This is First World Fridays #FWF (check out the first FWF here – it was a wild success!) where I share the frivolous stuff that I allow to occupy my mind, and I turn it into an expression of gratitude. Please do it the same – in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, privately within yourself. Tag it #FWF (yes, I’m asking you to tag your silent prayers) and let’s start a revolution!
My #FWF: I’m lonely. Yes, I wish I had a romantic partner. I also wish I saw my friends more and was closer to my family. But is this a first world problem? After all, loneliness is human, universal. Everyone has felt isolated or misunderstood. But Americans are uniquely — and increasingly — lonely. With all our wealth and options we chose to move away from our families and hometowns — seeking adventure, fortune — and yes, love — in locations we expect will be more fruitful. We tend to prioritize work, and spend less time with loved ones than other people in the world.
I couldn’t be a more classic example of this – having left my small, rural Illinois town for the first time when I was 15 to study abroad in France for a year. Great, experience. Loneliness like no other. Command-A, Command-C, Command-V x100 — adventures to Latin America, Bulgaria, the American South and Southwest. I seek out and revel in the adventure and opportunity. Everywhere I go I also find love — romance, friendship and connections. But loneliness always makes an appearance.
This cycle has taken new color since I became a mother. Now any isolation I experience translates to my kids. If I have fewer invites to weekend barbecues than I prefer, that means my kids do, too. If I am sad that I don’t have a partner, I worry that my kids miss out on benefits of that relationship that would extend to them.
I am lonely because I am human, yes. But maybe I am also prone to isolation. Is it because I’m a weirdo who few understand? Dunno. Am I repugnant and repel? Some, sure. Or do I throw up boundaries to protect my lonely heart. I imagine so. Maybe mine is a typical case of I’m-busy-and-so-is-everyone-else. Many days, I feel like it is all I can do to get through my work projects and get the kids through dinner and bedtime without collapsing. There are plenty of people I can and do often call see, but that can feel like just one more task on the list.
But all of this is a choice. I subscribe to the philosophies of abundance and scarcity — if you believe that wealth/love/time are in short supply, that becomes your reality and you make choices accordingly. But if you accept that good things are infinite, you are open to the abundance. To reframe: This whine of a #FWF is just that – an indulgence.
The irony of my whine is not lost on me. I’m not the first New Yorker to observe how many lonely people there are in this giant, crowded metropolis. Even though we’re all living — literally — on top of each other, cramming ourselves together on subway cars, elbowing one another out of the way on the sidewalks and eating shoulder-to-shoulder in popular restaurants, all-but-spooning in elevators, it is very easy to feel very alone here. New York, as it is in so many ways, is the most American city. This is the place most plagued by transplants and workaholics who forgot to create personal lives. And the cycle perpetuates itself. As often as people move here from elsewhere, they also leave. Again and again, those of us who stay find ourselves saying goodbye to newfound friends.
- I’m grateful I live in an age of unprecedented communication. All my friends and family who live afar? I can text/Facetime/email/call them any time of day or night for virtually free. Airfare has never been more affordable and my time is ridiculously flexible. I can connect with anyone more or less whenever I want. I hereby vow to do more of that (are you on my friend/family list? Consider yourself warned!)
- I’m grateful have the where-with-all to talk myself out of my loneliness. Some people — very depressed people — cannot. I’m not there.
- I’m grateful that I am a naturally friendly people and tend to connect easily with others. I know it is not so easy for many.
- I’m grateful that I *do* live in a densely populated are full of people who are my type (friends, colleagues, dudes), where all it takes to make connections is an attitude shift.
- I’m grateful I have the where-with-all to change shit up and stop with the navel-gazing already.
Now your turn: What have you been fretting over this week? Was it really important? How can you turn those negative thoughts into acts or thoughts of gratitude. Please share in comments!
About #FWF: Each week I will post here about the annoyingly frivolous thing I worried about the previous week. I also vow to devote that energy into an expression of gratitude. Two things are true: Sharing openly that which we are ashamed of (in this case devoting time and energy to silly stuff) frees you from that shame, and gives others the permission to do so. Also: The only way to be happy is to be grateful. So post here, on social media, or privately within your family, circle of friends, or even within yourself your own #FirstWorldFriday. Remember – In one breath purge your silly worries, in a second express gratitude.