At around this time last year, Eric came home from work with news that in order to remain gainfully employed with his company, we would need to relocate from South Carolina to Louisiana. We spent several days analyzing our options, enumerating their pros and cons, and generally being stressed to our gills.
Staying in South Carolina meant starting over; not very appealing when you’re middle-aged, the big 5-0 lurking on the horizon. We’d been in SC for seventeen and a half years, however, and loathe for many reasons to walk away. Our daughters lived nearby. We had lots of friends in the Greenville area; and, many more in Knoxville, TN, who were a short drive away. The climate is wonderful; the proximity to both mountain and ocean an invitation to adventure. The upstate is culturally diverse, with plenty of activity to pursue.
But also this: starting over financially is scary as hell.
Yes, moving to Louisiana would mean being much farther away from our daughters, but we could plan vacations and long weekends to prioritize seeing them. And yes, we’d miss regularly getting to visit with our friends, but between social media and texting, etc., keeping touch is not only realistic, but easy. And yes, the climate change would be a big kick to the nards, but Eric and I grew up in Southwest Missouri, so we’d remember how to function in extreme humidity. And yes, Monroe is a far smaller town, with fewer things to do, but we can always make day trips and see the sights of the several larger cities within a four-or-so hour drive; definitely day-trippable.
Because all of those smaller points of starting over seemed far less intimidating than risking our financial security, we decided to accept the relocation.
In all of the planning I did for the move, I completely underestimated the difficulty of one thing–a really vital thing, as it turns out: Making Friends When You’re Older.
You can Google that phrase and see that I’m not the first person to have trouble with the “making friends” part of adulting, especially in one’s middle-age or older. For me, the problem is made more difficult because my physical disability keeps me from working outside the home (no opportunities to meet new people from my job); I don’t go to church–atheist–so that mode’s a bust, too. I like going to a nightclub or bar on occasion, but not nearly often enough to make friends in that way.
Plus, I’m not what I would call particularly great at making friends even when circumstances are most promising. I’m a bit socially awkward, like most people on the autism spectrum tend toward. I’m more than a bit weird. I am intensely direct–not to the point of being tactless, but it’s still off-putting for many, especially since I have a huge issue with making eye contact until I trust you.
Long story, short: this move made me very lonely.
Okay, let me back up for a minute. I don’t want to sound like Sally Sadsack from Pitifulville, population 1. I’ve got some amazing friends, whom I treasure. I’m happily married for 27 years to the ultimate best friend in Eric. All three of my children are counted among my besties and that’s a rare treasure I’m grateful for every damn day. David, Sara, & Becca–you kick ass. I’ve got Jeremy & Danny, my besties in Knoxville–the friendship with Jer goes back more than 20 years. I still chit-chat a few times a year with my BFFs from 4th and 7th grades, Karen and Carol, and how many people can say that? (Facebook has made that possible for lots of people, so it’s not particularly unique; it still makes me feel good, so hush. 😉 ) There’s a small handful of people from high school and/or college I pester on the regular, and we’re better friends now, even, than we were back then! I’d list you by name, but I don’t want to accidentally omit someone and hurt their feelings. Add to all of those lovelies the friendships that I made while in South Carolina, and I’m the furthest from Sally Sadsack a woman can be. I am wealthy with friendship, and I don’t take that for granted.
All but two of those people live in the Great Away, however; far removed from our new life in Monroe, Louisiana. I have been miserable with the lonely that comes from not having people with whom I could be present in a moment, sharing the same sights and sounds. From being unable to call or text someone with an invitation over for dinner or a party or going thrifting, or just hanging out and being bored together. Hearing my laughter mingle with someone else’s. Hugs.
Thankfully, despite how problematic it can be making friends when you’re older, it’s started to happen for me, and I don’t feel so lonely anymore. Little by little, friendships are beginning to form and the doldrums borne of isolation are disappearing.
I don’t know how many of these new friendships will end up crossing that ineffable barrier into BFF territory; it’s not terribly healthy to put those sorts of demands and expectations on new relationships, so I won’t do that. But, I’m interested in them all and excited to see where they may go. And I’m very happy not to be waking up every day to the pervasive lonely feeling which haunted me for months.
So, a hearty shout out to you special and strange people I’ve met here in Monroe. I’m so glad to have met you Mark, Daniel, David, Eos, Brant, Todd, Stephanie, and Lori.
I don’t feel quite so relocated anymore. 🙂
In July of 1997, I was in crisis. Go back a few months and the reason for the crisis is clear…
On March 4th, my father was having his second quadruple bypass in a seven-year span, on a heart ravaged by his lifelong battle with Type 1 diabetes. Dad had designated me with power of attorney and had made his wishes known. When his heart failed to resume beating on its own after 45 minutes of being off the bypass machine, the operating team gathered those of us waiting into a special “crying” room (what a lousy fucking name; just call it the tragic news room) and filled us in…. “The operation was a success, but his heart is too weak to beat on its own.” I made the call to stop and let him go. It’s what Dad wanted. It ripped me into bits.
I was only 26 years old and I was not ready for that.
So, yeah, back to July. My husband, Eric, and my best friend, Jeremy, decided what Karen needed was an intervention. An intervention of the healing kind, to the one place in the world I find more therapeutic than any other: the coast. The two of them planned a vacation that none of us could afford, really; Pensacola was our destination.
Eric and I loaded the kids (ages 6, 4 & 4) into our beater car (no A/C in July in Florida, woo) and left out from Fayetteville, AR. Jeremy got into his sporty little Tracker and left out from Knoxville, TN. We together spent a week in Pensacola, playing in the sun. Our kids had never before seen the ocean, so I got to watch their little faces light up with its magnitude and majesty. Eric rode around without a shirt in Jeremy’s Tracker and got a really interesting sunburn (safety stripe!!) from the seat belt. The kids dug a mighty hole–you coulda dropped a concert grand piano into it comfortably. We ate baloney sandwiches out of a cooler and “splurged” one night by having McDonalds. Eric took advantage of a post-shower empty beach to cross “swim naked in the sea” off his bucket list.
I laid on the beach at night and marveled at the broad, bright swath the Milky Way cut through the sky. I sat and watched that watery horizon and heard the surf, and I started to heal, finally.
Next week, we ALL go back again. This time around we’re coming from Monroe, LA, Knoxville, TN, Atlanta, GA, and Spartanburg, SC.
There have been so many changes in our lives in the past twenty years from 1997 to 2017. The kids aren’t kids anymore. Two of them are bringing significant others with them. Our car isn’t an old beater car anymore, but a zoomy little convertible (at least one of the kids will be arriving in their beater car, though, because ka is a wheel). Some of the changes in the past two decades have been great; some have truly sucked. That’s life. But Eric and I are still together. And we’ve added Jeremy’s Danny into our little family.
There are other beaches in the world that are prettier, or have better swimming, or surfing, or some other metric by which people measure beaches. But Pensacola will always be special for our family.
And next week we’ll all be there together again. I’m so excited I can barely stand it. Eric, David, Sara, Matthew, Becca, Isaiah, Jeremy, Danny… see you soon, my loves!! ❤
In the summer of 2011, my son, David, was spending the summer at home after his sophomore year at college. He seemed a bit out of sorts; something was clearly troubling him. Neither his father, nor I, could get David to open up about what was wrong. An oddity, especially for me, because David has always tended to tell me most everything. Finally one day,
David: “Mom, Dad? Can we sit down and talk about something?”
David: “I don’t want to go back to college.”
Us, collectively: “WHAT?!”
David: “You know I had been ‘writing a book’ about Armadeus and Solah ever since I was 14. Well there’s something there. I can’t focus on my classes. I keep thinking about my world. I have a book in me–several books, actually–and I need to get them out. If I go back to school, I’m going to try at first to go to my classes, but my world will call to me and I will choose to write. I’m going to be wasting my time and your money. I need to do this.”
Us: “Then do it. Write your book.”
And, yes, it really was that simple. You don’t see the kind of fire burning in your child’s eyes, as we saw that day in David’s, and talk to him about finishing his degree as a back-up plan. You go back to the basics. Back before life got more complicated with FAFSAs and transcripts and GPAs and scores on AP tests. Back when your child really was a child and you told him, “You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up! Dream big!”
So David came back home. He got out the stack of spiral notebooks where his story had begun, sloppily handwritten on hundreds of pages.
“The story is solid, Mom, but goddamn I couldn’t write worth a shit when I was younger! I will need to re-write everything instead of just transcribing this to my computer.”
And he did re-write it, more than once. But he kept at it. Every day would find him writing; sometimes for two or three hours, sometimes for twelve. He followed where his personal muse led.
As of today, my son is a published novelist.
David, I am so proud of you. I’ve watched you work for hours, feeling everything from ecstasy to despair. I’ve seen you grow in confidence. I’ve witnessed the continuing development of your writing skill and finesse. You never gave up dreaming big. And now something that used to exist only and merely as a tiny seed in your beautiful brain can be shared with the world.
“My first memory isn’t the face of my mother or father. No, it was a memory of Solah, of the soaring branches and golden leaves of the Auril trees. Even then, before I could have said what beauty was, much less explained it… I found this forest to be the most beautiful thing I’d seen. In the years since then, nothing has changed.”
I know you wrote those words for Armadeus. But, I feel you were also writing them about yourself. Because in the years since the lands of Arenor became a place in your mind, you kept returning. And you’ve created a beautiful thing.
BUY THIS BOOK!
For the past 6 years, David has been living at home with we parentals while he writes his book. Which means, for the past 6 years, David, his father and I, and even his sisters have had to endure a lot of busybodies. For whatever reason, people have felt compelled to speak, felt it was their place to offer us advice and opinions (all of these things have been directly said to Eric and me):
- You should make him move out and get a job and he can write in his free time while he learns the value of hard work, discipline, and paying his bills.
- He’s too old to be living at home. He’s never going to find a wife.
- He’s free-loading off of you! He’s got Peter Pan Syndrome and doesn’t want to grow up.
- You know that book will never get written, right? He’s using you to shirk his responsibilities.
- At least make him get a part-time job so he can be contributing something.
- You should give him an ultimatum and if he doesn’t meet it, then kick his lazy ass out.
- You should keep track of every dime you’ve thrown at his “book writing career” and make him pay you back once he has to give up and get a “real job.”
People would ask us, “he still living at home?” with clear judgment in their eyes, in their voices. David has had his maturity and ambition questioned. His sisters get asked, “your brother publish that book yet?” with a smug little sneer.
And that’s just the stuff that gets said straight to our faces. I’m sure others have said things behind our backs.
First and foremost, I want to say this: ALL OF THIS IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. WE DO NOT OWE YOU ANY EXPLANATIONS FOR OUR CHOICES THAT DON’T CONCERN, INVOLVE, OR IMPACT YOU IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER.
And until now, I haven’t said a word in return. I haven’t made “defenses” of our choices because they’re not necessary. I’ve simply smiled and ignored the unsolicited advice, the overt and implied judgments.
And you know what? That’s what I’m gonna continue to do, because I repeat: ALL OF THIS IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
Thank you, have a nice day.
And be sure to check out Solah, first novel in the Sentinel Series, by new author David Lane. It will be available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle digital this weekend.
Last year, one of my friends sent me a message: “Read this. Mind.Blown.” in reference to this blog posting: The Art of Not Being Offended. I read it. My mind wasn’t blown. I disagreed with nearly all of the post. Since my disagreement is not synonymous with “the writer is wrong,” I decided to ruminate on it a bit. I still thought it had no merit. After a few days, I didn’t think anything more about it.
Lately, however, I’ve seen it making fresh rounds on Facebook. At least 6 of my friends have re-posted links to this blog in the past month or so. Smart people. People I tend to respect. So, I dove back in for a re-read; perhaps I had missed something previously.
Nope. The TL;DR of my opinion is this: “The Art of Not Being Offended” is unsourced mystical woo, full of privilege, & inane bullshit, which in and of itself is offensive.
Want more than the TL;DR? Let’s get to the fisking:
There is an ancient and well-kept secret to happiness which the Great Ones have known for centuries. They rarely talk about it, but they use it all the time, and it is fundamental to good mental health. This secret is called The Fine Art of Not Being Offended.
The blog post begins with a huge red flag: a bullshit appeal to authority. An authority who isn’t sourced. It’s Greatsy and Onesy, and ancient (centuries! centuries, mind you!). And they have secrets!! You want the secrets don’t you? Especially since knowing this secret will get you good mental health.
In order to truly be a master of this art, one must be able to see that every statement, action and reaction of another human being is the sum result of their total life experience to date. In other words, the majority of people in our world say and do what they do from their own set of fears, conclusions, defenses and attempts to survive.
People say and do things based on their life experiences? Also, did you know that water is wet? I see the rudimentary logic of this statement, but once again it’s unsourced. Get used to that. But in the meanwhile, let’s see where this is headed…
Most of it, even when aimed directly at us, has nothing to do with us. Usually, it has more to do with all the other times, and in particular the first few times, that this person experienced a similar situation, usually when they were young.
Whoa there. Most of what people say to me or do to me has nothing to do with me? Most? Even when aimed directly at me? Nope. The first bit of this makes no fucking sense, and is, again, unsourced. When you add in the second bit, you really lose me. The blog author is making the huge (unsourced) leap between life experiences shaping what a person says and does into life experiences being a logic trap of cause/effect, action/reaction from which there is no learning or no escape. Your first exposure to any given situation, usually when you were young, is your rubric from then on. But don’t let that worry you, because even if it’s aimed directly at you, it’s got nothing to do with you. Savvy?
Yes, this is psychodynamic.
Hmmm… an unsourced, undefined word. Presented with that “Yes, this is…” so naturally you’ll agree. And it sounds fucking fancy. What is it?
In psychology, a psychodynamic theory is a view that explains personality in terms of conscious and unconscious forces, such as unconscious desires and beliefs. In the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud proposed a psychodynamic theory according to which personality consists of the id (responsible for instincts and pleasure-seeking), the superego (which attempts to obey the rules of parents and society), and the ego (which mediates between them according to the demands of reality). Psychodynamic theories commonly hold that childhood experiences shape personality. Such theories are associated with psychoanalysis, a type of therapy that attempts to reveal unconscious thoughts and desires. Not all psychologists accept psychodynamic theories, and critics claim the theories lack supporting scientific data. Other theories of personality include behavioral and humanist theories.
Color me surprised (read: not at all) at the “lack supporting scientific data” bit.
But let’s face it, we live in a world where psychodynamics are what make the world go around.
Um, no. Psychodynamism, as we know from the above definition of psychodynamic theory, is at best one of the branches of psychological thought & theory. So I am not buying the premise that a psychological theory of unproven scientific merit is the “let’s face it” mechanism behind the mental functioning of the world.
An individual who wishes to live successfully in the world as a spiritual person really needs to understand that psychology is as spiritual as prayer. In fact, the word psychology literally means the study of the soul.
As a non-believer, these statements means fuck all to me. As a person who values clear and well-defined communication, these statements not only mean fuck all to me, but are academically offensive. Sure, the Greek “psyche” means soul (or breath or spirit). But every single dictionary and reputable psychological journal I could find defines psychology as “the study of the mind.” The writer here is deliberately using the “literal” (and totally archaic) translation purely because it benefits their larger (unsourced) message.
All of that said, almost nothing is personal. Even with our closest loved ones,our beloved partners, our children and our friends. We are all swimming in the projections and filters of each other’s life experiences and often we are just the stand-ins, the chess pieces of life to which our loved ones have their own built-in reactions.
Bullshit. All interactions between two (or more) individuals are personal interactions. Frankly, this idea that the only “real” feeling or function between one person and their “stand-ins” is skirting pretty damn close to an actual symptom of psychopathy.
This is not to dehumanize life or take away the intimacy from our relationships, but mainly for us to know that almost every time we get offended, we are actually just in a misunderstanding.
Oh sure, I’m a chess piece swimming around (can they do that?) as a stand-in, caught in my loved ones’ action/reaction psychodynamic trap but there’s nothing de-humanizing or non-intimate about that. RIIIIIIGHT. And wait, where the hell did misunderstandings suddenly come from? Is it because the writer could sense how offended I was at being a) dehumanized, then b) told I wasn’t being de-humanized? Oh, my misunderstanding: I’m an intimate, swimming, human chess piece.
A true embodiment of this idea actually allows for more intimacy and less suffering throughout all of our relationships. When we know that we are just the one who happens to be standing in the right place at the right psychodynamic time for someone to say or do what they are doing—we don’t have to take life personally. If it weren’t us, it would likely be someone else. This frees us to be a little more detached from the reactions of people around us.
Nothing quite fuels intimacy like detachment. Except privilege? Because, hey, nothing in life is to be taken personally. That kid whose parents kicked him out of the house for being gay or trans*? That woman whose partner beat the shit out of her? That cop who just killed a black kid in a hoodie? Don’t be offended. Don’t take it personally. Those people were just in the wrong fucking psychodynamic place at the wrong fucking psychodynamic time. Just detach from the reactions of all those people around you who are finding these actions wrong. They’re the ones adding to the suffering, by misunderstanding. If it’s not you, it’s someone else, so IT’S ALL GOOD.
How often do we react to a statement of another by being offended rather than seeing that the other might actually be hurting? In fact, every time we get offended, it is actually an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be suffering—even if they themselves do not appear that way on the surface.
IN FACT, by being offended, we’re failing to see the pain of those parents, who have to put up with having a gay or trans* kid. And the man who beat the shit out of his partner? HIS PAIN. It needed an outlet. And don’t forget the pain of that cop for shooting a black kid. Can you imagine how he must have felt? Let’s extend kindness to all these loathsome fucks.
All anger, all acting out, all harshness, all criticism, is in truth a form of suffering. When we provide no Velcro for it to stick, something changes in the world. We do not even have to say a thing. In fact, it is usually better not to say a thing.
Because World History has shown that only through quiet hoping does progress get made. Just think how much farther we could have progressed as a society if everyone were privileged, Teflon, intimate, swimming, human chess pieces. Instead of Velcro malcontents, bringing suffering by trying to actively get equality for all.
People who are suffering on the inside, but not showing it on the outside, are usually not keen on someone pointing out to them that they are suffering. We do not have to be our loved one’s therapist. We need only understand the situation…
What? The writer now makes a statement I can almost agree with? Out of the blue? (Okay, that part did have me Mind.Blown. for a moment there.)
…and move on. In the least, we ourselves experience less suffering and at best, we have a chance to make the world a better place.
And, they lost me again. Because the motivation for allowing your loved one some agency and autonomy for working through something unspoken is to experience less suffering for yourself. And that act (detaching yourself from your loved one) can make the world a better place. What? And no. I’m fairly certain that’s not how love works.
This is also not to be confused with allowing ourselves to be hurt, neglected or taken advantage of. True compassion does not allow harm to ourselves either. But when we know that nothing is personal, a magical thing happens. Many of the seeming abusers of the world start to leave our lives.
So, that woman in my example above, if she just rises above it all and doesn’t take it personally, and leaves so she won’t be hurt, neglected, or taken advantage of, her abusive partner will just get out of her life? He won’t, like, show up one day at the school where she teaches and kill her, himself, and a student just for good measure? Cuz, I’m pretty sure that happened, just last month. How fucking magical.
Once we are conscious, so-called abuse can only happen if we believe what the other is saying. When we know nothing is personal, we also do not end up feeling abused. We can say, “Thank you for sharing,” and move on. We are not hooked by what another does or says, since we know it is not about us.
When we know that our inherent worth is not determined by what another says, does or believes, we can take the world a little less seriously.
And if necessary, we can just walk away without creating more misery for ourselves or having to convince the other person that we are good and worthy people.
The great challenge of our world is to live a life of contentment regardless of what other people do, say, think or believe.
The fine art of not being offended is one of the many skills for being a practical mystic. Though it may take a lifetime of practice, it is truly one of the best kept secrets for living a happy life.
This writer supposes, I believe rather falsely, that offense is an on-off binary switch. And that the world would be a better place, and individuals would have contentment and good mental health by keeping the switch in the “off” position. So, you have Offended/Not Offended, where Not Offended is preferred. Again, I ask, what the fuck? Someone spits in my mouth, for instance. According to this writer, I would be a happier person if I walk away, detaching myself from further abuse of this variety, while not being offended. I need to understand the psychodynamic pain my abuser was in, and not take this action personally. To me, that’s straight-up lunacy. I would be happier seeing them in jail for assault and making sure my lawyer got their full-fucking genome for my doctors to analyze to make sure I wasn’t just given a horrible disease.
A quick recap:
- May 2013: Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, to go with the already present hypertension, PCOS, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol. And let’s not forget that pesky degenerative disc disease in my spine. Weight 250 pounds; Waist 58 inches; Clothing size women’s 32, or plus-size 3 XL. Taking a statin, bp meds, metformin.
- The day after that: Life-changing diet program.
- March 2014: Hit my goal weight of 150 pounds. Waist in the ballpark of 34. Clothing size 12, or L/XL depending on the cut of the shirt (big boobs).
- July 2014: Removed from all medication. Diabetes in remission, A1C at 5.3. Cholesterol sub-180. BP on the low end of normal.
- July 2015: With regular exercise & strength training, my weight was back up at 160 (muscle weighs more than fat, yadda yadda), but I was in a size 10. *flex* Blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure all still fantastic.
- August 2015: LIFE ALTERING DEPRESSION DIGS IN CONCURRENT WITH A SPINAL SITUATION THAT WAS THE WORST PAIN I HAD BEEN IN SINCE MY SPINAL SURGERY IN 2012.
- January 2017: Weight back up to 198. Who the hell knows what size clothing I was wearing. If I could be bothered to take off my pajamas and get dressed in whatever, I was doing spectacular.
- February 2017: The new journey began…
I never thought I would put myself in a situation to have to do this again. After maintaining my weight loss and good health for more than 2 years, I thought I was in the clear. I never realized how fully and how quickly so much progress could be flushed down the drain.
That’s depression for you.
I’ve been so embarrassed about those 38 pounds. It’s humiliating to go from feeling like someone’s inspiration to being their cautionary tale. And honestly, I’m surprised it was only 38 pounds. For me, depression and comfort eating go hand-in-hand.
I remember after my initial weight loss, so many of my friends wanted The Secret to losing 100 pounds in 10 months. They wanted to employ The Secret to their own dieting success. Then you tell people your food and exercise regimen and they walk away in disbelief, wounded and resentful that you’re keeping The Secret from them.
The Secret is a lie. The info is right out there in the open. Doctors have been telling people for years. The latest research keeps confirming it. Drumroll…
EAT FEWER CALORIES THAN WHAT YOU BURN.
That’s it. You can do this 100% through dietary change. Exercise is a great companion to weight loss; your heart and lungs want some cardio, and weight-training gives you more muscle mass which amps your natural metabolism (and increases your calorie pool).
I’m not sure where I got the oomph to get re-started. When you’re deep in the bowels of depression, motivation for anything is non-existent. But I announced to my husband one Saturday night, “Eric, I have to go back. I have to do the work again. I cannot keep going like this and live.”
“You got this. What do you need me to do?”
“Just love me. Like before, I have to do this on my own.”
There have been good days and bad days in the past couple of months. The change in my eating has had some impact on my depression. I dunno if those changes are chemical, hormonal, psychological or some mixture of the 3. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’m making progress. What matters is that I’ve had stretches of up to 8 days where I didn’t feel depressed at all. And I still get some stretches where all I wanted to do was sleep and cry. But I’m trying to make progress regardless.
And maybe it’s petty of me, or vengeful, or somehow revealing of a shadowy part of my inner nature…but every pound I lose is like one big FUCKYOU to depression. It tried to cheat me out of the good health I worked so hard to achieve. It had me down there for a while; 19 months of hell. But I’m out of the corner, gloved up, and ready to fight.
- April 2017: Weight 173. Clothing size 12/13.
25 down. 8 to go.
Come at me, Life.