Tag: loneliness

Navigating Holiday Stress & Loneliness

Navigating Holiday Stress & Loneliness

Stress and/or loneliness can drain the joy from our holidays. I’ve experienced both, in spades, in my lifetime. I don’t ever do anything half way! 😊 Wisdom, however, can teach us a different path if we are willing to listen and learn, to open our minds to a new way of thinking and being.

As a young mom, nothing was more important to me during the holiday season than to create magic for my children.  Driven by my over active imagination, I worked night and day to make everything “just right”.  I pushed myself to my limits, physically, emotionally and financially.  Christmas morning, I woke up exhausted. At the end of the day, I was worn out and distraught.  How could I know whether or not my children had captured the magic I had worked so hard to create? I couldn’t.

Like many mothers and fathers, I fell into the parent-trap of trying to give my children what I never had. I was living out my own childhood fantasy, not theirs. They didn’t even have one yet! Wisdom reminds us that the joy of the holiday season arises from the time we spend with the people we love, and celebrating the universal values of love, generosity, gratitude and wonder. It isn’t about material things or fantasy. It’s about living, loving and being together in the midst of all of our imperfections.

Fast forward to the present. My children are adults, living 1,000 miles away and creating their own holiday traditions as they should. My parents and in-laws are all gone and our extended family is spread across the globe. Like you perhaps, I face a new set of circumstances, another challenge to navigate.

Finding ourselves quite suddenly, and sometimes unexpectedly, alone during the holidays, isn’t an easy experience to navigate. Our home rattles with the ghosts of the past and feels disturbingly quiet, even as the rest of the world is amping up and giddy with expectation. The skies even turn gray, heavy with rain or snow, and SAD moves in big time to usher us through this “magical” season. We dare not even turn on the TV for company, for fear of being overrun with unwelcome news and sound bites that will only haunt our sleepless nights.

Change has arrived on our doorstep once again.

NOW WHAT?

Change. It’s the one constant in life and an invitation not to despair, but to adjust our sails. “Happily ever after” is just a Disney created fantasy and there are other more important and valuable paths to travel. Acknowledging this truth intellectually is one thing, but eradicating well-worn patterns of thought and behavior is a lifelong process. Fortunately, discomfort is here to help us do just that. Discomfort presents us with an opportunity to dive in and co-create a different ending to our story. The Universe is inviting us to walk a different path.

A couple of days ago I was reminded how a tiny change in perspective can re-color one’s entire internal landscape. Sometimes it’s the smallest of kindnesses from a friend, a conversation with a stranger, or in my case an anonymous gesture.

On Monday I woke up to a gloomy, gray day. I was feeling just about as gray as the sky when I happened to glance out of the front window and I lifted the blinds. What I saw brought tears to my eyes. Someone had placed a red Santa hat on our mailbox post. As I looked closer I saw that our Secret Santa had donned every mailbox on our street similarly. Goodness and the giving spirit still dwells in our midst, despite what we see and hear everywhere in these divisive times.

SPREADING CHEER

What a gift. Not only did it lift my spirits but it generated festive energy throughout the neighborhood. It opened us all to a tiny bit more of the spirit of Christmas, whether we celebrate the season or not, and it was a reminder that we each have the capacity to offer our giving spirit to others, whether to family members or strangers. We can show our love and concern, offer our interest and attention to whomever we meet as we go through our days. If we are not around people, we can do so in other ways. Write a note to a friend, send an email to an acquaintance, take a minute to speak to the mail-person, wave at the delivery people frantically driving through the neighborhood delivering packages as we walk our dog.  When we spread the spirit of the season it multiplies and comes back to us.

The spirit of the holidays exists throughout the year, across gender, cultural or language barriers. It’s a universal language, captured in a smile or a kind word or a helping hand. Not to mention it’s free and readily available. It is, however, a choice. When we choose to dip into our own well of kindness, we are gifted with more. It’s the law of the Universe and the true gift of the season.

 

DON’T BE LONELY THIS HOLIDAY SEASON. JOIN the Aging Abundantly Circle Meet Up. Open to all through January 3, 2018. Join us for engaging conversation, laughter, games, support and friendship.

On Loneliness

On Loneliness

 

It is … only in the state of complete abandonment and loneliness that we experience the helpful powers of our own natures. ”   Carl Jung;  Modern Man in Search of a Soul

 

Much of my life I spent locked in the cage of a deep and pervasive loneliness. It did not matter that I had friends, family or people around me. I struggled with this abiding isolation, helpless to make it go away. I berated myself for not “doing” the right thing, or “attracting” the right people into my life. Why when I married my best friend and was surrounded by children and friends that loved me was I still assailed by loneliness?

Figure at the Window by Salvador Dalí
Figure at the Window by Salvador Dalí

As I grew older, my parents died, my children left home, my husband and i were living with the consequences of a life time of destructive patterns of interaction, was I found myself in a “dark night of the soul”, as described by St. John of the Cross in his poem and treatise by that name – Dark Night of the Soul (Dover Thrift Editions). I saw nothing but endless isolation ahead, and death. I knew that I had to face my fear of being alone once and for all. I knew that I had to face it alone. That was all I knew, and it was terrifying. I believed there had to be a different answer to the problem than I had heretofore found and I became determined to find it.

Coming through a dark night is never easy, but it is always life and spirit altering. In my dark night I discovered a connection to myself and to my soul that now sustains me in a way nothing else was ever meant to do. I understand that now. One cannot escape loneliness through action or connection to others. One must heal the emptiness inside that separates us from ourselves. Only then can we gain true intimacy with others. It sounds simple, It is not.

Carl Jung discovered this as well. He discovered and articulated our need to discover the “powers of our own natures” and to live from within our own creative powers, using our own rich and magnificent resources. We have far more inside of ourselves and at our disposal than most of us ever imagine; more than most of us can even conceive, particularly when we are locked in the fear, dread and scarcity mentality of our culture. To discover our inner strength, the bubbling fountain of life energy that is ever-present to us, it is necessary to disconnect from anything that pulls us away from it and from that which draws our attention to false solutions and weak excuses. Only then, will we discover the richest part of this life we are now living.

Have you experience a “dark night of the soul”? Have you experienced deep and abiding loneliness? What did you discover there?

Unraveling Ourselves

Backwards Thinking

 

Holiday Blues on Black Friday

Holiday Blues on Black Friday

Finding Hope June 2014I know it’s Black Friday but I’m not a shopper anymore, if I ever was. I’m so grateful I don’t have the need to fight the crowds and spend money to feel like it’s the holiday season. I still have memories of New York Department store shopping and driving around the mall parking lot for hours trying to find a parking space. The image of an overbearing group of hysterical women fighting over a sale table is fairly accurate. My brother and sister-in-law used to come down from New Hampshire for Thanksgiving when I was in college, and my sister and her husband came up from Virginia. Those two women are crazy shoppers even now, thirty something years later. On the Friday following Thanksgiving they were gone for the day. It was their yearly trip to mecca. Sometimes I’d go just to do something, but I have to confess the day after Thanksgiving when I had to go to the hospital to give birth to my first born son was a day I felt great relief for more than one reason!

The holiday season is a time of fun and frivolity for some but for many it is a season of darkness and despair. I’ve fought depression pretty much for as long as I can remember. I figure it probably began somewhere around the time I was ten. Either way it plagued me at a time when little attention was paid to it. I, like many, had to reach the point of being non-functioning, before help was found and I was fortunate to be living in the New York metropolitan area where progressive treatment was more readily available.

Depression just wasn’t something anyone talked about, nor was it comfortable owning up to its presence in your life. There was a stigma attached. It felt like a character flaw. It took me many years to get to the point where I talked openly about it and even now I know I run the risk of assumptions being made about me that are unfounded. I do it anyway because I believe its vitally important to talk about this painful illness so that people can get the help that is available to them. There are so many more effective treatments for depression than there were when I began dealing with it. We know so much more, not only about the human psyche, but the bio-chemical component to it and other mental health issues. It’s a beautiful thing.

The menopausal years can wreak havoc on those with a predisposition to depression. My doctor was more concerned about my mental health than hot flashes. The genetic component is real. My mother went off the deep end when she went through menopause. My sister also had a different, but strong emotional component to her menopausal symptoms. As menopausal symptoms begin to ebb, aging opens us up new points of entry for depression. We need more light for example. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) becomes more severe. Even though all of what I’ve said about depression is true, there is hope for relief.

I have experimented with every treatment available, from drugs and therapy to diet and meditation. Some things have worked, some work for awhile, some are a waste of time…for me. Everyone is different. I understand emotional pain to a degree I sometimes wish I didn’t, but the upside is that I’ve developed an arsenal of methods for coping and surviving the dark days and weeks and months, and you can too.

I wrote Finding Hope to pull together in one place uplifting quotes I found on my own midlife journey (or the first part of it) and some of my reflections on how to find hope in difficult times. I don’t ever want anyone to be alone in their suffering. It’s a terribly lonely place to be, and while it’s not always easy to let another person in to that place, it is possible to let words on a page drop in occasionally.  To reach more people I have lowered the price on the book to the lowest allowed by Amazon with the hope that anyone who needs a lift, especially during the holiday season, can have access to it. I don’t want money to be an obstacle.

Don’t suffer. Get help. If you don’t know where to look or how to begin, send me an email and I will do what I can to help you find a connection.

Dorothy

AgingAbundantly@gmail.com