Friendships (and other close relationships)


But mostly friendships.  :)

What kind of people do you surround yourself with?  Let’s assume that we’ve already gone through eliminating the truly toxic people in your life.  Let’s look closer at what we have left.

A friend recently posted this quote on Facebook:

‎”Choose to align yourself with people who are like-minded in their search for simplified inspiration. Give those who find fault or who are confrontational a silent blessing and remove yourself from their energy as quickly as possible. Your life is simplified enormously when you don’t have to defend yourself to anyone, and when you receive support rather than criticism.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

The “conversation” that followed her posting of this included someone who felt that the quote was profoundly wrong, because they felt it was “the people who challenge you that you learn the most from, not those who nod along to what your saying with little thought for its meaning.”

But the quote is not telling you to avoid people that challenge or confront you.  It is simply saying that you need to make sure that the people that form your support network and your closest relationships shouldn’t be people that are confrontational and find fault with you.  How will those people support and encourage you?  Where will they be able to provide you with the occasional pat on the back, a shoulder to cry on once in t a while, a hug on a rough day, or a pep talk when you’re down?  They don’t “get” you, so they’re not really in a position to do that.

Does this sound like common sense?

Really?

Take a look at the people closest to you, then.  Do they all fit this bill?  Do they all “get” you?  Not everyone in your life–but the people who are closest to you.  The people that you want to call when something great happens to you.  The people you want to turn to at your happiest moments and your saddest.  Are they people that don’t just comfort you, but truly ENCOURAGE you?  Support you?

Let’s tackle the second aspect of this: what are they taking FROM you?  Regardless of whether you have people that fit this bill or not, let’s talk about what you have to give in this relationship.

I have had, at different times, wonderful friends who were like-minded and totally “got” me.  They were comfortable to be around and I could really just say what I thought and they knew what I meant.  When I was down, they were there.  When I needed to be encouraged they were there.  But for this blessing, I also had to endure their emotional roller coaster rides… and that was REALLY hard for me.  For all that they gave, they took beyond measure.

One of them had to be cut off completely.  The stress and uncertainty of not knowing where she was going to be mentally at any given time was more than I could handle anymore.  And when my plate got full and I was already feeling like I didn’t really know where I fit in my own life, I really couldn’t handle not really knowing whether I had done something to upset her or if she was dealing with her own stuff or what.  I mean, she would eventually share with me in her own time (sometimes, MONTHS after she had gone through it); but in the meantime, I was left in a weird and uncomfortable “suspend” mode.  And I couldn’t really cope with it anymore.

The second one ran hot and cold.  A lot of times, she was the friend I needed.  But there were too many times when she just cut me so deeply that looking back, I really can’t believe we were friends as long as we were; and I question how authentic her support was.  She would encourage and support me through a difficult time so emphatically, but when I was finally through it–she would just viciously attack my decision-making and reactions to what happened.  She didn’t do it WHILE I was struggling.  It was like she saved it all up and battered me with it afterward.  Clearly, she didn’t understand me well enough to understand why I made the decisions I did.  And sometimes, they were things that at her core–she clearly wasn’t going to “get”.  But this happened multiple times.  I think I kept her around because she was such a comfort when I had a hard time that I convinced myself that it was part of the “give and take” of it all.  Then I realized that she really didn’t value me as a friend when she was in need.  She would share with me, but then get annoyed when I was supportive (as if she were looking for someone to “tough love” her into doing something else) and more annoyed when I asked questions to get a better understanding.

Any time is a good time to really re-evaluate the relationships in your life.  You don’t really need a reason.  If you’re worried about being alone, then cultivate new friendships (see my post on Loneliness for some help).  But don’t stay where you’re not getting what you need.

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Addiction–including unrecognized addictions


I think that the word “addiction” conjurs up images of homeless drug addicts and a drunk that loses their job.  That’s sad, because people suffer from all sorts of addictions that are sometimes equally damaging to their lives, but not really recognizable as addictions sometimes.  Some people spend money until they are so far into debt they can’t see the way out–and continue to spend.  Some people spend all of their time at work because it makes them feel like a superhero–to the complete exclusion of anything else in their life.  Some people can’t stop eating despite what it is doing to their health.  Some people gamble.  Some hoard stuff.

At it’s core, addictions are a form of escape.  Do you have an addiction that maybe you’re not recognizing?

I did.

I had a problem with doing genealogy research.  Pre-kids, I was unemployed.  It wasn’t voluntary, either.  I lost a job that was, to this day, the pinnacle of my career; and I had hit that high point just before turning 30 with no degree and no certifications–just track record and word-of-mouth.  I wasn’t very PROUD of that back then.  I mean, I was proud of myself–but just as a general person: I was someone that I could look in the mirror and sleep peacefully at night in good conscience.  But when I look back now, I realize what an achievement that was.

And just before 9/11, I was laid off.  It was the plight of the financial services industry: they began layoffs earlier that year and I made it to May.  I actually had offers to work elsewhere in my former company for similar pay, but I had found a less responsible (lower paying) job near my home and I was just going to “take the summer off” so-to-speak.  I’d look for work in the fall, when consulting work was usually plentiful.

Then 9/11 happened.  And the buildings I worked in were gone.  The people I worked with were gone or scattered or left and never looked back.  Either way, all of my networking was gone.  The job market became flooded with unemployed people and here I was–now trying to work through human resources people that didn’t understand my resume and filtered through the deluge looking for little letters: degrees, certifications, etc.  I didn’t have any.  It used to be that someone knew someone was looking for someone and I was interviewed first and passed to HR afterward.  HR didn’t need to understand my background of knowledge or how to decipher it because it was first checked by the hiring manager that I was handed to.  That wasn’t the case anymore.

Oh… addiction.  Sorry…

I was unemployed for a LONG time.  And to pass the time, I got into genealogy research.  I needed the mental challenge.  I got so good that I was writing articles and teaching classes and spending a ton of time at cemeteries and trying to write a book.

Thing is: I was also married.

But my need to feel like I was accomplishing something overrode all else.  And I couldn’t manage to let go of that “high” to take care of other things.

Sound silly?  Why?  It was something that made me feel good and doing that thing–getting that good feeling–came before a lot of other things that were way more important.  Sorry folks, but that’s an addiction, too.

My extremely long-winded point is that people can be addicted to just about anything.  If something in your life is fulfilling a personal void to the point where it’s also interfering with things that are important, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate what’s going on.  And if you can’t do it yourself, you need to get help.

Help comes in a broad range of forms, and it may take some trial and error to find one that helps you.  For drugs and alcohol, the resources are a little easier to find.  Get to an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting if either applies.  But there are all kinds of “anonymous” organization meetings, including an All Addictions Anonymous for people dealing with ANY addiction (like my genealogy research problem–which isn’t easily covered in a bigger group).  Debtors Anonymous has a site that links out to several other “anonymous” type addiction support groups.

There are also therapists, and in extremely serious situations–inpatient treatment facilities.  All dedicated to helping you get your life back.  It’s not an easy road.  My genealogy addiction pales in comparison to having watched someone very close to me struggle with alcohol and an abusive relationship that made it extremely hard for them to stay sober.  It took a few years, more than one in-patient program, and several court battles regarding the marriage and children caught in the middle.  But it happened.

Take the first step.

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Don’t borrow trouble


My son was born and someone bought us a photograph of the sunrise on the ocean on the morning of his birth.  They asked what I’d like written on the border and I requested:

Matthew 6:34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

I strove to live that way; and I wanted my son to live that way, too.  Where we landed was a whole ‘nother story.

My son had profound developmental problems as an infant.  Therapies and interventions changed his life, but by the time he was in preschool he was too well for serious special education but not quite able to be mainstreamed.  He was in this very strange middle ground that nobody was quite sure how to deal with.  He was too well for the mixed special needs preschool he was in, so we moved him to a private school that prided themselves on individual attention (possible with their low student-teacher ratio) and eclectic learning environment.  My son was asked to leave mid-year when I found out that he was being mishandled and I was being told “he had a bad day”.  When my jaw hit the floor hearing about this at the meeting that would nullify our contract with the school, his arrogant teacher said to me “Well, what did you THINK that meant?!?”.  And I told her.  She was surprised, and the school realized there was a huge disconnect.  We put him in a Montessori after that and at the end of the year, they suggested that they may not be the best place for him.  In the park, he’d had more than one incident of being bullied or taken advantage of–once by a child younger than him.

And suddenly… I began “borrowing trouble”.  In my mind, I was trying to prevent my son from being in a bad situation.  I was trying to be sure that I knew of any issues before they became big.  It was a lot of asking teachers if he was alright in class, if they had seen any of this issue or that.  Sometimes it was giving them a “head’s up” if he was dealing with a specific issue recently.  All of this was in the interest of making sure my son wasn’t misunderstood and therefore mistreated.

It didn’t really HELP… and in fact, sometimes–it hurt him.  Too often, teachers were LOOKING for problems with him as a result.

We relocated and I was just completely on edge about the whole thing.  He was now 6 and I was having a hard time managing with him.  His behavior was really difficult and I was worried that it would start us off on a bad foot in our new home.  As a result, I was constantly on edge… and putting a lot of pressure on him to behave “just so”.

And I was creating more problems than there really were.

The reality is: if my son has a problem, I’m going to find out.  If a teacher or coach has a problem, they’re going to tell me.  And now I know to dig about whatever it is they say.  But I don’t plant the seed that there might BE a problem.

I also no longer get on my son to behave well.  I think I was sending him multiple messages that he wasn’t acceptable.  Think about the repercussions there.  Yeah… that.

My long-winded point is this:  Don’t worry about something until it exists.  To do so isn’t being “preventative” or “prepared” or even “proactive”.  It’s “borrowing trouble”.  Generally speaking, if something is worth worrying about–it will make sure to make itself big enough in your life to grab your full attention.  ;)

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Candlemas… purification and renewal


February 2nd is most widely known as Groundhog Day.  People sit and eagerly await an animal emerging from the ground to determine the fate of the weather for the 6 weeks that follow.  What most people do NOT know is that there are a number of different celebrations on Feb. 2nd.  Candlemas is one.  Feast of the Purification of Mary is another.  Feast of St. Brigid, yet another.  In Hungary, it is Blessing of the Candle of the Happy Woman (Gyertyazsenteio Boidog Asszony).  The list goes on.

They all have to do with purification and renewal.  It is tied to a reawakening of the earth and the redawn of life in the soil.  It is about new beginnings–fresh, clean beginnings.

Which brings me to the question:  how do you hit the “reset” button in your life?  How do you wash away the old and start anew?  What do you do that renews your self and spirit–purifying it of what you want to leave behind?

When do you clean out your space of the things that are no longer healthy?  How do you invoke change?  Feel clean and fresh and new?

I think it’s important.  There have been countless times in my life where I’ve very firmly decided that I need to make a change; but there was no action involved in “symbolizing” that commitment.  I found that when I kind of washed away the old, it was so much easier to start anew.  When I threw out clothes that were a size 16–that I hadn’t worn in years–it was easier for me to lose weight.  Sometimes, simply the act of cleaning my house–thoroughly cleaning it (like a spring cleaning) has helped me work out some energy that needed to go… and the clean space makes me feel a lot better.  Starting a new business or endeavor can be enhanced by clearing out space for the things you will need (or need to use) for that task.

Look around at your life… your environment.  What is old, or from your past that is no longer encouraging you.  What do you see around you that does NOT make you feel alive?  I’m not saying to throw these things out just yet, but pack them in a box for a few months and see how you feel.

Take account of the things in your life that are NOT making you feel alive.  Work on getting rid of it.  If you can’t feel comfortable completely parting with it, put in a boundary.  If it’s physical stuff, toss it in a box.  But if it’s a person, start spending some time away from them.  Do you feel lethargic?  Start small–walk one flight of stairs each day, or around your block.

Take one part of your life at a time, but hit the reset button.  Take that part of your life and transform it such that it makes you truly feel alive and encouraged.  I can’t tell you what will do that for you.  You may not even know.  But try to figure it out.  Experiment.  Find “you” and your happiness.

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Sexual discord in a relationship


Man, if there’s one thing that can lead to a lot of stress, lack of peace and sometimes the death of a relationship–it’s sexual disconnects.  This came up recently when chatting with a girlfriend and I found myself trying too hard to identify with her situation because I know my husband and I HAD the same issues, but I couldn’t–on the spot–think of how we overcame them.  I’m fortunate that this is an area where my husband and I don’t have a lot of issues; but it wasn’t always that way.

I have often thought that the frequency with which a couple is having sex is probably a good barometer of their relationship overall.  Men don’t usually connect sex with emotions the way women do; but if a woman’s emotions are well tended to, she is likely to be inclined to oblige her man in the bedroom because he has made her feel loved and worthy.  But women need to understand that men also have a need to feel wanted, too.  Inasmuch as they can disconnect love and sex for the most, they still want to feel like they are desired by the person they love… in every way.

I personally feel like “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” by John Gray should be required reading for people in heterosexual relationships.  Men and women are simply different.  That being said, understanding the other side of the relationship and being able to live with that difference are two different things.

Ultimately, this comes down to communication… on a topic that most of us are EXTREMELY uncomfortable talking about.  Even if you’re notsomuch uncomfortable bringing it up, it can be uncomfortable to think that the person you’re talking TO may either be uncomfortable or sensitive or might even feel insulted or hurt–as if they’re responsible for your lack of enjoyment or satisfaction on this topic.  I have to admit that my own way of bringing these things up when there were issues were a matter of snapping when I simply couldn’t take it anymore.  They weren’t overwhelming issues–just annoyances that made being intimate more irritating than irresistible.

My husband and I have been married for 11-1/2 years as of this writing.  Our sex life was absolutely dead-on synchronized in every way with both of us gleaming 99% of the time for the first 2 years we were together… so I knew the potential was there.  But as issues arose in our relationship (in general) and we hit hard times, it reflected in our sex life.  Getting back on track was hard because it required communication–the same thing that was necessary for everything else to get back on track.  At some point, this got to requiring outside help.  But we worked through it.

And if you are in a loving, committed relationship that involves sex but there is a disconnect, you need to consider a few things in the quest to have the issues resolved:

  • Being open with your partner is a matter of communication.  If you have communication issues, start there.  If you have no idea how to bring up the topic or struggle with finding the right words or feel that your partner doesn’t listen to you–these are communication issues.
  • Being honest with your partner is a matter of trust.  That goes both ways: you have to trust that they are going to care about your happiness, and they’re going to have to trust that you aren’t insulting or blaming them for your unhappiness.  It’s a team effort.  But if you have trust issues–they will surface here, when discussing the most intimate of acts.Trust also comes into play when trying new things in the bedroom.  You need to trust that your partner won’t do something that you don’t enjoy or feel comfortable with; but they need to be able to trust that you care about their enjoyment, too–and are therefore open to hearing their desires, if not trying some of them.
  • Being happy in the bedroom is also a matter of compromise… just like every other aspect of your relationship.  Again, this goes both ways.  It doesn’t mean that you always give in to what the other person wants, it means that you sometimes do what they want and sometimes what you want.  If this doesn’t come naturally in your relationship, you will need to do some work on gently advocating for it to work this way by speaking up when it’s “your turn” if need be, but also offering up “their turn”.  It may not be fun or convenient, but it’s part of the give and take in a relationship where there is a mutual concern for each other’s happiness.
  • Being happy in the bedroom is also a matter of trying new things.  I don’t mean to say that you should be swinging from the chandelier (unless you want to be), but the truth is that you truly WON’T know if you like something unless you give it a chance.  And that may mean trying it more than once or twice.  I like the “3 strikes and you’re out” rule, myself.  That gives you both time to work out the initial awkwardness of something new; and if you don’t like it, your partner can feel like you’ve given it a fair shake before giving up.  You might find that you still hate whatever it is, but that it gives your partner such great pleasure that you would offer it occasionally in the interest of really making them happy.  Or they might find that the experience isn’t what they thought it would be–and be equally disinterested in it.  We’ve had occasions where the person that made the request wound up disliking something and the person initially disinterested found something new to love.  :)
  • Intimacy, and by extension–sex, needs to become a priority for both of you.  I spent a number of years “taking one for the team” when I truly didn’t feel interested in sex in any way, shape or form.  But I knew it was important that my husband be able to turn to me when he had physical needs.  I didn’t feel OBLIGATED, I felt like I wanted to try to make him happy best I could.  And at the time, I wasn’t communicating my lack of interest to him.

If you are someone that struggles with inhibitions, or a partner that has desires outside of your comfort zone… you need to talk about those, too.  I don’t mean the “letting them know that’s how I feel” talking… I mean the deep-rooted, get-to-the-bottom-of-it “WHY do I feel this way” talking that you may not even have the answers to.  It may not change how you feel about any of it, but it may change how your partner approaches these things.

If you are someone with seriously ZERO libido (sex drive or desire), I would look further into that.  I’m definitely familiar with this and I find that more women are like this than men.  MANY of my female friends are the first to admit that they could go easily a year without sex.  But consider why it is you’re not interested in sex.  Do you enjoy it?  Does it make you feel really good?  If yes, why WOULDN’T you be interested in it?  If not, how can you change that?  And I know that for me, some of the issues in our dry spells involved being too tired and being preoccupied with other issues.  But I also found that when I submitted to my husbands advances and truly tried to enjoy myself, many times–it was easier and less exhausting (and more rewarding) than I anticipated it would be… which made me more likely to engage again next time.  I also noticed that the more frequently my needs were met in the bedroom, the better I felt overall.  I’m sure that some of that was emotional and feeling like my husband took the care and time to be sure I was happy there.  I’m sure that some of it was physical, too.

Sex is a form of communication.  It is the most intimate form of communication for sure.  Like any other aspect of your relationship, you can’t make assumptions about what the other person wants or likes–you need to find out by talking about it.  I’m pretty sure that my husband was pretty surprised when we were not a half-mile from home and I agreed to hop into the back seat of our pickup truck to go at it while 6 months pregnant.  If you don’t open your mouth, you’ll never really know!

These days, our issues revolve around finding time without our kids–who seriously do NOT sleep.  But it’s a priority to both of us, so we’re both working on solutions and finding time and making the most of what small increments of time we do get to ensure each of us is getting what we need.  And it works. :)

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Learning to delegate


To “delegate” means to assign someone else the power or function to do something.  Good managers are good at delegating work to other people.  That might sound a lot like “passing the buck”.  Call it what you want, but it means someone else is doing the work.

Where can you delegate in your life?  What tasks can you pass on to someone else?

Stumped?

Okay… let’s look at it another way: why DON’T you delegate things?

Some people don’t hand their work or responsibilities off to other people because they think those people couldn’t possibly do it as well as they could.  Well, let’s consider this: does it NEED to be done as well as you’d do it?  No, seriously–does it NEED to be perfect?  Even if it does, can’t you build some kind of “quality check” into the handing off?  Set a deadline that allows someone else to do the bulk of the work, but gives you time to fine tune it to your liking.  And if this is a subordinate or a co-worker as opposed to a contractor that you’re paying, you are now helping that person learn and/or practice a skill that you can call upon again in the future.  Nobody learns it without doing and practicing–so this is really in everyone’s best interest.  If you’re a manager, this is your JOB.  Your main responsibility is to be developing the people reporting to you.  You may have inherited a handful of “incompetents”, but you have them.  What you do with them is a reflection on your ability as a manager and leader.  Figure out what they’re capable of and use that.  If you can’t figure out what they’re capable of, either keep experimenting until you find it or train them in a skill you can use.  They’re not likely going anywhere.

There are some people that don’t delegate because they’re worried someone else will do it better.  This is especially prevalent among managers who are concerned about their job security.  So much so that they don’t develop their staff.  Let me be the first to inform you that this is not the way to keep your job.  When you’ve developed your staff well enough to operate without your supervision and you have someone to hand your department off to, it means that you are now free to take on bigger initiatives that will network you into the next job at the next level.  If the ship runs fine without you there, you are correct: you’re no longer needed.  But that also means that nobody has to worry about backfilling you if and when you’re promoted.  It also means that you can attend meetings and get involved in projects that you now have time for because you don’t have to babysit your department.  I used to teach my staff every last trick I knew.  I had one that was absolutely gunning for my job.  He was very surprised when I told him that I would be happy for him to have it–because I was only going upward.  :)  You should have that same mentality.

Sometimes people don’t delegate because it’s going to mean paying someone to delegate the work to.  We happen to be in that situation a LOT lately as we undertake remodeling an entire house.  The chronic question is: “When is it worth the money to have someone else do it?”  That can be a tough decision, but there ARE a few really clear guidelines to help:

  • When someone else has more skill than you at the task and it’s not a skill you feel the need to learn (maybe this is something you’re not likely to do again for many years–if ever)
  • When time is of the essence and hiring someone would get the job done quicker.
  • When doing the task yourself would require renting or buying tools or supplies that you wouldn’t use often enough to warrant the cost (or the learning curve), but hiring someone means that they come with their own tools and supplies for the job at hand.

Those are the quick and easy decisions.  In our home, we run into a lot of “We can do that better and cheaper… and it doesn’t NEED to be done quickly, but it would be nice.”  The result is that we often wind up with very long to-do lists that take time away from being together as a family.

Some people gauge what it’s worth to them by their hourly salary and the number of hours it would take them to do the work.  So if you made $10/hour and it would take you 5 hours to complete a job, you might be willing to pay someone $50 or less to do it (and it may get done a lot quicker because that person is more proficient at the work–maybe making it worth the full $50 for the time savings and perhaps a warranty).

Sometimes delegating will help you LEARN how to do something a lot quicker, too.  If you hand off a task to someone that understands how to do it better than you do, but it’s the type of situation where you could either observe the work being done or it’s the type of thing where you can work out how it was done by reviewing the final product, that could be worth the money that you’d pay to have it done by someone else.

Last, but certainly not least, frugal as I am (and so help me–I can be pretty frugal, having been raised by my Depression-era “you may need it someday and not have the money for it” grandmother) sometimes you really just need to put a value on your own comfort and sanity.  Is delegating going to leave some time for you to take a much-needed break?  Will it make you feel better to know that the work is done right?  Will it reduce your stress about whether or not it will get done on time?  All of that is worth parting with your money, giving up the glory, and putting aside your control issues.

Figure out how to get things off of your plate.  When people offer help, take the offer.  If you’re worried about “owing” someone, be sure to lay out what the exchange will be up front so that you’re not blindsided someday with “You owe me”.  But use the resources you have available to you… for your own peace of mind.

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Loneliness, even if you’re not physically alone


It could be argued that you could feel alone in a crowded room… or if you’re married.  Some people are single and living alone, but never feel loneliness.  So let’s not try to rationalize the feeling, let’s just deal with it–regardless of how logical it may or may not seem to you.  You have the feeling and it’s keeping you from having peace.  It can also apparently lead to poor eating habits, depression and long-term isolation.  Let’s not get there.  And if you’re there, let’s dig out…

So whatever your situation, let’s deal with the FEELING.  “Loneliness” is the feeling that you are alone, physically or emotionally.  So either nobody is physically around to give you companionship, or the people you are surrounded with are not actually GIVING you companionship.  It is the feeling of not being understood… or maybe not “mattering” to anyone.  It’s feeling like you don’t really belong anywhere.

Why DO you feel this way.  Remember, I’m going to make you uncomfortable by writing about the things that we just take for granted as “just the way it is” and investigate it more deeply–picking it apart to it’s mechanics.  Here we go…

ARE you physically alone?  At work?  At home?  At school?  All the time?  Physically alone is often easier to deal with than the other versions of loneliness because it really just means making the effort to get to places that are more populated.  My husband works from home in a room upstairs behind a closed door from 8am-4pm except for lunch.  Even then, he eats with me and two people under 7 years old.  :/  If we didn’t genuinely like each other, it would be pretty lonely.  Even so, those are long stretches.  He CAN go into the office if he wants to, but it’s a pretty grueling haul.  None-the-less, he does it at least once each month.  Interacting with other people stimulates him in a way he can’t manage to simulate with videoconferencing, intercompany chat, conference calls and e-mails.  It’s the human connection.  And it’s just different.

If you live in a rural area, have you considered your options?  Could you (and would you) move to a more densely populated place?

What are you interested in?  Join a club.  Offer up some volunteer time (see here for more reasons why this is a good option so you can compound the benefits :)  ).  If you’re sitting home and reading, why not go do that at the local coffee shop or book store where you might strike up a conversation with someone about what they’re reading or eating.  If you’re shy, a smile in the direction of someone you’ve met eyes with might just prompt THEM to start the conversation.  Reach out.  This isn’t going to fix itself, ya know…  If you feel like your problem is that you don’t know how to speak to people, then practice.  Join some kind of social group based around some aspect of your job (I belong to a group for project managers that is backed by the certifying organization, but you don’t have to be certified to join and attend meetings), or something you love.  Using Yahoo Groups or MSN Groups, or Meetup.com, you can find other people in the area with interests like yours and what they’re doing.  Join ToastMasters International to help develop your public speaking skills.  There are things you can do.

But what if you’re actually surrounded by people and still feel lonely…?   That’s rough.  And that’s really more about what’s going on inside of you than everyone else.  Look at your thoughts: what is it you feel is separating you from these people?

Ultimately, this is going to come to a very strong, necessary first step: you need to be sure you love yourself.  I mean REALLY love yourself.  The kind that makes it easy for you to sit down and write at least 10 reasons why you’d make an awesome friend and/or partner to someone.  The kind of love that looks in the mirror and sees way more good than bad going on.  Do you?  Because if you don’t, that’s what you’re projecting.  If you’re looking in the mirror and wondering why anyone would want to hang out with you, then why WOULD they want to hang out with you?  Now we’re into a whole ‘nother ball of string here…

And if you look in the mirror and like what you see, and can rattle off 15 reasons why you’d be a great friend or partner to someone, and are surrounded by people… what’s going on?  Either you need to open your mouth and reach out to show these people what they’re missing, or you need to take a vow of silence and really observe what’s going on because you’re missing it with your blabbering (as is usually MY issue :/ ).  If you’re the silent type, refer back to the first paragraph about how to open up and reach out to people.  And if you are reaching out, are you reaching out with negativity?  Are you opening the conversation by trying to build some sort of camaraderie based on what you think is a mutual disgust for something you have in common with this person/these people?  Turn it around: open with something you have in common that you’ll all like.  Be the positive one even if everyone else is sour.  If the culture is sour, open up with “at least we…” kind of positivity so you don’t look like a complete moron.  Those old adages are true and you WILL ALWAYS catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.  Nobody needs to be brought any further down.  Don’t go there.

What if you’re dating or married to someone or living with someone (in a romantic relationship) and STILL alone…?  Ummm… let’s revisit “loving ourselves”, shall we?  Because “loving ourselves” means that you believe you are worth more than sharing your life with someone that doesn’t add to it in some meaningful way.  And look at what you’re putting into that relationship.  For multiple years, I was alone in my marriage.  It started with a true problem–no doubt–and spiraled downward.  When I hit rock bottom in my despair at the whole thing (which at that point included more than just my marriage), I heard a sermon that SO infuriated me.  It ate at me through the afternoon and into the evening.  It was by Joel Osteen and it was sermon #417 – “Redeeming the Time”.  It enraged me because it made me feel accountable for the suffering I had endured for years, and that was just unacceptable.  But it was true.  And although our troubles certainly started with things I had absolutely no control over and were truly the victim of, there were many more years where my hurt and upset about it inhibited our ability to heal and move forward.  I felt unloved and so I wasn’t loving enough to my husband.  I felt hurt and so I wasn’t kind enough to him.  I felt abandoned and so I wasn’t the best companion for him–certainly not the confidante he needed.  And through all of this, my husband was left to fend for himself, uncertain of how to get past our past–alone.  Thus the spiral downward.  If not for that sermon driving me out of my mind, I don’t know where we’d be today.  It was the beginning of the rest of our lives together.  So I ask you:  what are you putting out there?  Because if you’re treating that person the way you would want to be treated, then you need to take a long, hard look at why you are there.

This post is already way too long.  But hopefully it has scratched the surface for you.  We will obviously revisit this again in some other way, shape or form.  Until then, love yourself.

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