Yesterday was the first really very good day I had in quite a while. In the evening, there was also an unexpected gathering that a friend put together, which was more than just a social event…. there were about 6 of us there, and we are all in a unique space of seeing the world differently, for lack of a better way to say it.
I think the general feeling I want to express is that there’s a shared understanding that “getting a grip” on our lives is no small accomplishment for those of us who have the courage to live according to our convictions. It’s something that no diploma will ever be awarded for; and it’s something very hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through it.
Even “successful” people who “benefit” from the world as it is are having more and more of a difficult time financially, (just think about the ballooning of student debt), and are experiencing ever greater levels of stress and anxiety in their careers. The constant pull of busier and busier lives reinforces our emotional disconnect from each other, which has been in a state of dis-ease as a culture for generations. This is the American-made version of the Chinese Finger Trap. The more we fight against it, the more we get stuck.
All of my friends are ones who have opted out of “business as usual” and are asking “What the heck do we do instead?”
One of our friends, Allen Little, recently gave a Ted X talk in Chicago on “Self Talk” and is becoming a rather successful Life Coach. Knowing him is a real blessing and anchor for our group. I recently did an episode with him on the “Off the Spectrum,” podcast and we’re recording another one Wednesday.
So 6 of us got together last night, and gatherings like that remind me that I’m not crazy. Too frequently, I still wonder if my experience of being depressed & frustrated is all in my head. Why don’t other people seem to feel this way? Is it just me? Can’t be. Some people just don’t talk about it. Others just accept it. It’s the ones who have opted out who can see the culture we are living in more clearly.
I think a good metaphor is a goldfish swimming in a dirty bowl. Our environment is polluted with toxic emotions and unrealistic expectations in working environments. Meanwhile, the solutions that clean the water are connection, affection, love, intimacy, (phonetically “in-to-me-see”), and they are all being suffocated by lives that are far too busy, hectic and rushed. It’s rare pockets of humans who come together and actually feel safe being vulnerable with each other. It feels like taking a bubble bath. It’s a real blessing in a world where it should be normal.
With the lack of vulnerability present in many social interactions, even if we’re all spending time together, we’re not being nourished by one other. At worst, we’re actively abusing each other by connecting through sarcastic humor, insults meant as compliments and a very black-and-white approach to physical touch. We often rush into romantic partnerships because the needs for intimacy we feel go unfulfilled in our close friendships.
Intimacy is often taboo.
Lonliness is never more present than when we first take a step back and set good boundaries about who to let into our lives.
When we have healthy people in our lives, then we can take a few steps closer to creating healthy intimacy with boundaries that don’t neeed to be so cut and dry.
Equal with a sense of loneliness, a sense of hopelessness around what Buddhism calls “right livelihood” shows up when we truly think about what kinds of working environments are actually healthy and available. Society that has forgotten how to define itself through anything other than work which keeps us running ever faster on the hamster wheel. The wheel is going to fall off its gears at this rate.
The work we do is all based on production and consumption, which makes us not only emotionally unhappier but is causing our climate to destabilize. If we want to save the planet, and save ourselves, we’d all be much better off working far less and spending far more time simply … being with each other.
The depression I feel comes from seeing all of this, as well as frequently finding it a struggle to find people to spend time with, as so many of us fill our time with a mix of obligatory tasks and then the emotionally-avoidant ones.
Depression arises from realizing the truth and feeling powerless to communicate it. Spending time with a good group of friends last night was very emotionally therapeutic. A lot of this is what my book is about.