The Holidays are Supposed to be Fun: How to Ease Some Self-care into Your Busy Holiday Schedule

With so many responsibilities and events happening around the holidays, not to mention your focus being so intent on what you can do for others, it’s easy to let your own needs slip through the cracks. But what good are we to others if we haven’t taken care of ourselves? That’s why it’s especially important to remember to take a break in the midst of the holiday chaos to recharge your batteries. A little strategic self-care can go a long way during these times of increased stress. Let’s explore some ways to recharge during this busy season.

Lower Light Lowered Energy

As the daylight hours get shorter, so does our natural rhythm. It may just be me, but when the days aren’t as long, it feels as though there’s less time in the day to get done what we need to do. And with so many extra responsibilities around the holidays, this can feel overwhelming.

Usually I’m up before the sun. And most days I’m leaving work right around the time the sun sets. Not being out during the daylight hours has definitely had an adverse affect on my emotional states. Especially the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. With the menu planning, work schedule and logistics of how I’m getting things to where they need to go, it takes its toll on me for sure.

And with Christmas just around the corner, for me, time can just as easily slip away in December as it does in November. So what’re we to do in the face of all these responsibilities? For me, coming up with a plan is a priority. Otherwise I wouldn’t execute my ideas for gifts to get whom and meals to cook, as well as people to see. Here’s how I’m handling the increased amount of responsibility this holiday season. And these methods can be extended during other times of high stress as well.

Make a Plan

And follow through! When you’re scheduling your time during November and December, take a look at how thin you’re spreading yourself. Have you picked up extra responsibilities at work? Did you say you would host a gathering or attend multiple gatherings? How much time did you leave for yourself to relax or get things done? When is your down time and what do you plan to do to recharge?

For me, work gets a little crazier around the holidays. So making sure I stick to my planned self-care routines is important. One way I practice self-care is by making a special meal for myself once a week. Also, going to my weekly in studio yoga class is important as well.

Though sometimes I feel a little guilty. As though I could be squeezing more tasks into my schedule if I skipped yoga for a few weeks. Or if I ordered takeout instead of cooking my self-care meal. But pushing myself to the point of exhaustion, or cutting corners on what brings me joy is no way to live. It’s not sustainable for one, and two, Stephen King wrote a few novels about this which should be a clear red flag all its own, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Schedule Some Self-Care

So before we flip to ax murderer status, let’s try and work some self-care into our schedules. A good place to start with is: what do you already do that brings you a sense of joy and peace? For me, sipping on some herbal tea is a good start, maybe while burning some beeswax candles. A good foot soak is up there as well. With some essential oils and bath salts, this is something that is especially relaxing.

And it being the gift giving season, why not work yourself into your gifting list this year? I plan on buying myself a massage before the season’s over. So I have something to look forward to in-between work responsibilities and family and friend engagements. It doesn’t have to be much, but a little self-care goes a long way to keeping your mental and emotional health in the best shape possible amid the stress.

Shopping for Others, it’s Not a Competition

I know when I’m shopping for others, it can feel like I have to find the perfect gift, whatever the cost. Also, I feel compelled to match whatever the other person is potentially going to get for me. What I’m trying to keep in mind this year is, that gift giving isn’t about the money spent on the person.

Sure, I set a budget for my gift giving during the season. But if I come in a few dollars under or over budget, that just means that I found the right gift for less, or I need to reign in my spending elsewhere. But the bottom line is, the dollar value I put on my gifts does not match the value I place on my relationship to the person. This is what’s most important to remember. It also helps to alleviate some of the stress that’s wrapped up in gift giving.

Also, understanding and accepting that the value someone else puts on gift giving does not have to be equal to, or in line with our value system. They can exist independently and not have an affect on our relationship for the worse. So if someone doesn’t like the gift you got them, or they went all out and you kept it on the simpler side, try not to take it so personal. This can be difficult for sure. But the old adage still rings true, it’s the thought that counts. So try not to worry about it. And remember that the other person’s reaction isn’t a reflection of your intention. Just keep in mind that we’re all celebrating each other. Not the gifts we bought for one another.

Ask For Help

And don’t forget, you’re not alone! Depending on how many responsibilities you have you can ask those close in to lend a hand. For example, if you’ve found yourself buried at work, don’t be afraid to ask a colleague or your boss for some assistance. I work in the food industry. So when I get behind, there are immediate consequences. So I know about work pressure all to well. But regardless of which industry we work in, being overwhelmed with work looks the same in every situation.

For example, a family member of mine works in the tech industry. They find themselves overwhelmed, usually in the beginning of the month when they are inundated with paperwork. They were also, until recently, managing the work loads of other employees. When they understood how much they were doing, they had some conversations with their supervisor and the end result was, they hired another person to take some of their responsibilities.

When we’re behind at the place I work, we see who we can bring in to give us a hand with the prep list. Sometimes it’s a person from out front. Or maybe another person in the kitchen that works a different time than I do. This way, our prep-list gets taken care of, while maximizing the resources and people we already have.

In both instances, when the work proved to be too much for us, we both asked for help with finishing our tasks. There was less stress on our shoulders, which means the work was done with more care. Win, win. It’s also worth mentioning that nobody does their best work when they are under large amounts of stress. It’s almost always beneficial to ask for help.

You Don’t Have to do Everything

In the same vein of asking for help in the workplace, it’s also good to know that you can ask for help in other areas of your life as well. For a very long time I thought as though I had to do everything on my own and do it perfectly. Or else, in my book anyway, it wasn’t worth doing. This lead to a lot of disconnection, miscommunication and hurt feelings.

I was being insensitive to those who were earnestly looking to help me while they watched me struggle. This directly lead to me alienating myself from those who were looking out for my best interests. I inflicted a lot of damage to many of my relationships this way. This is something that I’m not proud of, but also a valuable lesson learned. I don’t have to do it all and I don’t have to do it alone.

Honest Self Evaluation

Luckily, I was able to do some damage control and salvage most of my friendships. But recognizing when to reign in my foolish pride. Taking a step back and honestly evaluate my situation and recognize when I need help, has been a huge step forward in being and staying connected with friends and family. Not to mention being in a happier frame of mind more often.

And it takes work. As I’ve said above, an honest evaluation of where you are and what you need is the first step to taking care of yourself and those around you. But it’s a difficult one, especially if you’re like me and let pride take the wheel.

Planning with Friends

One way we can practice this is, if you’ve planned a holiday party for some friends and family, ask your S.O. or best friend if you can collaborate on the logistics of the get together, together. Pick a night to get a few beers, some dinner and plan out the details of what you’re about to undertake. Maybe get a few more people involved in the planning. After all, more perspectives can bring a greater scope and depth of ideas to your planning. Making the event all the more satisfying in the end. But don’t go overboard. Sometimes too many perspectives can lead to confusion.

You’ll most likely have fun in the process, and build closer, tighter bonds with your friends and partner. After all, this is what we’re looking for when we plan these types of events in the first place. To bring those we love, closer together. To create a sense of shared comradery, of joy, happiness and love. And this is the most basic type of self-care. Caring for yourself, then sharing that care with others while others do the same as well. Like being held in a field of caring.

It may sound a little cheesy, a little too Hallmarky, but who doesn’t have a fond memory of when your friend did that crazy thing at that party that one time. These are the moments that we hold close, that help us remember the good times when we’re stressed and in over our heads.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

And don’t forget, these times are about celebrating the good. We’re literally gathering during the holidays to remember that life is fun. Sure it’s also work and it isn’t always one big party. But there are moments of tenderness and joy mixed in. Happiness and love. Ease and serenity. These are all states that are worth celebrating and even better when celebrated and shared together.

So remember, when you’re feeling stressed this season, make a plan. Take an honest evaluation of where you are at and what you need. Keep in mind that the good intentions behind your gift giving are enough. And don’t forget that not only are you able to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed, but it’s also a huge help. And will probably lead to building happier, stronger and lasting bonds. And don’t forget to take the time for yourself that you need. It’s okay to do something nice for yourself. Even while you’re taking care of others. Good luck this holiday season. Peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “Holiday plans” by jose.jhg is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Updated: 11/21/22

Finding Belonging: Navigating Feeling Lonely For the Holidays

There has been a lot of talk lately about isolation, belonging and how it’s been affecting us as a global society. Being quarantined for such a long time has no doubt, taken its toll on peoples’ mental health. But what about those who were already isolating? Only not due to a virus outbreak. What if there are people whom are already quarantining, only to protect themselves from opening up emotionally to others?

This was how I had been living for decades. Not realizing what I had been doing. In this post, I’d like to take a look at what brought me to this place of isolation and what I’m doing about it now to help alleviate some of the emotional pain. Hopefully, helping both those who are too scared to open up emotionally, but also those dealing with pandemic isolation as well. So let’s jump right in with where it all began for me.

How My Past Shaped My Present

When I was young, things were good. I had a best friend, support from family and interests I was developing. There were feelings of belonging to one another and I was well on my way to a healthy version of person-hood. But things took a turn for the worse when I was about 8 years-old. My family fell apart and I lost my best friend and my belonging, all at about the same time.

This was a difficult situation for anybody to handle. But when you’re 8 and emotionally abandoned, it’s nearly impossible to sort out and understand all the emotions tied to what’s happening to and around you. Also not to mention, not to take responsibility for what’s happening. Especially if the messages you were being sent were, as I was, “there’s something wrong with you, I know what it is, but I’m not going to tell you and I’m disappointed in you for it.”

There was usually a smug sense of knowing, of superiority that my caregivers carried about them. And when you’re a child just coming to understand how you affect the world you’re inhabiting, this is more than just a little confusing. Also hard not to take personally. I was second guessing my belonging, how I was seen by others and whether or not what I was doing made those I relied on and trusted, reject me. Like a suspended state of hope, only to be torn down, again and again. I was lonely, isolated and had absolutely no one to talk to. No one to help me to understand what I was experiencing. Fast forward to the pandemic and I had already experienced what others were coming to know well as a heartbreakingly lonely experience. Only for most, theirs was due to a virus.

And the older I got, the further apart my family drifted. To almost complete isolation. We never spoke to one another. And when we did we didn’t have anything nice to say about anything or one. We were becoming less and less recognizable as a family. AKA a group of people who love and support one another. It just wasn’t in us.

Okay, It’s Hit the Fan, Now What?

To watch something you felt loved and supported from fall apart, is no easy task. As I’ve said in earlier posts on this blog, I have very fond memories of my family in my youth. So getting used to the cold, emotionless, emptiness that was slowly growing in the place of where my love and support used to live was maddening. But it was also fact. No amount of wishing things were differently was going to make things change for the better. Especially around the holidays.

So I did what anybody in my situation would do. I had a breakdown. I left my wife for a woman I thought I loved, only to find myself rejected yet again. A pattern I later realized that I emulated from my family history. But it’s the best thing that could have happened for me at the time.

Reliving Old Patterns

I realized I was living the embodiment of my family’s toxic ways of being. All the while, running from what was healthiest for me. Which was to build lasting relationships based in mutual respect, trust and love. Not on the image based and emotionally avoidant ways my family has been living.

I chose my ex-wife because she held strong opinions and knew what she wanted. These aren’t inherently bad qualities, only it left me without a voice in the relationship. But this was just what I was looking for. Someone to tell me how to live my life. And that’s exactly what I got from our relationship.

The woman I left my ex-wife for was more of the same. I was regressing in my emotional growth by choosing women who were obstinate, mildly self-absorbed, bullish, self-righteous, mean spirited and abusive. But if we’re being honest, I was exactly the same way. And I was also looking to avoid being a part of my relationships because it’s how I was hurt in the past.

So after my breakdown, I moved in with one of my childhood caregivers. This was a wakeup call in that most of the life events that I experienced, my caregiver had as well. Only I never knew because we never spoke. They were avoiding building a relationship with me in the same ways I was avoiding building relationships with them.

So again, I was left alone and with little direction on how to move forward with and in my life. But luckily this time around, I had a few resources and some goals to work towards. These, in conjunction with one another, gave me the insight to help me move forward and finally grow from the regressed, stagnant place I had been living from for so long.

Rebuilding

There’s a feeling I get when I go into a drug store or a thrift shop. It’s a feeling of knowing that I can probably get what I need from this place, but maybe it won’t match my ideal aesthetic of what I want. But there’s a potential that’s embedded in that feeling. What if I can make something of what I have. What can I do with where I’m at.

And that’s a good feeling. This was the feeling I got when I moved in with my caregiver after barely speaking for 26 years. We were finally in a position where we would be stuck in a place together, for better or for worse, and have to navigate our relationship together. But it took a while. We had to get use to being around one another. Get to know each other as the people we had become. With all of the life experiences we’ve accumulated. Relearn belonging to each other. It was uncomfortable at times but we stuck it out and grew stronger because of it.

I started doing laundry every other week with one family member, which allowed me to get to know them again every other Wednesday night. This is where I started to learn how to trust again. Then I suggested family dinner Friday. Every Friday, one of us chooses a recipe and we gather to cook our meal. Dividing the tasks and enjoying the fruits of our labor, the conversations, the mistakes. It’s become a favorite night for all of us and embodies a sense of belonging to each other. Then I suggested just hanging out with one family member on Monday mornings when I wasn’t working.

Something Bigger

Slowly, we were, are, learning how to be a family again and feel belonging to one another. But no one of us could have done it alone. We all had to be willing to become a part of something bigger than just three people living in a household sharing space. We needed to be open to the idea of living in a home, foibles and all.

And this took a lot of work. For all of us, but on my part as well. I had to be open to being hurt again. So I could feel the vulnerability and the tenderness that comes with feeling connected. Because I will be hurt again. I’ll be let down by something somebody does or hurt when they leave me for the final time. But it’s worth remembering to open anyways. There’s a line from a Kings of Leon song, “The Immortals” that goes, “don’t forget to love, ‘fore you gone”. Something I feel as though a majority of us are too scared to do. And what I’ve been running from for so long.

Tick List: Stay Connected

I have a list on my phone, next to my “Todo” list. This one is called, “Stay Connected”. It’s a list I wrote of my friends. The people I want to stay in touch with. What they’re up to and current/future plans I have with them. For someone like me, who has been isolated for the better part of three decades, this is an important aspect of life for me to stay on top of to feel a greater sense of belonging. There’s a line from a song that goes, “being lonely is a habit, like drinking or taking drugs, I quit them both, but man was it rough” Jenny Lewis, Acid Tough.

And being lonely is both habit and rough. One of the reasons we may be isolating and why I was is, to protect ourselves. But it’s doing more harm to stay isolated than to take the risk and feel connected and belonging. This article from Tulane University explains how isolation can lead to anxiety, depression and heart disease. But do we really need scientific research to show us that we feel better after a talk with a close friend? Or the feeling of warmth while we’re cuddling with our S.O.? Feeling like we belong? Sometimes we need only listen to the wisdom of our hearts to know what’s best for us, even if that wisdom is intertwined with fear.

Taking the Risk

I have a photo from “Man on Wire” on my desktop, where Philippe, the subject of the documentary, is on a high-wire between the tops of the two world trade center buildings in NYC. The photo is both terrifying and beautiful at the same time. This is what it feels like, for me, to risk feeling connected again after so much neglect and estrangement. It’s not safe, but necessary. To cross the void in order to feel loved and connection again.

So how do we begin to cross the void? Don’t look down! JK, but seriously, it takes a lot of feeling uncomfortable and swallowing a fair amount of pride in the process. For me, I had to recognize that I was actively withholding love from others. And what’s most surprising is, I didn’t even realize I was doing it. It became so engrained in my personality, in my defense against being hurt, I didn’t even realize it was happening. It was a lesson I learned from my family. Who has been practicing it since before I can remember. So to even wake up from the trance I was in, is a feat on to itself. But it’s doable. It just takes practice and persistence.

From Neglected to Safe & Cozy

What practice looked like for me was, I had to find ways to make my environment comfortable for me to inhabit first. I started with my room. Filling it with plants, a diffuser and some candles. Things that imbue comfort for me. I then took some of that comfort and carried it into the next room I wanted to acclimate to. I started burning candles while I was learning to take care of my nutritional needs. By cooking for myself while in the kitchen. Then I was able to offer this peace I had found in myself to others. But the other aspect I needed was to learn how to be kind to myself first.

This took practice as well. I didn’t realize the ways I was beating myself up and how often I was doing it. Trying to reach that impossible standard to feel loved, belonging and accepted, kept me from seeing a lot of the ways I was disconnecting from myself. And how I was pushing myself too hard. But these were learned behaviors from my family. I was neglecting myself in the same ways my family neglected me and themselves.

Turkey Day

For example, my family, for Thanksgiving, wasn’t going to buy a turkey for themselves because it was too expensive and too much food. I don’t eat meat, and they couldn’t eat a whole turkey with just the two of them. But they would buy it for another in a heartbeat if they were coming over for dinner. Although the frugal side agrees with just purchasing a breast and splitting it : )

These are the ways I had modeled for me in neglecting myself by neglecting what brings me joy. Usually because I feel I need to settle for something lesser. This is due to not feeling as though I’m worth the effort, but if I’m always neglecting myself and sacrificing my happiness for no other reason than because I don’t want to spend the money or effort on myself, what kind of message am I sending to myself and others? That I’m not really worth or worthy of love. From myself or from others. Not in a way you can buy love. But loving yourself enough to treat yourself once and a while. Within reason : )

And my family members are good people. They’ve just been told time and again this unhealthy message of, sacrifice your happiness and joy in the name of being frugal, or for someone else’s sake. We never learned how to care for and pamper ourselves. But this is what I’ve been doing with my planned family dinners and time spent with family members again. Learning how to care for myself, as well as those closest to me. As a result, we’ve all come to trust and love each other a little more deeply because of it. It hasn’t been easy, but it is most definitely worth the while.

There’s a greater sense of ease around one another now. A place where uncertainty and distrust lay before, now is filled with feelings of belonging. Something that wasn’t possible only a few years ago. It’s not perfect, but it’s fulfilling. And that’s good enough.

Begin With What You Have

So how do we make the U-turn from lonely and isolated to connected, belonging and loved? I’ve found that starting with where you are, and who you are with, is the best place to begin. But first, it’s important to assess your situation and whom is around you to make sure you’re taking care of yourself in as safe a way as possible. For example, if I was still living with the last woman I was staying with, I most likely wouldn’t have been able to grow in the ways I have. I just wasn’t in a safe and supportive environment. And subsequently felt guarded and on edge. This was not an environment conducive to building trust or feeling belonging.

Finding supportive friends is also fundamental to building trust and love as well as finding belonging. I’m so grateful for the countless hikes and conversations that have nurtured me when I most needed love and support from my friends and family that are closest to me. Time spent together was a soothing balm to the neglect and abandonment I experienced in my youth. And they are relationships I value more and more each time we get together.

Get Out There

So if you’re in a similar situation to what I have experiences and are feeling lonely and looking for belonging, find a relationship that feels like it has potential, even if it feels a little risky, and start there. Find a foothold in a shared common interest. For me and my family it was food and gardening. What do the people in your life value? Where does it intersect with where your interests lay? Explore these areas a little together. And remember, it doesn’t have to happen overnight.

Treat your relationships as you would something that is growing. Give them the time and space they need. The nutrients of your shared interests and what you discover along the way. Again, it won’t happen overnight, especially if there are hurt feelings to tend to. But be patient. Also, if you’re new to building healthy relationships, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my therapist who has been a personal ally for me when I most needed them.

And also, don’t forget to have fun along the way! For me, I can get so wrapped up in thinking I need to constantly improve, be as healthy as possible, that I forget that I, and those closest to me, aren’t projects. We’re just people who want to connect. To be seen and heard.

The holidays can be lonely for some but they don’t have to be. If you are finding that you are in a similar situation, feeling a bit adrift and lonely, reach out to someone. Even if you haven’t spoken in years. You’d be surprised how many people I’ve contacted after years of not talking and fell right back into a rhythm of conversation again. Start where you are, with who you know. It’ll help. Just be open to connecting and you’ll be part of the flow once again. Peace : ) & thanks for reading.

Image Credits: alone… by VinothChandar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Updated: 11/9/2022

Living Your Life: Friendship

Learning to Navigate Friendship

Friendship was an aspect of life that was difficult for me to learn. With so many different types of friendships, if you’re not shown or told how to navigate them, they can be confusing to manage. Friendship can be especially confusing if you’re not used to being in a healthy form of it. My motto through my teenage years and twenties was, “bridges are for burning”. And, not surprisingly, I ended up with few people I could call my friends. I pushed just about everyone away.

I’m still amazed that the few people who actually did stick around, even through my neglecting our relationship to the point of not talking to anyone I knew for years, decided to stand by me. And to them, I am forever grateful. It must have been no easy task to endure the petty and neglectful ways in which I managed my friendships. And if anyone is reading this who is my friend, thank you, I’m sorry, and you are truly great friends.

Role Modeling Friendship

But I also didn’t have many stable friends growing up. This was mostly due to my caregivers not being able to model what a healthy friendship was. Or the lifestyle that would lead to lasting and loving relationships. In one case, one of my caregivers had no close friends save one. And on the other end of the spectrum, my others had many, but were petty and cutting in their judgements of them.

I was in between complete isolation or being surrounded by rowdy and rancorous pettiness. These were polarizing ways of seeing the world and a very confusing place to be. So the few friendships I had, I held onto for dear life. As a way to escape the chaos that I was surrounded by. This was unhealthy too, as it set the standard for me to depend on the few relationships I kept, too much.

Losing Loved Ones

And this fear based way of maintaining relationships, as you’ve probably guessed, was unsustainable. The only people I was in touch with regularly were friends found for me by my then wife. I spent most of my time by myself, drinking and playing videogames. I was avoiding opening up to others due to the considerable amount of distrust I learned to have of people by my family. By the time I was 8, I had experience the loss of a loved one to cancer while my parents were divorcing due to the stress in their relationship.

I lost both my childhood best friends to drugs other unfortunate events in their lives. And all while watching the slow decline and neglect of my family, which ultimately left me on my own. On top of the trauma I experienced, I had lost everybody I loved as well, leaving me completely alone to handle all of these traumatic emotions. This is and was a lot to handle for anybody, let alone a child of 8.

So I learned to distrust those closest to me. My caregivers and support network, just about everybody. This was the model I would later use to navigate all of my relationships. AKA tactfully avoiding any type of close contact with others. Especially those close in so as not to get hurt again when they eventually decided to turn on me. This lead to lots of drinking and video game playing to avoid connection.

Unhealthy Friendship & Isolation

When I was younger, the types of friends who I would drink and play video games with were a good time to be around. But as I aged and life progressed, the more video games I played, the more disconnected I became from my life and the relationships in it. And this isn’t a soapbox for railing against video games or the people that play them. They can be a fun distraction and intellectually stimulating. Even bring out a sense of creativity. But I was definitely using them to avoid people.

In fact, as if I were trying to tell myself as much, I was playing and replaying Zelda’s, “Ocarina of Time”. The original Zelda being the game I first played before and when all the traumatic events happened in my young life. And the premise of the latter game, “Ocarina of Time” is that Link, the main character of the series, going back and forth through time from his younger self to his adult self, in order to do battle with monsters from his past and present! Talk about meta! Art imitates life maybe 😉

So I managed to create a sort of comfortable cocoon to insulate myself from my role in my relationships. I say “sort of comfortable” because it took an immense amount of energy to keep myself so disconnected. The right amount of vice mixed with the right amount of avoidance. It was a balancing act for sure. But when I came to, I realized I had almost nothing in the way of authentic connections with friends. I was alone and thankfully it took me a while to get scared. Otherwise I’m not sure I’d have been able to handle the reality of my situation crashing down on me all at once.

Aftermath & Reconnection

So when I did come to, after my divorce and the ending of the relationship that was the catalyst for my divorce, I had one close friend who remained loyal to me, (thanks Jon) and my parents. That was about the extent of those I had to support me. It was a tough place for me. Luckily I had taken to hiking. Something that helped me to reconnect with myself and develop some healthy hobbies. This would also later give me something to do with those I was trying to reconnect with.

Because I first had to reconnect with myself, befriend myself. I had spent so much time running from others and burning the bridges behind me, that I could barely trust myself that I wouldn’t do that to me. This is an ongoing process of getting to know myself and trust that I’ll treat myself with respect and love. It’s also not an easy task. Because in the process of running from others, I HAD run from myself.

Discovering Who I Am By What Tara Brach Calls, Resourcing

This is when I discovered what my likes and dislikes are. Why I do certain things and what those things mean to me. Things such as certain songs, my relationship to my style and how I want to be seen. The ways I nourish myself and the care I provide for myself with my meals. Grooming habits and caring for my surroundings. These were the foundations of me coming to trust myself and trusting that I have my best interests at heart.

Tara Brach calls some of what I’m talking about as resourcing. An example, some of my resources are burning candles, drinking herbal tea and listening to music. Basically whatever brings you a sense of comfort and ease. Once I was able to make acquaintance with myself again and gain some trust in myself, I was then able to extent that practice to others.

Extending My Resources to Others to Foster Friendship

I started out small. As I said, I only had one friend at the time. So it was important for me to stay loyal and in touch with him. We went for hikes, got coffee and lunch together. And basically just did the normal everyday things I had previously taken for granted. We were friends in high school and then roommates in our twenties. So we have a shared history. But I had only just begun to know him as a person and as my friend. And it’s a good feeling getting to know him again, appreciating him for who he is.

From their, my friend group began to grow. Soon after establishing my first friendship, I started running with another old friend from high school every week. Jon, my first friend got married to an amazing woman, also another brilliant friend. I was reaching out to people I hadn’t spoken to in years. Some live across the country, others a few towns over. I was amazed at how many of the people I reached out to were responsive and more over, friendly to the idea of being friends.

As one friend who I recently reconnected with said, “our younger selves would have bullied our older selves for who we are”. She was referring to how mean we were back then. But to know that we’ve made the change from bully to responsive and friendly adults, is comforting. Knowing that the strength of our empathy and caring is stronger than the anger and bitterness of our past is reassuring. More so now then ever.

Looking Forward to Friendship

Now that I’ve reconnected with so many people and since I’m a list maker, I’ve listed the names of my friends in my journal along with some bullet points on what they’re experiencing or anticipating in the near future. This way I can open up my notes and quickly see what they’ve been up to. I do this so I can check in with them and see how they’re progressing with something or offer some support. Or an ear for listen. Or maybe to go for a walk and vent some frustrations.

An example of this in practice is, one of my friends is renoing her house. So I’ve created a board on Pinterest with ideas for her backyard living space and shared the board with her. This way we can have an ongoing conversation about what her focus is on.

On the same note, I also keep a list of upcoming plans I have. This way I won’t miss out on spending time with those I’ve been building a relationship with. It’s been helpful to have a place where I can see everything I need to know in one bird’s eye view. So I can adjust and respond to those in my life with care and conscientious actions and words. This is where the rubber really meets the road. In mindfully supporting those who support you, you can build some seriously strong bonds. You’re there when they need you and you know what they’re going through. This is powerful for someone who is really in need of a friend.

Finding New Friends

I’ve also discovered some friends in strange places as well. I use a meditation app called Insight Timer. After meditating, you have the option of thanking those who meditated with you, while you were both meditating. I’ve made a decision to choose six people to thank after every meditation. Four of them respond regularly, two respond every day and one has become my gratitude partner. I asked them a few weeks ago if they’d like to practice gratitude with me since we were already kind of doing it by thanking each other every day. They said yes and we’ve been gratitude buddies ever since. It’s been nice knowing that I have something to look forward to in the mornings. Something positive to read.

So if you’ve found yourself in a similar situation as I was in, do not give up hope! Reach out to old friends, you may be surprised with how they respond. Start some conversations with those closest to you. Work is a great place for this, seeing as how you are already around a select few people on a daily basis. Join an online community like Reddit. There are loads of people out there looking to connect over shared interests. Find a place to volunteer. This way you can match your passions with your connections and do good work along the way. I met one of my friends at a grocery store. They worked there and went there almost three times a week. We’re both ginger so we hit it off immediately! And a word of advice, stay open. You never know where you are going to meet your next friend. Peace : ) and thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “friendship” by bekassine… is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Updated: 10/21/22

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