There’s Nothing New About The New Year

There’s nothing new about this new year. Your friends are still the same, your relatives are still plotting to drive you crazy, and the world is still a scary place. To speak plainly, if I may; the new year is simply an opportunity to feel like we’re all going somewhere, when in fact, majority of us are still in the same places, with the same shitty partners; and at the same jobs with the same bosses who makes us feel less than what we actually feel like when we’re far, far away from our workplaces.

Don’t get me wrong, something is different and new about this present moment, like the fact that it is 2018 instead of 2017, but the mindset that many of us will carry on our shoulders will be – and is still – very much the same. For example, if you’re prone to having negative thoughts about yourself, that’s gonna remain the same. Or, if you tend to start something new but never actually finish it, that’s also going to be the same.

But before I continue my pessimistic tirade any further, let me be clear, here, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the arrival of a new year with family, friends, or even with strangers, in fact, it may be healthy for the soul, but to buy into the idea that a new year will, automatically, usher in a newer you is borderline insane. Thinking that way makes you no different than the deranged man that I’d often see on the corner of Chippewa and Main, professing that the world is going to end. Sure; new day, new month, new year, but still the same unhinged way of thinking.

I suspect that some of you may disagree with what I’m saying, and that’s perfectly fine. Perhaps, because many of you have already sworn that this year will be different and that the world will have no choice but to kneel at your feet once they see how different you are—–and great, that is absolutely fantastic. All power to you. I wish you the best of luck on your journey. However, the reason I am a little skeptical about all the endless possibilities that a new year might bring, whether interpersonally or socially, is because common sense tells me to. Furthermore, and because research shows that it takes people 18 – 254 days to form a new habit, and, also because forming a new habit is extremely challenging, common sense also tells me that people are people and because they’re people, they’re almost certainly going to fail. I wish there was a much nicer way that I could have said that, but there wasn’t.

But although that might be the case, and although the facts are the facts and we should never argue with the facts, I can’t help but wonder; can some people actually surprise themselves this year and become who they envisioned themselves to be?

The reader may find this surprising, especially given how apathetic I was a moment ago; but I am a firm believer in the power of the human mind, and its capacity to achieve whatever it sets itself to achieve. More importantly, and because I believe in the power of the human will and it’s determination; its focus and its amazing drive, it is my contention that the data and the raw facts are capable of bending themselves to fit the type of reality that someone has set for themselves. Statistically speaking, not everyone, however, will be able to pull off what I’ve just mentioned—-and that’s okay. In fact, it’s perfectly normal because not everyone has the discipline nor the willpower to see an idea through the very end. And this is good news because, interestingly, it is on those bases; i.e., the separation of mind and willpower, that will, ultimately, determine if some people will actually get to experience a new sensation of self this year—-or not.

 

Image by Annie Spratt from Unsplash

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Frustrating Nature of People

PEOPLE CAN BE VERY FRUSTRATING AT TIMES. Sometimes they can say one thing but then do another—while, other times they can promise to do something for you but then let you down at the very last minute. Although that may not seem like a serious issue to them, but to us it’s a serious problem. In fact, it’s criminal. “How can this person be this way?” we may ask ourselves. “Can they not see that they are hurting us?”

I don’t know what drives some of us—even our closest friends—-to disappoint and frustrate us they way they do. Is it that we are not that important to them that they feel the need to discard us as if we were a piece of lint or a bottle cap? Or is it because we might have, had done something that they did not like, but instead of telling us, they chose to torture us with their silence and flaky responses? “If only we could tell what is in the heart of each person,” my dad would often say, trying to ease my disenchanted state of mind, “Then only then we may know.”

But is it really until someone comes along and invents a smart device that can tell us “what is in the heart of each person” that we can then expect to know what other people may not want to tell us? I really want to accept that, but at the same time, I also know that people are mature adults—and one of the things required of mature adults is transparency and honesty. Simply waiting around, like how my dad indirectly suggested, for people to own their flakiness and lack of transparency is unfair—-because it strips them of accountability.

Too may a times I have waited with no response for people to call me back after they said they would call me back, too many a times I have planned an evening at a restaurant and had to eat all alone because the person retired themselves from showing up, and too many a times have I texted people, whom, just seconds ago were texting me back, but then for some strange reason decided to stop responding to my texts altogether. Frustrating is not the word—-but absurd sounds about right.

But what are we to do with people like those that I just mentioned? Should we quit them, should we stop feeding into their lack of respect for us by continuously calling or texting them back? Or, should we confront them about the hurtful,  frustrating and confusing ways that they make us feel? Sure, those options may sound fair enough, but what if those people were our friends—-what are we to do then? The American author, political activist, and lecturer, Helen Keller once wrote, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone at night.” My guess is Helen Keller never had a friend like we’ve had. Her friend—to me—sounds imaginary.

What I’ve found works best for me, and which is also what my therapist suggested, is that we need—-however painful it may be—to revisit those moments in our minds that frustrated us the most. Those moments that left us confused and emotionally vulnerable. Those moments that we felt like a piece of lint or a bottle cap in the minds of the people around us. And what we do is ask ourselves: “That way that so and so made me feel, is that the same way that I would treat myself?”

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Feeling Alone

photo-1479443127034-d935545a97f9I KNOW I AM NOT ALONE, I know I am not alone, and I know I am not alone. But sometimes it certainly feels like I am. And trust me, I know it is a hard thing to admit, let alone accept, that sometimes we might be alone; but, once we actually admit it, though, sort of like how I just did, something strange starts happens. We start to think, we start to look around, and then we start to assess our lives—-and, somewhere in that process, we discover that we were really never alone.

This may come as a shocker to most people, but I go through that process almost all the time. On average, and mostly during midnight and especially on the weekends, I sometimes feel like I am alone. Like, no one knows I exist and like the whole world has forgotten about me. And during those times, which by the way, is happening right now, I would ignore my feelings of loneliness; not contact anyone, turn on Netflix, go on Facebook, and even check Instagram to see how much fun other people were having. Basically, ignore, ignore, ignore was/is my way of coping with my leitmotif feelings of loneliness.

But what is loneliness, really? Is loneliness something that is restrictive solely to the mind, is it something that is triggered by the lacking of other persons in our lives, or could loneliness be both of those things? In view of that, what type of loneliness was I experiencing?

For some people, loneliness is the lacking of friends, but for others, loneliness is having too many friends and not feeling any real connection(s) to them. “People drain me,” said Margaret Cho, an American comedian, whose sense of loneliness is reflective of the latter group, “Even the closets of friends, and I find loneliness to be the best state in the union to live in.” And then there are people like Hilaire Belloc, a prolific Anglo-French writer and Historian during the twentieth century, who thinks that loneliness begins after the death of every friendship. “When friendships disappears, he writes, “Then there is a space left open to that awful loneliness of the outside world which is like the cold space between the planets. It is an air in which men perish utterly.”

Although people like Margaret Cho and Hilaire Belloc are right in their estimations of what constitutes loneliness, however, what rarely gets mentioned, and what I want to focus on, is circumstantial loneliness. For example, you might be feeling lonely because you live in a rural or suburban community with nothing around to do, you don’t have a car to go places with, and you don’t have capital to buy the things that you desire. So you see, circumstantial loneliness is a temporary disconnect from the people, places, or things around you that gives your life meaning. And that is very important to know. And why is that? Well, because, I feel, that when people say that they are lonely they are confusing the primary form of loneliness, which is circumstantial loneliness, with other secondary types of loneliness.

Another example of circumstantial loneliness is the example of a prisoner in solitary confinement. By circumstance, he or she is temporarily disconnected from the outside world, which within it, possesses all the people, places, or things that have the benefits of adding meaning to his/or her life. In this context then, if our prisoner would to think that he or she was lonely, it’s not that he or she may be wrong, but you and I would know that his or her estimations wouldn’t be quite accurate.

Now then, If we would to remove that prisoner from solitary confinement and place him or her in the larger population, or with the things that he or she loves to do the most, then naturally not only would they be happy but their life will have meaning again. But, I know what you’re thinking; that clearly, that prisoner can see that he or she is under solitary confinement and thus what other types of loneliness that they may feel is not the primary one. And my reponse would be, that, isn’t it interesting how when we’ve been accommodated with this example, to see how easy it is to confuse circumstantial loneliness with other types of loneliness—-as oppose to when we are on the receiving end of loneliness. Conversely, the only way to be aware of circumstantial loneliness is to not ignore the secondary feelings of loneliness like, how I was originally doing, but to fully acknowledge it. Furthermore, being aware of circumstantial loneliness rather than assuming that you are alone for other secondary reasons, is a very powerful mental exercise—-because it demonstrates to us that feeling lonely is a choice. And when we realize that we have choices in life everything changes—and we become more in control of our lives.

Having said that, and to answer the question of what type of loneliness that I was feeling?, well, it was circumstantial. I was feeling lonely because I live(d) in a rural community—-far away from and all the happenings of the city life. But rather than being down and mopey about my spatial isolation, I took this time to reflect on it—and in doing so, realized that I had a choice in choosing to be happy about my circumstance or to be angry about it. Also what I have discovered is that there is no bad or good when it comes to loneliness—it’s all perspective. And for that, and just like Bruce Barton, an American author and politician, I too now believe that “It would do the world good if every man would compel himself occasionally to be absolutely alone. [Because] most of the world’s progress has come out of such loneliness.”

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