Alone

It’s always amazed me that it is so difficult in this world to forge lasting relationships, but it is so very easy to wind up alone.

Lasting relationships require hours upon hours upon hours of getting to know someone. They require regular, consistent contact. They require honesty and commitment. They require the ability to apologize and admit when you’re wrong about something. They require sacrifices of time, effort, and sometimes even money. And they have to be constantly maintained.

Losing relationships, however, is a relatively simple thing to do. Just insult someone, directly or indirectly. Just miss your monthly or weekly lunch date a few times. Just get busy enough with work or kids or other obligations that you stop going out as much. Just don’t use the phone as often or email anyone or leave comments or messages on social media.

beach-fog-figure-1-ls-120120527_1721Imagine a scenario in which you’re walking with a large group of people. Suddenly, you all begin to enter a deep, thick fog. You’re aware of where everyone else is as you step inside, but you gradually begin to lose sight of them, one by one. Soon, you’ve made your way deep into the heart of the area, and you can’t see anyone. Even worse, none of them can see you either. You’re isolated, lost, and you don’t know how to get back to where you started from.

This is what seasons of feeling alone seem like to me. I know at one point I was in a place where I had plenty of good, reliable relationships. Then things start to get busy. Or I start to feel my depression a little bit more. Or my friends start to fade away a little. It’s not rare in these times for me to look around and ask, “Where did everybody go? What happened?”.

I believe these seasons are fairly natural for all of us. We all experience times when it seems we’re adrift on an island somewhere. Some people, however, are better equipped to handle these times than others. Confident people easily realize that their lives will eventually return to a normal social pattern, either with the relationships they had before or with new ones.

Those with depression or anxiety, though, often struggle through these seasons. We don’t understand where everyone went, and we’re not brave enough to reach out and ask anyone what happened. We’re not confident in ourselves or our ability to forge new relationships, so we become afraid things will always be this way, even though somewhere in the backs of our minds we know they won’t be. We fiercely try to hang on to any relationship we do have, because we dread those times when it feels as if no one is there.

Perhaps the worst part of feeling so alone for someone with depression is that we are simultaneously angry at the people we feel abandoned us and at ourselves for not reaching out more to avoid feeling so alone in the first place. So, a lot of the time, we just stew. It’s an anger that’s difficult to explain. It’s like attempting to punch your way out of a box you sealed yourself up inside. And there is still that part of you that sort of likes being alone and tries to convince you it’s really not that bad, even though you’re suffocating emotionally.

Strong people, this is when your depressed friends need you most. Invite them over to your house. Go see a movie with them. Meet them at a Starbucks for coffee. Randomly call or text them during the day. If you think they’ve been avoiding you, well, maybe they have been, but it hasn’t always been because they didn’t want to see you. They may have just not had the strength to reach out to you.

If any of this sounds hard, it is. The alternative is easy.

Too easy.

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I Do What I Want … Sometimes

I-Do-What-I-Want_Gray_DESIGN_1024x1024I work with a guy who is one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. He has a counseling degree from a Christian university, does his job well, and is always a straight shooter. That’s why it’s so funny when sometimes after being asked to do something he’ll turn and sarcastically quip, “I do what I want.”

Ah, if only life were that easy.

I’ve always been a “supposed to” kind of person. I’ve been borderline obsessive over making exactly the right decision in every situation. As a result, I’ve always played things pretty conservatively. Behave in school, get good grades, go to college, get degree, get job, have family, go to church, drive the speed limit, etc., etc. And those are all good things. But there were also some things along the way I didn’t do. Move away from the area I grew up in, take some time off from college, visit a foreign country, maybe not get a degree, think outside the box. It’s too late for me to do a lot of those things now.

As I pondered this yesterday, I started to get kind of fired up. Why can’t I, at age 40, just docaptain-america-cab-door-300x250 what I want to do? I’ve always tried to stick to the rules, and I have a lot of regrets. Maybe it’s time for me to start sticking my neck out a little more. The more I thought about it, the more intense I became. I felt as if I could rip a car door off its hinges, just like Chris Evans did in the first Captain America movie.

How did I quell this aggression rising up in me? I broke my self-imposed “no Starbucks” rule and bought a decaf caramel macchiato.

What a rebel.

After a day back at work today and a healthy dose of reality, I realized I can’t always do exactly what I want. There has to be a balance in there somewhere. For instance, if my wife needs me to come home and watch the kids so she can run to the grocery store for something but I would rather go play golf (I don’t play golf, by the way. Only example I could think of.), it would be very selfish of me to just not come home. At the same time, though, if I want to homeschool my kids (which my wife and I actually do) in a world where public school is the recommended norm, why can’t I do that?

The “supposed to” mentality manifests itself in a lot of different ways for me. What’s the best shirt to wear today? What should I order at the restaurant? What are the right words to say to this person? What I’m talking about here, though, is something bigger. It’s a life philosophy. It’s deciding what to hold onto and what to let go. It’s deciding when to take a risk and when to play it safe. Most of all, though, it involves me moving out of a comfort zone (Man, I still hate that phrase.) and taking initiative.

And that is definitely not always safe.