The Walls Are Closing In

In my former life – pre-kids, pre-marriage, pre-adulting – I would decide that I wanted to go somewhere on a whim and be headed that way within a few days or less. I love to see new places and experience new cultures, so traveling has always been great fun for me. In my current life, experiencing new cultures consists of visiting the latest Vietnamese restaurant that recently opened in an area strip center. You know. It’s the one by the 40th nail shop, dry cleaners, and Subway that can be found littered on every corner of Suburbia U.S.A.

I have an innate sense of wanderlust and have always wanted to visit a million different places on the planet. Unfortunately, there are two million reasons that stop that from happening. Work, school, schedules. Obligations, family, money. Reality. The other problem is that I work out of the house. While this is a huge blessing, it can also be very tough. While the rest of the family spends the day at the office or school, I remain here. Working out of your house can be extremely helpful, but it also means I spend almost all of my time here. I work long hours and don’t run out for long lunches. I don’t have time to go shopping or hangout with other moms in the area. Sometimes it’s can be very lonely. And when my work day ends, all I want to do is see my family and go out somewhere away from the house with them. However as they have been away all day, they naturally look forward to unwinding at home after their school and work days are over. I feel guilty if I go out without them, but I feel stir crazy if I stay home.

I want to jump in my car and drive for hours and hours to anywhere different and interesting. I want to plan trips to every corner of the (cornerless) globe. I have yet to see the Egyptian Pyramids, climb Machu Picchu, swim the Great Barrier Reef, or twirl in dizzy circles like a nun soon to be nanny on the slopes of the Alps. I still dream of photographing the incredible wildlife of Galapagos, making faces at the big noggins attached to submerged bodies at Easter Island, see the Northern Lights in person, or sit on the ocean floor as huge manta rays swim around me at a night dive in Hawaii. Seeing the beauties of the world through my phone screen is not enough for me. I want to breathe it all in. To take those journeys. To experience those wonders. To do more everything. And I want my family by my side the whole way.

But they usually want to stay close to home. And beyond that, short of having a long-lost unknown relative who has recently opted to pop a random massive check in the mail, that’s simply not possible in my life today nor will it be happening tomorrow either. It will be back to work, school, schedules. More obligations, family, money. Life as usual within these walls.

I’m blessed. Truly. I do know this. I love my family beyond measure, and I’m genuinely grateful for all of the realities that we are required to tend to each day. I just wish that I could either find a way to break out of the walls every now and then or learn how to fully accept living the vast majority of my hours within them.

I don’t believe that anyone should discard their dreams based on a moment’s perceived reality, but I can’t see how to surmount the realities at this point in my life either. The good news is that I know that life never moves in a straight line and incredible and wonderful surprises can appear when we least expect them.

Although I am feeling constricted in this moment, I ultimately choose to trust that the universe has bad ass plans in the works for my crew and me. I remind myself to breathe in the good in all of the moments and seek the magic in the smallest of our experiences.

Anything can happen and there are countless impossible possibilities that become spectacular realities every day. So this is my official shout out to the universal miracle request line. Bring it on baby because we are here and ready whenever you are!

Calling Bull on the Validation of Unhealthy Behavior on Social Media

We all have down days, and some of those may almost drag us under. We don’t know how to work through the emotions so maybe we get a loose-lipped and dark and twisty with our feelings on social media. It happens. However there a delicate tipping point you can hit once you begin to feel validated by the negative attention. And if you don’t get out of your own way, you will immediately be setting yourself up to become your own worst enemy.

I posted the picture and sentiment above on Instagram earlier today. I love the memory of that beautiful morning, and I genuinely believe what I wrote there. After adding the photo, I wanted to see if any other posts or quotes spoke to my spirit, so I searched under the hashtags #loneliness and #depression. Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

I felt so frustrated at the endless barrage of posts that reflected outright self-sabotage and overt negative attention guzzling. It was even more disconcerting to see the number of followers and people leaving comments that directly cheered on the “bravery” (a.k.a. blatant unhealthy negativity).

So many entries said something to the effect of “I choose to be alone” or “I feel so lonely and don’t want anyone in my life” and included the #loneliness and #depression hashtags in the posts. In return they received hundreds or thousands of likes, e-high fives, “I agree” responses, and similar additional hashtags added into the comments.

What a complete crapfest of a story. This may sound ice cold but that is a personal pity party that has been posted for public approval. You don’t love to be alone if you feel the need to write about it on social media. If you must post about your love for loneliness and hashtag #loneliness for your followers on a platform with a billion other users, you are seeking out negative attention and feeding the monster once more.

People talked about how a single word from another destroyed their lives. I considered (but decided against) leaving the comment, “So how is that even possible? Is it like 42 for the universe, but instead in this case it’s a secret code word spoken only uttered the life-smashers?” Again. Total crap. If you are allowing one word to take you down, your problem is not the other person who spoke it. I don’t care who they are. No others have that power unless you choose to believe that they are right.

As for the bystanders (people leaving likes and cheers in the comments), how is liking and encouraging those posts you helping that person off their dark bandwagon either. The intentions may be sincere, but what message are we sending?

These writers and artists are brilliant beautiful people, but they are unconsciously sacrificing their opportunities to bring in more joy in exchange for more daily likes and potential followers. It’s a crappy trade my friends. No number of likes on a social media post will ever translate into sustainable love for yourself in real life. Trying to win over the fickle short attention span of the world of social media is a fruitless chase. Aim for winning over your image of yourself instead. The odds are better and the results will hold much much longer.

Maybe you don’t land ten zillion comments or likes for being happy, or maybe you don’t even get two. So effing what! You will still feel better when you get out of your own way. Your mind will find more clarity and balance when you validate the positive parts of your life and yourself. As I said before, focus on what you want in your life instead of celebrating what you are trying to escape.

This is a tough love post intended for people who operate with these behavior patterns as their standard, not rough periods here and there. We all have those. My hope is that my abrupt words will jar someone – any individual person at all – into recognizing that they are poisoning their own water if they continue to operate this way.

I didn’t write this post from a self-righteous place of judgement nor did my words come from emotions that I couldn’t directly comprehend. I struggled deeply with depression for decades, I embraced the blackness and believed the lies my mind fed me, and I barely escaped that period of my life alive. I sincerely believe that divine intervention saved me, and though I wouldn’t change my past, I would not wish for anyone in the world to experience the kind of pain I endured.

There are many elements of loneliness, depression, and mental health struggles that we cannot control. Don’t sacrifice the parts that you can change for the better. As you have likely heard, happiness is an inside job. If you can’t figure out how to find it, maybe start by trying to recognize what you might be doing to blockade it.

Best wishes to all of you always.

Jo Price

Does Social Media Intensify Loneliness and Mental Health Problems?

crabs1 - bandw ish

People are more lonely today than ever before. We have all heard this, but how is that even possible? We can send a message to someone on the other side of the planet and receive an immediate response. We electronically befriend and befollow (???) those whom we have not seen in decades. Our connections include people from high school and college, our jobs and our neighborhoods, a long wait at the grocery store checkout – basically anyone we know. Or kinda know.

Our having these connections does not mean that we receive honest insight into all of the significant parts of their days. Based on what we see online, most people are in romantic relationships, have children who excel at school, and take many exotic vacations with pedicured feet.

Those shiny updates may be legitimate, but they are by no means the full story.

We keep quiet about our most significant hurts. The dark realities are tough to face, and we often feel deeply embarrassed by them. The last thing we want to do is put them on public display.

That guarded approach is true for 99% of the public social media profiles you see. You may see an odd rough day post here and there, but the serious issues won’t make the cut. And that is a huge problem.

Because we are bombarded with endless fluff, we don’t see the dirt and devastation. We aren’t aware of the physical or emotional abuse that is rife around us. We don’t realize that so many incredible children are struggling desperately just to advance to the next grade. We have no clue that innumerable people we know are drowning in their feelings of low self-worth an hopelessness. And we don’t know that the perpetually cheerful neighbor a few doors down is battling suicidal thoughts behind the smiles.

More often that not, having a social media connection is akin to maintaining a surface acquaintance. That’s okay, but you need real interactions, too. Actual conversations. Shared meals. Genuine human contact.

People aren’t lonely because they don’t know anyone else. They are lonely because they don’t share themselves deeply nor do they directly support others in that capacity. We don’t thrive if we stay in endless hiding. As always, you don’t need to air your dirty laundry out for the world to see. God gave us politicians to fill that role, so consider that part taken. But you can take a quick break from technology so you can have an actual conversation that doesn’t involve YouTube at mealtime. You can get together with a true friend for coffee and trade emotional war stories. You can make a hands-free call in the car to catch up with a family member on the way home from work. You can turn off the mindless games and read a book that will boost your brain instead.

Our minds are rebelling against us because they are bored from a lack of stimulation, but we are also missing out on key requirement of our design. We have an inherent need for human interaction, and no amount of tech can replace that. The more we continue to exclude direct contact with other people, the more we isolate ourselves, and our societal mental health deterioration is a serious reflection of this problem.

Get out of your shell, and take a little time every day to step away from the tech. If you aren’t there yet, at least use it to make a call to a person who matters in your life. If calling isn’t your thing, write something worth reading. Something memorable. Something real. Just make sure that you are doing the thinking – not your tech.

Social media has its benefits, but never forget that the real story is behind the scenes. You have to get past the veil in order to see the truth of others, and you have to let people in so you won’t be alone in yours.

If you don’t feel like you can speak candidly with anyone in your personal life, consider taking up blogging and writing with a sincere voice. The community of friends I have met here is unlike any other, and they have taught me to be braver, more open, and more real than I ever imagined I could be.

Much love to you always.  Jo

*Thank you Janie at https://authentically50.wordpress.com/2018/06/27/7-day-bw-photo-challenge-day-four/ for tagging me to participate in the 7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge (7 days / 7 b&w photos / no people / no explanation / challenge a new person daily)

For day 5 of the challenge, I am tagging Julie at https://juliehcares.com/. She is a sassy Texan with a such spirit and light. I am thankful that we met here Julie and look forward to getting to know you even better!  🙂  Hugs!  Jo

The Loneliness of Depression

moon flight

I don’t enjoy writing about depression. My insecurities rise to the surface as my innumerable failings are put on display. I worry that people will read my words and judge me. That I will be seen as weak. Or whiny. Or pathetic. In my mind, I am already giving myself a severe beat down, so sharing my tales to invite more opposing boxers to the ring feels like a seriously foolish idea. No one else could possibly understand the crazy sentiments racing through my mind. No one else could possibly relate.

But that’s entirely untrue. These kinds of feelings are rampant. Countless people face these struggles every single day, and too many of them lose the battle with anxiety and depression. They feel so isolated. Broken. Helpless. Hopeless. They put out the light before the sun has a chance to find its way through the darkness once more.

So even though I am embarrassed to share my struggles, I recognize that someone out there in this moment needs to know that they aren’t alone in theirs. That they aren’t the only ones feeling broken, destroyed, or terminally unworthy of love. That another person is in it, too, and that maybe there’s some chance that it can get better. That holding on is possible, and that sticking around is worth it.

It does get better. It doesn’t stay dark and heavy forever. And you aren’t alone in it.

You are absolutely worthy of love. You are not broken. You can make it through this.

If someone doesn’t get what you are going through, they are luckier than they know. If they judge you for being imperfect, well… definitely don’t sweat that because no one is. And if you feel like you are alone, drop me a line. But whatever you do, please don’t give up.

It won’t stay dark forever, you are stronger than you can imagine, and despite the way you may feel, you are never ever alone.

Big hugs to you.  Jo

***Thanks so much to Nancy Merrill for her clever weekly photo challenge prompt of from below.