We were sitting on the most beautiful beach you could ever imagine. White, fluffy sand, clear, turquoise waters, no one else around, just us and our young children. My kids were 5 and 8, she had a crawling baby to keep up with and another one on the way. She turned to me and sighed. “I’m so sick of living here. I miss [insert anywhere else]. It’s so boring here.” At the time, what was going through my mind was, omigosh, you are crazy! This is paradise! Life here is calm, relaxed, and yes, there are the inconveniences of island-living but gosh, you have no idea how spoiled you are!
I kept these thoughts to myself though, because they were not helpful for obvious reasons. Instead, I offered, “You’re in a hard stage of life right now. You have a toddler, you’re carrying around a huge watermelon in your belly, your husband works a ton of hours. Do you think maybe your feelings are pretty normal considering this stage in life? And maybe it would be hard no matter where you are?” I can’t remember what she replied, but it was probably NOT “Wow, you are so right! I just need to shift my mindset, take ownership of the things I can change and have a more positive attitude about stuff, and remind myself that this too shall pass!”
This morning, a friend (I will call her Ruth) was sharing how challenging she finds some people in her life, who would fall into the Eeyore personality category. You know the type, they are generally low energy, and can find the negative in absolutely any situation or interaction. This particular person Ruth was telling me about is having a hard time right now with The Shitshow (political polarization, etc.). This woman claims that she has had to withdraw from certain social groups because she has felt others in the groups are antagonistic and clearly not aligned with her own politics etc, so she feels uncomfortable and unwelcome. She went on to say that she and her husband felt the same in the last place they had lived and she was hoping they had left that behind, so she was upset things were the same in their new hometown.
Immediately I thought back to my friend back on the island, as well as to other times in my own life. When my firstborn was 2 months old, we moved from a metropolitan area in the South to a rather provincial town in the Northeast. I did not know anyone, and it was winter and I had an infant, so even though COVID was 20 years away, the flu was enough reason to practice what we now call social distancing. My husband was traveling most of the time, and I was pretty isolated. I was not a playgroup kind of mom, since the thought of chit-chatting while babies made a mess and stole each other’s toys and constantly interrupted was highly unappealing to me. When my baby was six months old, I joined a gym and she enjoyed the nursery there while I ran on the treadmills and picked up the weights, and had adult conversations with other gym-goers. If you asked me then if I was happy where I was, I would have said, “I am happy anywhere - but this area is really hard for making friends. People here are generally not that into stuff I am interested in, and they are happy to stay in their small, suburban bubble so we don’t have much in common.” Eventually I started a little photography business, and became very involved as a volunteer in a program at a high school helping teen parents stay in school. And this was when I finally started to feel like I was growing roots in this new area. We had been there for six years at this point.
In six years, this town had not changed. The people in the town had not changed. What changed was me. I had made efforts to seek out work, people, and communities where I could make an impact. The town where I lived still had the people who had always lived there and still had their high school friends, so they were nice but they were not interested in embracing someone new into their circle. It still had plenty of things and people I would categorize as not being aligned with my ideologies, lifestyle, or future goals. But at some point I started to shift and my time, energy and other resources were dedicated toward what is important to me and is aligned with my values. And not only did I start to feel more fulfilled, but I started to meet others who shared my curiosity.
Talking with Ruth this morning about this particular friend of hers, and how to best handle the friendship, once again brought me back to the theme of as Ruth puts it, no matter where we go, there we are. Today, I think this is something that is particularly important because we are all on social media (which is how you are reading this, I would guess). So you don’t have to move in order to put yourself in a certain area or group. It’s right on your phone. And you can easily and quite justifiably, no matter where you fall on the ideological spectrum, feel insulted, incensed, misunderstood, ostracized, excluded. And I would argue that it is a choice. What we focus on grows, and we choose every single moment, where we place our focus. These days, I am finding it really helpful to focus on these thoughts or mantras:
If people are consistently pissing you off, you could move, or unfriend, or repost, or complain - or you could unplug, go outside, and look for the bright spots. There are lots of bright spots in this crazyass world :-)
Wellness coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.