Happy Sunday Morning, my people.
When I remember my absolute most carefree moment, it has the soundtrack of
"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers.
Driving on a small road in a small town in Michigan with my friends.
I was 23.
Sunglasses and sunshine, friends and music.
But also, I had been embraced by a religion, accepted, asked to join-in. I was part of a group and felt grounded in it, and in my body. I was physically safe and no one was trying to have sex with me; it was religiously forbidden. Whew.
And that song...strong staccato beat, the lilty accents of the Scottish twins,
so certain. Unapologetic.
I jacked the volume to concert level and stopped the car in one motion,
left the door open and danced around the car. Legs tribally chanted in big movements, arms in the air.
My comrades joined, because they were also free, or permission was granted, and we all danced.
I felt: free, safe, and joy.
Let's get into a little contrast. You know I love it.
I've had a Friday vibe lately, something I've noticed in my planners and journals.
You know I keep all the journals.
I keep one by the TV. I found I needed to download my thoughts at night because I wasn't feeling comfortable being with myself. This happens on different nights as well, but has become a Fri-yay night pattern.
So let's dig in.
My cognitive frontal brain will play the part of the psychologist.
We get comfy in the chair, get out the pen, and ask our limbic self, What am I feeling?
We often start there.
We could ask, What's happening right now, today? Like, what's going on?
Let me digress for a minute. I envision when I die, being surrounded by my journals, stacked in every room.
On my headstone, they'll write, "She Managed Her Mind."
As opposed to a few years ago, had I died then, "She Was A Good Eater."
Back to the questions we ask ourselves to be our own therapists:
How am I feeling? or
What is happening around me? Like, really happening, the factual life around me. No adjectives, no adverbs.
Here's an example that is not a valid circumstance:
The sky is falling.
You've seen that movie, with the chicken?
Anyway, the sky is falling is not a circumstance, not a fact. It is a thought about life. A perception.
Much the same as: we are all screwed. The earth is screwed. Life sucks.
It's our filter.
Another filter: Others are ruining my way of life.
You can totally keep those perceptions if you want to. You do you.
But that's not a very happy place. The goal is to have at least 50% of your emotions be positive.
Trust me, the air is waaaay better up here.
Maybe that's too abstract.
OK, let's do mine.
Divorce. That's a fact. It's happening.
No, that's too broad right now. Too big. Let's zoom in. Feet on the ground. Today.
Okay, let's do my Friday thing.
My fact is Friday nights. They exist for everyone, indisputably.
I'm not feeling so great on Friday nights. And I know this is entirely my mind creating drama because it's not happening on Monday or Wednesday. My brain is creating a lovely new habit.
We can go around this house and enter in through two doors:
1.) What are you feeling on Fridays?
I can look back at my journals on Fridays, or more helpful, Saturday mornings. There's data in there.
But the answer would be: lonely.
Here's a fact, I was often lonely on Friday nights sitting with my husband and my kids watching a movie, eating popcorn in the dark.
2.) What do I think about "Friday night?"
Friday is date night, or it was back when he and I were trying to be a couple.
Or, more accurately, I suggested to him, We "should" do a date night, and he didn't object.
We should be together without our young kids.
We should be together without discussing our kids.
We should, we should, we should.
Oh, boy. So many shoulds. Our relationship, from the time we planned to get married to now, had so many shoulds. Cultural, religious. Societal.
Where did I get all these shoulds from?
I didn't want to be like my (birth) mother. (WHO WAS ALONE.)
I was the girl who danced around the car in the middle of a street.
And I couldn't dance in my kitchen until he was gone.
(And that is one thought that hosed me. Hosed us. What if I could have? Danced with him there?)
It took me months to even listen to music in the kitchen.
Acceptance, a feeling, comes from thinking: we did the best we could as parents and humans, and it is the absolute best thing for both of us not to be married anymore.
What can we learn? It's possible to feel lonely when we are with other people.
Is this one of the seeds that brings about gray divorce? It's possible.
My brain has a habit of feeling lonely, so even when circumstances change on the outside, inside my head the pattern still exists.
Feeling lonely no matter who is in the room is a Friday night habit I have.
Today's Deep Breath: a practical juju nugget, a collective Next Best Decision.
The constant in this equation is Me. My brain, my thoughts.
Pre-divorce, pre-empty nest, with my family, I felt alone. I felt disconnected to them, sitting together in a room, but not talking, not connecting.
I feel connection while talking, listening to others.
I really like to listen. I like to hear someone else's words besides the ones in my own mind.
I love the sound of their voices washing over me.
After my ex moved to the beach, my adult baby girl moved in with him, and my son went back to his college apartment,
I sold the family house and now I live alone in my place.
Fact, fact, fact.
I didn't think, when this separation business started, that I would be alone.
I pictured me and my kids. I rented a three bedroom apartment because I wasn't going to be alone.
You see my resistance here. I expected something different than WHAT IS, and I'm stuck on what I wanted.
Alas, here we are. Those thoughts circled the drain for months.
Until I journaled about them and asked the question:
But, wait, weren't you lonely in a room with your family?
This is not about your new digs, or living by yourself.
This is a You problem.
And that is where I needed a little help.
On this Saturday morning, after overeating Friday night and with the new awareness that sleep can bring,
I searched on my phone's podcast app for an episode on Loneliness. Woo-boy, several options came up. Hot topic?
Here's some insight I found.
My hoser thought #1: Why are THEY not connecting with me?
There's a should in there. THEY SHOULD ______. I want them to ______.
This is about control, lack, judgement and blame. Who wants to connect with that?
Better thought: Why am I not connecting with myself?
"When we feel lonely and try to get other people to solve it for us, it's only a bandaid. It distracts us from the lack of connection with ourselves. But as soon as we are alone again, we'll feel lonely again." (Kara Loewentheil, episode 87 of UnF*ck Your Brain.)
Huh, I felt lonely with them in the room. Because I am relying on them to make me feel okay about me. Even if they rise and do it, it cannot last and they get exhausted.
When I feel lonely, I'm also unable to fix it. It's not possible.
Actions: get a blanket, watch TV, urges to eat too much, urges to blame others, stay up late to watch more episodes, get less mind-cleansing sleep.
If I was wanting connection to others, I might make a call, or text my kids
(desperate mom seeks free adult kids to fill my needs)
but I'm lonely because
I have crappy thoughts about being alone.
My thoughts produce more loneliness,
which prevents me from connecting to other people,
even if they are in the room.
Belief: being alone means I am not liked or not good enough.
Or I'm exactly like my (birth) mother.
Pain. None of it is true. I need to slow, and modify, this thought train.
I do this A LOT.
I take a fact and make it mean something about me.
We all do. Here's some of the examples I saw this week from me or people I know:
Covid numbers in Florida are rocketing again, that means I am in danger. I'm not safe.
They don't believe the same as me, so they must hate me.
They don't believe the same as me, so I hate them.
They turned me down for a job, so that means I am unemployable.
I am alone on a Friday night which makes me unlovable.
My brain LOOKS for the facts and turns them into sad-promoting thoughts.
It's like I WANT to be sad.
Writing and reading them now, I think: those are some crazy thoughts. But they are so real in the moment. They all have feelings attached to them.
The managed mind EATS THIS UP.
...and that is just a silly thought my brain is thinking. Feel: relief.
...but this means nothing about you, so let's not even go there today. Feel: resolved, like a closed loop.
...nope, not thinking that today. Feel: bad*ss.
Like Little Miss Pac-Man. Just slowing the thought process from becoming a full-blown saga that lasts all night long.
And let's be honest, all of this drama is just the brain's way of living out a pattern.
My Limbic Girl wants to eat to feel different (or drink tea, take a pill, or over-sleep.)
That's her goal. She just wants to eat. She is just trying to repeat a pattern.
Bless her heart.
What she really wants is to feel love and connection from me.
Our Cognitive needs to love the Limbic, telling ourselves:
I love you,
I have your back,
I will take care of you.
Look at all the things I did today to care for you. List them out. Prove it.
When I FEEL loved:
I feel amazing: at a party, sitting with a friend, in a room with my kids or even with my ex-husband.
And especially by myself. Dancing in the kitchen.
The benefits of a managed mind.