Loving Yourself Through Loneliness

I’m a human who lives alone, and I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes it hurts. I love being alone, but sometimes alone can turn into lonely, and sometimes I curl up into a ball and cry because the pain is just too much to bear in any other position. So I get it out and, to keep myself from getting stuck in a fog of it, I keep moving. I have my cry and then I summon my strength and I do something about it. I see clearly that I could be a sad lonely person, or I could be someone who lives alone. And I won’t have anyone pitying me – especially not myself.

So the volta comes when you’re slumped on the floor or stuck in your bed and you realize what’s happening. Yes, you could watch Netflix all day just to hear other people’s voices or you could drown your sorrows in ice cream or booze – but none of that will make them go away. Those are temporary fixes, and really they only leave the true problem to fester, making you worse off than before. The longer you ignore an issue, the harder it becomes to handle. So, in this critical moment – what will you choose? Will you face your problem, or will you run away?

be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons, different, lonely, alone

I’m not a coward, and I know you’re not, either. So we begin –

  1. By accepting that sometimes we feel lonely. It happens. And it’s okay – no need to feel ashamed about it. It hurts a bit, yes, but it’s a part of being human and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.
  1. Have your feelings. Let your loneliness live and breathe. Crying is the most efficient way to move emotional energy out of the body, which is why, when I only have a few minutes or I can’t quite get myself out of bed for yoga or a workout, I find it to be most effective. But what works for you? Maybe you box or run or lift weights – movement of the body spreads to the emotions. I recommend Yoga With Adriene on Youtube – she has gentle hatha videos with titles like “Yoga for Anxiety” and “Yoga for When You’re in a Bad Mood.” Breathe it out.
  1. Do something with it. You’ve emptied yourself – after a good cry, you hit a refreshing point of clarity and self-awareness. A calm might wash over you as you see why you are lonely and maybe it becomes clear what you can do about it. Maybe you need to call a friend. Maybe the issue is that you have no friends to call, but don’t despair – pick up a pen or a keyboard or a guitar or a paintbrush; innovation and artistic achievement primarily happen alone. Be a friend to yourself. If you feel misunderstood in the world, the least you can do is strive to know yourself.

view desk solitary alone lonely work creative

  1. Get comfortable with your alone – make peace with your loneliness. The pain will crop up now and then, but you can handle it. Once you figure out how to do that, it’s like leveling up in alone time. Once loneliness is no longer a looming specter on the horizon but, instead, an annoying friend whose visits you are prepared for, you clear out space for yourself, enabling levels of productivity and drive that you could have been muddling with Netflix or pizza.

When you feel deserted – don’t desert yourself. You have all the compassion and kindness and love inside that you need, all it takes is giving it to yourself. You give so much to other people – you’re just as worthwhile as they are. I think you’ll find the extra effort to be quite rewarding – I know I do.

How do you handle loneliness? What are little things that make it easier for you?

Love, calm, & care –

How to Have Feelings

I don’t know about you, but America’s education system did not prepare me for real life. Emotions? Those aren’t mentioned in physical education or Spanish I. I spent my adolescence with a brick wall between my mind and my heart – I was emotionally ignorant. While I did just earn a college degree, what I actually learned during the past four years was how to feel. And I didn’t learn this in school.

You know how when you’re really happy, you physically go a little nuts? Whether you shout or dance or grab someone near you and shake them with joy, you move. Emotional energy has to move out of the body. Negative energy is no different from positive in this way. My reflex is to shut down and isolate myself, only to find that I’m more upset than ever and am burning with angst or something, but I have no clue what it is or why it’s happening.

I used to be so embarrassed that I had feelings. I saw it as a weakness, something to get rid of quietly. Movies show people acting out of raw emotions without thinking things through, without taking the time to feel before making decisions. Feeling and movement go hand in hand for me – they both clear my head. Whether it’s a run or boxing or lifting weights or yoga – when my body is busy, my heart can feel and my mind can think.

A good cry is scientifically proven to be the most efficient way to move the emotional energy out, but that doesn’t always come easy. Often, it comes on the heels of exercise. When I have something pent up inside, I find myself shedding tears as I’m punching a bag or breathing on my yoga mat. Then I finish my yoga, and I turn on the shower and let hot water run over me while I sob in the fetal position. It’s so cathartic, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I began with boxing. I’d been hurt by a lot of people [including myself] and didn’t know what to do with that, so I punched out my aggression. It’s okay to be pissed off, as long as you’re taking it out in a healthy way, a way that doesn’t hurt anyone else.

Yoga, in many ways, saves me every day. Breathing air into all parts of the body, letting it circulate, it’s the freshness of spring cleaning every time you practice. It’s entirely free because it’s all over Youtube, and you can do it in the privacy of your own home, so no one cares if you look funny or if you fart, because you will. And the acceptance, the calm that comes with it makes you okay with that.

Movement, getting in touch with my body, has served as one of the most effective tools of recovery for me. Finally feeling all the emotions that I’d pushed down with food or alcohol or whatever else has been purifying. It’s helped me dig out all the skeletons in my closet, and now they are all happily cremated and serving as fertilizer to the new growth in my soul. And, really, I don’t think any of that would have been possible without physically getting my feelings out of my body. Once they’re out, they lose their power, and you’re able to analyze them with a clear mind, to work through the causes instead of acting out of the effects. And, like every other form of self-care, it’s so worth it.

What do you think? How do you get your feels out?

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Clothes - adapted Arc, scarf - Morocco, shoes - Clarks.

Clothes – adapted Arc, scarf – Morocco, shoes – Clarks.

Nature’s first green is gold

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

[Robert Frost]

I first read this in 7th grade, and it’s always stuck with me. Any time the seasons change – in the physical world, in my soul, in my circumstances – this poem floats back to me – a comfort. I find rest, peace in the knowledge that change will always come. That this too shall pass.

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Curving Cravings

Cravings are an automatic avoidant reaction. I crave things when my heart can’t take in all the feelings that it’s presented with. Whether it’s a walk, a burrito, a coffee, a cigarette – all of these are distractions. So to unlock cravings, you pause – catch yourself.

Now – you’ve stopped yourself in search of a fix, looked at the situation objectively, and listened to your emotions. Now what? Yes, you have a choice, but what are the other options? In any kind of recovery, you need alternatives. Call them coping skills, outlets – it’s all the same. I’m not going to stop myself from buying the cookies if I don’t have any other options.

Part of recovery is finding your options. Cravings can be born of boredom, so this spurs a search of the self. What do you like to do? What makes you happy? What makes you feel good? It’s different for everyone, naturally, but universally healthy things are great choices. Start with breathing. In your stopping and listening, breathe deeply. Get oxygen all up in your lungs and let it out slowly, wholly. Repeat. Whether you want a cigarette or a line or a cheeseburger – slow your roll. Breathe.

Going for a drive, looking at a good view - these are outlets.

Going for a drive, looking at a good view – these are outlets.

Now, if you don’t know yourself very well, the search for things you enjoy can seem daunting. Try to see it as an adventure. Try new things – you might like them. Even if you don’t, the process of pushing your boundaries comes with its own exhilarating rewards. Ever done yoga? Go on youtube and test it out in the privacy of your own home. Like to read? Try it and see. Have a bicycle? Try riding it. Draw a picture. Or, if that sounds scary, get one of those fancy adult coloring books. Art is soothing – creativity is healing. Maybe you learned to play a musical instrument as a kid – try picking it back up. Or take lessons for the first time. Go outside. Visit a museum. Explore a neighborhood of your city. Call a friend.

I always find movement helpful, whether it’s movement of the body or the mind. The emotions that lead to cravings aren’t usually pleasant, and while recognizing them and taking a moment to sit and feel them certainly helps – it’s difficult. I can feel annoyed while I’m running; I can box out my anger; I can vinyasa flow my way through anxiety. Physical movement occupies the body, allowing the mind to search itself, providing clarity. I’ve had huge emotional and intellectual breakthroughs during workouts or while cleaning my house.

This all ties into the connection between mind, body, and soul. I used to be bothered by my mind and take it out on my body, whether through eating, smoking, promiscuity, drinking, etc. I didn’t realize how badly I was making myself feel because I wasn’t feeling my body. Strange as it may sound, I wasn’t in my body. Sure, I had thoughts and preferences and some nascent sense of style, but I couldn’t look at my toes and feel love for them. I never saw my thigh and knew it as a dear part of me. I hadn’t learned the strength or sensitivity of my own body – I didn’t know it. I’d feel confused when I looked in the mirror, disillusioned with the gap that I felt between what I saw and what I believed to be my self.

Yoga was most instrumental in bridging this gap, but I imagine everyone can find their own ways. Boxing and dance were big, too, even playing dress up in my own closet – physical movement, learning my body and how it works. I lift weights because I like to feel strong; I run because I like to feel able and I don’t want to be out of breath when I go for a hike or climb some stairs. Through practice – consistent, intentional practice – I got to know my body. And through that, I now have a deeper sense of self. Every inch of me is my own. I am in my neck, arms, stomach, hips, knees, heels – all of it. After 22 years in this body, I’m comfortable in it. And I love myself, so I take care of it.

I always liked reading, and that remains a strong alternative for me. Creative pursuits have dominated as well. Writing a story or an essay, journaling, playing piano, painting, researching something, planning, doing a thing for someone else. Journaling is quite accessible, and it really helps with becoming aware. Writing down how you feel is an easy way to connect – giving your body something to do [write] while your mind thinks about what’s going on inside of you.

Once you get going on the alternatives, they snowball endlessly. The frontiers of you are endless because you’re always growing and changing and learning new things. It’s good to have a wealth of options, that way you never feel stuck with one healthy choice against an entire candy aisle or a whole pack of cigarettes. You have power in this – implement your agency. It gets easier.

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On [Lemonade] and America

If you haven’t read Part I – it’s not necessary. This focuses on general themes.

What I love about this album is its transcendence. On the surface, the obvious meaning is Beyoncé making lemonade with the lemons that Jay-Z gave her when he cheated on her. But this can represent so many other things – controversies and conflicts that are referenced throughout both the visual and auditory albums.

For one thing, on “Sandcastles,” Beyoncé is transcending herself. She sings “Every promise don’t work out that way,” referencing the ultimatum she had always set down that if he cheats she is gone. And then James Blake, in his chillingly angelic voice, sings – “Forward.” The lyrics of this songs make it sound, for one, that Beyoncé is suggesting an open relationship of some sort between her and Jay-Z, recognizing that the bond they have is greater than most, that the strength and multidimensionality of their connection is not worth throwing away over some becky. At the same time, these lyrics suggest a moving forward for America, an opening of minds to unity – an American identity.

I’ve heard people reference “white culture,” and I guess this is meant as mainstream America, but, honestly, I’ve always felt lost in this country because I can’t see a culture I identify with. My ancestry is mostly Jewish and Irish, but we’ve all been in this country so long that if I tried to join a Yiddish community in New York I’d feel interested, but certainly not at home, and while I might look Irish with my red hair and pale skin, I have no idea what kind of Irish communities exist in the U.S., and I’m not sure I care enough to find out. If I think of white culture, images of preppy kids on golf courses and in country clubs or California surfers come to mind. I don’t fit in either of those scenarios, but even they have some diversity. I don’t know what white culture is, but I don’t want to. What I want is American culture. And I want it to be more than what it is right now. And I think that can only come if we embrace each other, start being generous with our traditions and beliefs and strengths, and come together.

bell hooks, in her critique of Lemonade, wrote that Beyoncé neglected to really call out the patriarchy – that change must be mutual. This goes for intimate relationships, for patriarchy and feminism, and for people of all races. Change must be mutual.

There’s a Gandhi quote that’s used so often it’s likely lost its meaning for many – “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If you want a world of love, acceptance, kindness – you don’t have to wait. In Beyoncé’s visual album, a woman’s voice speaks these words: “So how we supposed to lead our children to the future? How do we lead them? Love.” Be love to everyone around you. People notice a positive example, even if you don’t get constant praise and recognition for it, you’ll know you’re doing the right thing, and, I promise, your actions will make a difference. Someone is always watching. Maybe not the world, but all progress begins on an individual level.

hooks also wrote that, while Beyoncé’s Lemonade focused primarily on the bitterness of the lemons, it’s actually a sweet, refreshing drink. We’ve all been through some shit, but true lemonade is made in “celebration of our moving beyond pain.”

So, Beyoncé, I love Lemonade for its celebration of black women and its transcendent messages. It’s a necessary work of art with words and images that the world need to see, to recognize its power, and to acknowledge and laud the strength of black women. Now – I know at least one white girl that can twerk (it’s me), and I’m sure some Asian and Native American and Mexican and racially ambiguous girls know how to get down to a beat, too, and I would love to see some racial inclusion in your future work – practicing your own message of moving forward. After all, we are American, and, more than anything, I want that to mean something. And I want it to be positive. AND I believe that’s possible.042015_0136_HowtoWinFri1.jpg

 

Self-talk

I remember people joking about messages in Lizzie McGuire and other Disney shows – “Believe in yourself.” It sounded so cheesy, so silly – foolish, even. But actually, it isn’t. It’s some wisdom that Disney was tryna drop on us, and we threw it on the ground. Maybe some people absorbed it, but, growing up in Christianity, I was taught to believe in God – not myself. Only myself through God. Which never fully made sense to me. And, while I’ve received a lot of encouragement from the people in my life, I’ve heard many people I loved talk to themselves negatively – criticizing body parts or actions, beating themselves up. This broke my heart. I saw that these people didn’t deserve that. But everyone has to find it for themself.

Example 1: Your bills were due yesterday. You forgot to pay them. In the moment you remember, what do you say to yourself?

  1. “Oh shit, you idiot, how could fuck this up?!”
  2. “Okay. Fuck. It’ll be okay. Just pay it now. You can’t change it.”
  3. “Fuck the bank, they don’t deserve your money.”

Hopefully we can all agree that, while many of use might feel c, b is the healthiest option.

But so many people choose a. Too many. If you call yourself an idiot, sooner or later you’re going to believe it. In the same way, if you consistently call yourself a genius, you might become a megalomaniac. Of course a balance is key in this, but a healthy, positive self-image is an integral piece to achieving any type of happiness or success.

Example 2: You wake up with a massive pimple on your forehead. Looking in the mirror, you tell yourself –

  1. “You’re a hideous monster. No one will ever love you.”
  2. “This will pass. You are more than your face. I love you. You’re worthwhile, regardless of your blemishes.”
  3. “You already have the face of a goddess, so this is hardly an issue. You are the best looking human on this planet.”

I think we can once again agree that, while c is a fun option, b is the healthiest.

An angsty high school mirror photo - a time when I only said negative things to myself.

An angsty high school mirror photo – a time when I only said negative things to myself and overtweezed my eyebrows.

And once again, it kills me every time I hear people say things like option a to their reflection. While it may seem ridiculous to tell yourself, “I love you,” it makes such a difference. And, once you begin, sooner or later you’ll start to – if you don’t already.

Some days are hard. People can suck and make you feel like shit, and your mind can do this to you as well. Sometimes I feel like I just don’t want to. Really anything. I just don’t. But then I catch it, I stop my freefall, and I look in the mirror and I say, “I love you. You are worthwhile, intelligent, strong, brave, beautiful, etc. You can.” And, even if I don’t believe it in my head, seeing myself say those words to myself actually does something in my brain. And I feel a lot better. I believe myself. And then I believe in myself. And that’s not cheesy at all – that’s necessary for me to function as a healthy human being.

Now I play dress up and spray fake perfume on myself, brimming with joy when I look in the mirror.

Now I play dress up and spray fake perfume on myself. It’s better for everyone this way.

Society seems to place more value on what other people think of us than on what we think of ourselves. While the opinions of others can hold some weight, what actually allows for a healthy mental and emotional state is a positive self-image. It’s a beautiful thing, the self-image, something that can be curated carefully and cultivated into exactly what you wish it to be. Developing this actively is a lifelong pursuit, and it doesn’t stop once you make your self-talk positive. Having it allows for comfort in your own skin, realistic ideas of who you are and what you can accomplish, and the ability to love others well.

See, to love others as you love yourself, you’ve gotta love yourself. And it all starts with what you say to the person in the mirror. You can.042615_0013_HeartlessCh1.jpg