These topics that we take coffee breaks over; loneliness, selfishness, God, sleep, medical, these are common enough, no?
The idea at, Friend to Yourself, is that these ideas are all common and in-common. They all start and end with Me.
The irony of loneliness being common enough for books to sell on it! Laugh about it a little. Don’t you want to shout out in the self-help section of the book store, under L’s, “I feel lonely!”? And then you wake up from the zoning-out moment and realize people take turns apparently to peruse. That must be the “why,” in why no one is standing there with you. But what if we just said it. If we told our kids, for example? “I feel lonely.” Someone in the cashier-line who notes your book? “I feel lonely.” What if we told? Someone. We would be kinder to Me than staying quiet. It starts with Me.
Loneliness in company is ironic but not exclusive.
Or take the topic of selfishness.
Self-care is now becoming so politically correct. It’s losing its potency. Comparing self-care with selfishness isn’t even provocative any more. Snore.
But what shall we use to describe the prejudice against us? Even from ourselves to ourselves. Where shame wires in is the button. So as it turns out, I am selfish. I am. But taking care of Me is more than that. Self care is more than selfish care. It is selfless. Ironic. It is different than altruistic. I can’t give what I don’t have. Self-care is homage. Homage to Who made Me. It is worship. It is respect.
Is there anything more disrespectful to those we love than giving them a whole lot of care-giving labor without asking them permission? I love you therefore you get to tk care of me because I never did.
It is freedom. It is power. Self-care is humility.
I am not a just a noun. I am movement. A verb-noun. We can’t get polite about self care. We can’t be PC. Rip the rug out, fall on our knees, and scramble. It is marvelous to move. Self-care is selfish and selfless. Dichotomous but not exclusive.
The distance, the aloofness, the academia with which we mouth, “Selfishness,” as if it were a bobble to teethe over and spit out, mouth again, and let it fall to the dirty floor. As if it weren’t part of us. …If we describe it just right, we can pull it out. A foreign object.
We here at, Friend to Yourself, speak. But we do also. How do these break room topics become more than the words? They all start and end right here, with Me. That is how.
Another coffee room topic we are awkwardly polite with is the “God” word.
I have never been someone who could quote Bible verses. Some mistake this for unfamiliarity and disuse.
Maybe they’re the same ones who think self-care is as proper as saying, “women have rights,” who took “gay” and made “same-sex,” or those who enjoy writing up packets of hospital procedure for admissions but have no idea about sickness.
I’ve been this person one time or another too. The one who handled self-care so much that it lost its shape. Who forgot that the whole point is Me.
It is the disconnect between Me and these as topics; God, selfish-care, loneliness. They are not topics if they are of full use. They are not the same as a travel game. Open up. Play around. Lose a piece. Shelve it. Clean out and send to charity.
Bring something out as sacred, sensitive, vulnerable and personal as loneliness with common frequency, will bring loneliness into company. Ironic but not exclusive. Enough to join the perception of ourselves with our life journey. Freedom.
Each one of these topics is good for a book of their own. But we don’t want to talk about any of those if we lose Me. It’s not functional. It loses context. Discussing marine biology at a bridal show. Interrupting a friend telling you about her soccer goal, with an observation about dark matter at the Exploratorium exhibit. It’s interesting in a state of disconnect only so much as anything is out of context. This is why I think bringing them together and finding the Me in the beginning and end of them is a great way to look at self-care.
Self-Care Tip: Name it. God agrees. :0 (That was forward!) Start and end with Me.
Question: Challenge yourself. Challenge us. What doesn’t start and end with me? Why? Please tell us your story. We need to hear you. Keep on.
Hank had to sing an Italian song for his tests.
His music instructor did not believe that he had been practicing two hours a day. When Hank asked his voice teacher to sign off on those hours, his voice teacher still did not believe him. He had nothing to feel shame about. “Then why did I?” Hank wondered. Card in his hand, signed off, Hank resentfully kicked at the rocks covering the path back to administration.
Looking out over mostly empty hard wooden seating in the music hall, Hank slaughtered the song. Even so, it was still the best performance he had ever done. His father was there in his stained tie and largeness. His mother in her too many colors, smiled loudly. She was tone deaf. Frank’s shame followed him. He had practiced.
Hank’s older brother dressed in silk shirts, a big gold medallion, a tuft of hair coming out of his barely suppressed neckline. When they prayed, Hank heard these smacking noises, and thought, “Pray for my nausea,” hoping they would stop kissing. His brother always had a girlfriend. The girlfriend was at his recital. There were noises.
Everyone was scared Hank’s brother would marry too early and maybe marry for the wrong reasons. His dad was always like, “Wait, wait!” But with Angie, Dad was like, “Get married now!” Angie was the best in a long line of noisy kissers.
They asked Hank to sing at their wedding. They insisted. His brother, his brother’s girlfriend, his parents – they spoke in harmonics all at once. “Hank! You sing like Sinatra! Don’t worry so much! You should sing!”
In a rented tuxedo, Hank sang. The mike didn’t work. Aunt Augusta told him to sing louder. Aunt Augusta didn’t hear well, even if there was a mike. Hank forgot his words and had to start over. Sweat filled his shirt and he thought about the dry cleaning.
Hank has never had a girlfriend and he is almost twenty-five. Standing in front of all those people without the song lyrics, the only words that came to him were, “I am like a sweaty doorknob.” His brother, facing a battle of his own between his ruffled shirt and his manliness, did not help. Hank thought, “He is probably waiting for prayer so he can start kissing.”
The second year of college, Hank got caught with pornography. “Hank!” His mother pulled his ear, towing him while she shook the fisted magazine through the house. He didn’t listen to her words. He only listened to his memories asking his music instructor for his signature. Was it as bad as the wedding? Talking to Sarah or walking across the campus greens were bad. He fingered his worries like a beaded necklace. He worried a lot. Worry and shame. He wished he could have a girlfriend but thought that was a hopeless cause. Hank was already planning on buying a new magazine before Mom had thrown that one in the garbage.
It is so easy to explain away why Hank is the way he is. We have heard enough to say, his parents, his brother, his isolation, his treatment from teachers. We can use these to say, “Who wouldn’t be anxious, worried, down, and isolated, when going through these experiences?” If we did though, we might miss the generalized anxiety disorder, the medical. Conceptualizing the medical in this way can be so difficult. We could call it, “the un-reasons why” we feel and do what we do. So then we don’t have to deny it. The un-reasons why don’t have to make sense. They are un-reasons, after all. We don’t have to deny them by our inherent need to point at the cause and effect, or explain into uselessness the reason we are this way. We don’t have avoid eye contact just because they can’t be seen.
Hank, like so many of us, is included in the statistics that generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is one of the top reasons why we don’t get intimate with others. The anxiety is distracting. It isolates us. It preoccupies our thoughts. It fills us with self-doubt and develops over time, almost inevitably if not treated, into depression.
Getting by with something as subtle as GAD, or other brain illnesses such as degrees of depression, have potentially devastating effects on what occupies our life-line. The moments that construct the overall devastation may be explained away by one injustice or another, by what are thought to be personality quirks, or simply by neglect of self. But they could be different. The moments, the otherwise same moments, could be different. The same rude, distrustful teacher, the rejection from Sarah, the quiet mike – those moments could have been different with the same guy, different only in his brain health. Brain health makes the sameness different.
As Nancy A. Payne, of New York University (NYU) Silver School of Social Work, wrote about treating brain illness,
“There is tremendous satisfaction gained from facilitating the transition from profound illness to equally profound recovery.”
The life-line takes courage to look at. It takes courage to believe that the effect of our negative thoughts and distorted perceptions could indeed have that pervasively profound effect. It takes courage to consider that medical treatment can likewise, profoundly change our quality of life.
Hank tried to take his life with a rope before we met. I’m so glad he didn’t break his neck or die. He is now well treated and his disease is in remission. His life-line has changed.
Questions: What are you brave with? What do you spend your courage on? Tell us about it. We gain so much from community and connection. Keep on.
Self-Care Tip: Look also at the un-reasons, at the reasons less apparent, at what isn’t seen – look into those reasons of why we feel and do.
I woke up and thought, I love and am loved. I heard the birds. I recognized different songs. I know “our” birds outside our door. So grateful. The morning noises in the house, kids – This is what I pray about when I pray, “Be between me and thee while we are apart one from another.”
Every day takes us. We go toward and away. We connect and disconnect. What do you hope stays close when you weave your pattern? When you are taken into your day?
It may be a day. It may be education. It may be divorce, bankruptcy, or a change in condos that takes you. It may be as simple as getting a haircut.
As hairstylist Jane said, “I see people come in here all day trying so hard to be unique, and I can’t believe that they don’t see just how un-unique they are.” She was noticing that “unique” implies disconnect. Those of us in this condition may be grooming toward disconnectedness and missing that even the pursuit of this is inherently a connecting force between me and thee.
Let us acknowledge the connections, not fear them.
Back in the day, there was Laban and Jacob, who had shared space for many years. When they separated, they artfully practiced connection.
Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap….And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. And Mizpah (“watchtower”); for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.
Here, many centuries later, we remember our declaration of independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. It is our watchtower of sorts, a time when we celebrate our freedom, beautifully crafted into what brings us together. Freedom is not synonymous with disconnection. It is the ability to choose, to move in and out, to live with boundaries that are made of ribbons rather than walls, to have distance and still remain close to where our heart is.
Questions: What connections over Independence Day weekend are you celebrating? Please speak out. We need to hear you.
Self-Care Tip: Let your uniqueness and freedom be a connecting force in your life. Be a friend to yourself.