayer.  As I repeated the simple prayer internally, I was struck with a realization.  This person and her self-destructive behavior fall under the category of “things I cannot change.”

Sadly, we cannot change other people; we can only change ourselves and our reactions to other people. Deep down, I know this and have known it for many years.  However, I find it extremely difficult to accept the cold, hard truth that I do not have the power to change another human being.  Yet, if I am to achieve the level of inner peace which I so intently seek, I must accept this reality.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

The most powerful part of the Serenity Prayer is the last part – “the wisdom to know the difference.” As someone who has long been a “control freak,” I tend to think I have the power to change anything in my life that I do not like.   This belief has led me to a great deal of pain and misery.

I’ve tried to “fix” a number of people over the years – friends, family members, significant others.  Yet the truth is that there is only one person I can control or fix, and that’s myself. While it’s true that we can influence others, they have to change themselves; we cannot do it for them.

Serenity and Courage

In my current situation, now that I have the wisdom to know that I cannot change this other person, I must turn to the other two parts of the Serenity Prayer.  I must seek and pray for the serenity to accept that I cannot change another, and I must have the courage to change the way in which I interact with this person. I must stop trying to change her and do my best to love her as she is.

Yes, I feel sad that she hurts herself the way she does, but in spite of that sad truth, she has many wonderful qualities that I can love and appreciate.  I must adopt a “glass half-full” attitude and appreciate what’s right instead of lamenting upon what’s wrong. I must release my anger toward this person for her behavior and at myself for not being able to help her.

The Power of the Human Spirit

If this person decides to change, I will be there for her as I have been in the past.  I will think positively and believe in her capacity to change, as I always have.  I genuinely do believe in the power of the human spirit and the capacity for people to change at any phase of life. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.  I would have given up on myself a long time ago, because God knows I have stumbled and struggled with the same issues many times over the years.  Yet I have not given up, and I will never give up, as long as there is breath in my body.

Just as I have not given up on myself, I will not give up on my self-destructive loved one. I may have to distance myself from her at times, as it is difficult to see someone you love hurt themselves, but I won’t lose hope that she can and will change.

Still Seeking Serenity…

I do not yet fully have the serenity to accept that I cannot change others who are harming themselves. Even as I write this, I find myself wondering if maybe this thing or that thing might help steer the person I mentioned onto a more life-affirming course.  But I am on my own path of healing, and part of my healing involves letting go of believing I can mold others to my will.

I need to focus on myself and my own path and heal the things in my own life that are off balance.  I can be an inspiration and an example for others, but I cannot make them change. I am reminded of a line from the transformational passage by Marianne Williamson, “My Deepest Fear…” (the full passage may be read here):

As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Hope and Healing

A large part of my blogging about my healing project is that I hope to help others to heal their lives as I heal mine.  I hope that the concepts I write about and the insights I reveal will produce resonance in my readers and help them on their own journeys. It has been liberating for me, a generally private person, to share intimate thoughts with the world (I say the world because you never know who will find you on the Internet).  Letting go of my intense worries of the scrutiny of others has helped me to come more into my own as a person and embrace the specialness of who I am.

I am sad, but I remain hopeful.  I move forward with courage to continue my healing project and to allow others to be on the paths of their choosing, whether positive or negative. I know I cannot chart the course for anyone besides myself, so I will continue to navigate my own “vessel” and let others do the same.  As I do so, I continue to pray for serenity, courage, and wisdom… each and every day.

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White dove flying in the cloudsFifteen years ago, one of my closest friends committed suicide at the age of 32. The day on which I found out was absolutely and unequivocally the worst day of my life.  Time seemed to stop and I felt shocked, sad, and numb all at the same time. I cried and cried until there were no tears left in my body and I felt a depth of pain that I didn’t even know was possible to experience.

Time Heals All Wounds – Or Does It?

The tears and the sadness lasted for a long, long time, but I gradually moved past the depth of my pain and was increasingly able to take comfort in my happy memories of a person whom I felt blessed to have known.  Although I don’t know if one is ever completely “over” a loss of a loved one, I thought that I had mostly moved on after the passage of so much time.  As the old saying goes, “time heals all wounds.”  Or does it?  Surprisingly, I recently realized that I may still have quite a bit of grieving and healing to do over the loss of my dear friend.

When going through boxes in our storage unit in preparation for our recent move, I came across what I had labeled my “Joe box.” Shortly after his death, I packed away all of the mementos I had of Joe – cards, photos, etc. – because it was just too painful to have to look at them and realize that I would never see my friend again.  I have carried that box with me through a number of moves over the years, but I have never opened it. I didn’t think much about this all those times because I was also carrying countless other mementos and collections with me through my life journey.  It’s only now, when I’m making a concerted effort to downsize and become more of a “minimalist,” that I actually thought about going through my “Joe box.”  Yet, when it came down to it, I couldn’t bring myself to do it…

Exploring the Issues of Loss & Letting Go

My hesitance to revisit my mementos of Joe surprised me and I feel it bears some examination.  For this reason, I will explore the issues of loss and letting go in this post. We have all experienced a number of losses in our lives and they affect us in different ways.  Although death, particularly that which is tragic and unexpected, is likely the most painful of all losses, other types of losses also have a lasting impact on our psyches and our lives.  Included among these are divorce, romantic break-ups, deterioration of friendships, job loss, and financial loss.  Loss is an unavoidable part of life, yet some among us navigate its waters more smoothly than others.

Difficulty in Letting Go…

A friend once told me that I didn’t know how to let go of things and pointed out that I held on to people and things even when they were no longer useful or productive in my life. She was right… I would always try to remain friends with my boyfriends after we broke up and held on to childhood, school, and work friends even when we no longer had much in common.  I would keep cards, letters, articles, notebooks, and journals from throughout my lifespan such that these items filled countless boxes in my various homes and apartments.  My closets would be stuffed with clothes, some of which I hadn’t worn in years, on the off chance that I might want to wear them again one day.  The stuff continued to pile up and I didn’t even question it until recently.

My “Stuff” is Affecting My Health

When I look at my laundry list of health complaints in “You Can Heal Your Life” and examine the probable causes outlined by Louise Hay, I see strikingly similar statements over and over again:

  • Holding on to old ideas.
  • Fear of letting go.
  • A refusal to change.
  • Stuck in the past.
  • Fear of going forward.

In fact, the probable cause specified for ALL chronic diseases is “A refusal to change. Fear of the future.  Not feeling safe.” Since at least a few of my ailments may be classified as chronic, it appears that my inability to let go of the past and move forward courageously into the future is adversely affecting my health. As I’ve failed to get the message of my long-standing health issues, new ones have cropped up to capture my attention.

Clearing Out the Backlog

I didn’t really think I was stuck in the past or holding on to old ideas, but I when I was confronted with all of the stuff in our storage unit, I could no longer deny it! Of course, the physical backlog of “junk” that I’ve been carrying around for many years is not the only build up I need to address, but it’s a start!

Change can occur in any or a combination of the dimensions of our life experience:  physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. I have chosen to start with the physical in going through all of my stuff and letting go of that which I no longer need.  In doing so, I have begun to free up energy which had been tied up in holding on to so many items from the past. The storage unit is almost cleaned out and we will soon be relinquishing it completely.   This is a good first step for me in letting go of my past.

Making the Connection

Back to Joe and the issue of loss… I realize that I need to push myself to go through that box. I need to allow myself to do whatever grieving is left to do so I can move forward in my life.  Of course, I do not need to throw everything away or forget a person who meant so much to me.  I can and should always remember him, but I should remember him with joy and a light heart instead of sadness and angst.

Up until a few years ago, I would always feel intense sadness on the anniversary of Joe’s death.  I commented on this to a friend and she said that if I wanted to honor Joe, I should do it on his birthday, not on his “death day.” Wise words from a wise person!

Facing Things Instead of Avoiding Them

I believe it’s important to face things in life instead of avoid them. There are a number of issues from my past that I have been avoiding for years.  Some of them are so buried that I don’t even know or remember what they are, but as I progress with my healing project, I am uncovering different layers of my psyche and addressing whatever accompanying challenges arise. I didn’t realize that I still had grieving to do over Joe, but now that I have unearthed that reality, I must face it head on.

Celebrating a Wonderful Person & A Powerful Bond

I have decided to go through the “Joe box” on what would have been Joe’s 48th birthday this September.  I will celebrate his life and our relationship and remember the close bond that we once shared.  I will revisit the loss of someone so very dear to me, release the sadness of his absence from my present day life, and embrace the powerful truth that he will always live on in my heart and in my memory.

Closing Quote

“I joyfully move on to new levels of experience.  All is well.” – Louise Hay

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Woman Standing Alone on the BeachAbout a month ago, my neighbor of 2.5 years was taken to the hospital in the middle of the afternoon.  He never returned… I since learned that he has terminal brain cancer and is living out his final days in a local hospital.  I had passed him in the hallway many times, but had only uttered a quick “hello” to him before continuing on my way.  I never took the time to get to know him, or vice versa.

I don’t really know any of my neighbors. We pass each other on occasion, sometimes smiling, sometimes nodding, but rarely interrupting our busy schedules to take the time to get to know each other. We all have more important things to do, it seems.

How Many Friends Do We Have?

I have close to 200 Facebook friends, but very few people I can honestly call real friends, and even fewer with whom I connect on a deep level.  We have more and more ways to connect with others through the advances in technology, but the level of connection that is happening is becoming increasingly superficial. All of the technology in the world can’t change the fact that we are growing more and more socially isolated in our society.  Loneliness is becoming the biggest epidemic in our country, even bigger than cancer, AIDS, or heart disease.

No One in Whom to Confide

I’ve wanted to write about the topic of lack of connection for quite some time, but a recent radio broadcast finally spurred me to do it.  I enjoy listening to radio talk show host Dennis Prager’s weekly “Happiness Hour” and caught a “Best Of” presentation from 2006 a few days ago.  This show was based upon a Washington Post report that a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom to confide. In fact, 25% of Americans have no confidants at all!  This is double the number who felt similarly isolated in 1985.

Fewer Connections Now Than in 1985

Of those people who do have close confidants, the number has dwindled from an average of three people in 1985 to only two people in 2004.  For many people, their spouse is the only person in whom they confide. This makes them increasingly vulnerable should they face difficulties in that key relationship or should their spouse become ill or die.

I learned that I am not alone in not having relationships with my neighbors.  Only 8% of those surveyed in the national study on which the Washington Post article was based counted a neighbor among their circle of confidants. It appears that most people aren’t taking the time to get to know their neighbors beyond a casual nod or hello.

I Am Fortunate But…

After listening to Prager’s show and reading the Post article, I realize that I am more fortunate than most in terms of my relationships. Not only can I confide in my husband, but I also have a small group of friends with whom I can share my deep thoughts and concerns.  Still, I battle loneliness on a regular basis and I don’t know what to do about it.

I don’t mind spending time alone. In fact, I am quite comfortable in my own company and I enjoy the freedom and ease of working from home.  It isn’t merely the lack of the physical presence of others that troubles me.  It is the lack of emotional connection with other people that has me feeling isolated and alone. I yearn for the deep and honest communication that I enjoyed so much in my earlier years.

Things Used to Be Different

I recently went through some old boxes in preparation for a local move.  I found a shoebox full of cards and letters which I had received from friends during my teens and twenties.  I realized that I had many deep friendships at that point in my life. The letters were both poignant and meaningful and although I enjoyed reading them again, I was struck by the dearth of such correspondence in the present time.

In the past few years, I went through several significant life crises and found myself with few people in whom I could confide. I do not feel very close to those in my family and I only have a couple of friends to whom I could possibly see myself reaching out. What happened between my twenties and now that has rendered me so isolated?  And more importantly, what can I do about it?

It’s Not Just About Meeting People

It isn’t as simple as just getting out there and meeting new people.  I don’t want more acquaintances… I mentioned the 200 Facebook “friends,” many of whom are actually just mere acquaintances. Of course, you have to walk before you can run and a close friendship is not something that materializes overnight.  It requires time, effort, and at least a moderate level of risk.  One has to put him or herself out there in order to gain closeness with another human being.

I believe that a large reason why people are so isolated is because they don’t allow themselves to be vulnerable with others. They don’t risk sharing their innermost thoughts, for fear of being rejected.  So they remain safe and alone.  This is what I have done…  At some point in the last four or five years, I closed myself off from the world. I did this not only because I feared being hurt, but also because I felt so different from others.  I felt that no one understood me or could possibly understand me, so I stopped trying.

Time To Turn It Around

I am now experiencing the consequences of my actions from all those years ago and I don’t like the way it feels. It’s time to turn it around.  Starting this blog was a big first step in this effort.  At first, my plan was to be completely anonymous in my writing, but my wise husband convinced me otherwise.  He told me that I would find it liberating to be open and honest about myself and my efforts to heal that which is broken about my life.  He was right.

It’s been scary at times, but I have become less concerned about the judgment of others and more accepting of myself and my life journey. I may not tell everyone I know about my blog, but I do broadcast my posts on Facebook, so it’s not exactly private.  Plus, this blog is on the Internet. I accept that anyone and everyone can read my thoughts, come what may.

Next Steps…

It’s time to evaluate my existing relationships and decide upon a course of action. There will be some people to whom I would like to reach out more often.  There will be others for whom the status quo is the best course of action.  Sadly, there may be some relationships which lack any real possibility of increased closeness.  I will also need to make more of an effort to cultivate new relationships. That means getting out there more often to meet new people and taking the risk to forge closer bonds to the precious few with whom I feel emotional resonance.

I may get rejected. I may find that some relationships have run out of steam and need to fall by the wayside.  But I may also deepen some connections and end up feeling less lonely. It’s all part of my healing project.  It’s not just about healing my health, although that is a critical part of my journey.  I must always remember that healing is comprised of body, mind and spirit. My spirit yearns for more connection, so connect I will!

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