Friday, August 27, 2010

Turning Loneliness Into Happiness: Another Memo To Myself

Learn how to make something:
food, a shoe box, a good day.
Remember, finally, there are few pleasures
that aren't as local as your fingertips.
Never go to Europe for a cathedral.
In large groups, create a corner
in the middle of the room.
- Stephen Dunn "How to be Happy: Another Memo to Myself"

First, watch this video.

Have you watched it yet? This is probably much better advice than I'm about to give you. It might also be kind of the same, but mine is probably for people who are not already perfect.

What's happening is this: Laura is going to Spain really soon. I am moving out of my parent's house. I am starting a new school in a program with people that I don't know. All my habits are about to change and that's kind of scary because there will be no more shared Alias watching, no more old comforts. Now I will have to find new comforts.

What I mean is this: I'm anticipating a period of loneliness in my life. It could spiral out of control and my life could become a mess as I struggle to deal with all the feelings (ALL THE FEELINGS!) happening all at once, or I could learn "how to be alone".

I expect that you, reader, are also going to experience at least one period of loneliness in the next 5 months, because you are (probably) a human and we are all lonely sometimes. Even Jennifer Beals is lonely sometimes. This is how I imagine my particular loneliness: it starts in my stomach, small, and then works its way up to squeezing my heart so hard that I think my heart must stop beating soon, only it doesn't. It's the opposite of the feeling of hugging your dad when you were 6 and he was superman because he could lift up your bike.

I have a plan to stave off my own loneliness for the winter. I have no idea if it will work. This plan has been formatted to fit me (tv screen). Maybe you can learn something from it, maybe you can help me stay afloat, maybe you will think I'm crazy. I expect that the next 5 months will take a superior mental effort to get through, or at least the first 1-3, and then maybe the next ones will sort of roll along. I don't plan on going through the motions. I plan on fully living my life with expected periods of stress and loneliness and feelings of wanting to go "home" even though "home" is a concept not a place. The point is to contain those periods so I don't spiral out of control into a fit of depression.

Joseph Addison said the grand essentials to happiness are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. I feel like this is some of the best advice ever and if I find all these things, however small, my plan will succeed. Then in January I can collapse or find a new plan. Like how cell phones work.

This is what I have so far via Joseph Addison:

Something to do: I'm moving and starting school and looking for a new job. It's taking up all my time.
Something to love: we'll get back to that (maybe).
Something to hope for: I'm going to interpret this as "something to look forward to" or "something you hope to achieve in the future". My aunt from Berkeley is coming September 19th. I'm superexcited and I feel like when she comes all my problems will be solved. Basically by September 19th I want to be "settled in" to my "new life".

In a slight tangent, I feel like this is a little bit like The Sims. Remember that game? Either way, it's not a hard concept to grasp. Each Sim has desires and needs and you have to fill them.

Sims need to eat, sit, shower, pee, sleep, have fun, have friends, and enjoy their living space. Make sure all those things are green and your Sim is happy ("happy").

Here is my plan for being the happiest person I can be this fall/early winter in between finding things to hope for.

1. Denial/Thinking Positive/Letting Go

A small part of me wants to see if I can trick myself into actually being in denial that Laura is in Spain for 5 months. The idea is that if I deny it long enough, by the time I'm ready to accept the fact, she might be back on this continent already and I'll be like "oh, that was fast. I hadn't realized you'd left."

Realistically, that is not going to happen. Thus I have to use a combination of denial and "acceptance" to overcome this particular obstacle.

What is the difference between denial and thinking positively? Probably to a psychologist there is a big difference, but to me, they kind of seem the same sometimes. See, thinking positive is just the opposite of feeling those dark feelings. For example, I could be thinking of all the things I'm going to miss when Laura goes away. There are a lot of things, and the idea makes me cry for serious. My plan is to live in complete and total denial of those feelings and force myself to think of little things I am excited to do (see: #6 something to hope for). Maybe it's a dumb idea to pretend that I don't feel lonely when I am, but you know what? I don't want to be lonely. I will tell myself that I'm happy until I'm actually happy. I will use all the psychological force in the world to make myself happy. It's not a life plan but until things change that's what I have to do.

2. Listen to Irrelevant Music

Music touches a sensitive chord with a lot of people. When I'm lonely all I want to do is be alone and listen to sad music. Obviously this is part of the downward spiral.

+ Every disney song I can possibly think of (I have been listening to "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid on repeat for the past 3 days)
+ Lady Gaga (not that she's irrelevant, just that I don't want to cry every time I listen to her)
+ Phoenix
+ some Tegan and Sara
+ most stuff that comes on shuffle

+ Bon Iver ("Good Winter"?? Justin Vernon was shut up alone in a cabin in the middle of winter for 3 months writing these songs. These songs were MADE for lonely winters/cold weather/feeling like dying)
+ Iron & Wine
+ most Bright Eyes songs
+ some Death Cab for Cutie
+ "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan

3. Compartmentalize Your Crying

I'm pretty sure I'm going to cry at least once, most likely 10 or more times, in the next few months. Crying is kinda tricky though, 'cause there's good crying and bad crying. Good crying feels good. It's like a weight off your shoulders. Bad crying feels like choking and despair and a downward spiral. Bad crying is crying for no reason.

My advice to myself: It's okay to cry over spilled milk, I think. Let's be real -- "spilling milk" sucks, especially when it's all the milk you had and the grocery store is closed. Can you cry and clean up at the same time? 'Cause then you're okay. I mean, maybe not, 'cause you have no milk. But you must recognize that life goes on.

Also, think about crying with someone rational or else you might take a sudden dive and start crying because your best friend in the 3rd grade called you chubby. It's easy to start crying about something small but then end up because of everything in the whole entire world. It's important to avoid this because it doesn't work with #1 and will probably make you want to listen to the music on your AVOID list.

4. Find Something To Do

This is like that Sims thing. Make sure you eat and pee and sleep. Make sure you have fun! Make sure you see your friends. Do all the things you would make your Sim do, except do them faster. Try to not be bored as often as possible. Distract yourself because then it'll be easier to be in denial about your loneliness. I like to make to-do lists. Currently my list is full of things like "buy a new razor" which I've had there for over a month. I accomplish more pressing things faster. Try something new! Since I'll be living on my own for the first time ever, I have to make all my own meals so I'll be trying a lot of new recipes and experimenting in cooking. If that's too boring for you, join the fencing club. Do your homework.

Avoid being alone. Even if you want to, but especially if you want to. Sometimes when I'm lonely I lie on my bed and stare at my ceiling and if I lie there long enough I begin to trick myself into thinking I don't exist. This is kind of a scary thought. The way to fix this is make contact with the outside world. I don't think it means you have to go out with 20 people for 5 hours. Hang out with one friend for half an hour. Invite them to your house and keep your pyjamas on. If even that's too much, go to the store and ask the employees some questions about whatever it is they're selling. Wear your pyjamas if it makes you feel better. As long as you make a connection with someone. It doesn't have to be a lasting one. Just make sure you still exist. Okay?

5. Something To Like

I'm not entirely sure what Joseph Addison means by "something to love". Does he mean find a person to love? 'Cause that's something that could take, literally, a lifetime. Does he mean a hobby? 'Cause that's kind of like "something to do".

I'm going to assume he means find something that you like more than other things. Sometimes I have to do things that I don't want to do and that would be filed under "something to do" and not "something to love".

Finding something to love sounds to me like finding a serious passion that you might want to pursue as a career or something and I don't think I'm ready to declare that yet, so I'm sticking with something to like. I like to read and take pictures and play the guitar so I'm going to try and do those things in my spare time.

I think the point is to not get caught up with work/school/stress. Do something for you.

6. Something To Hope For

Living in the present is good because we should appreciate the things we have, except sometimes there are shitty days. On those days, we should remember that there's always tomorrow.

Like I said before, I'm really excited for my aunt to visit on Sept. 19th. And after that, I'm not so sure, but I assume there will be something to look forward to. Probably the Phoenix concert in October. November is for some reason considered the month of depression, but it's also the month of my birthday, so there must be something good happening there. And then, you know, we'll see. The most important thing to know is that even if you're lonely now, you will not always be lonely. I won't promise a lot of things, but I will promise you that. There's always something to live for.

"Sometimes you're flush, and sometimes you're bust, and when you're up, it's never as good as it seems, and when you're down, you think you'll never be up again. But life goes on."


"Why do the stars shine?"
"The stars shine so we can locate each other when we're far away. So I can see, 'I see the big dipper,' and you can say, 'yes, I see it too.'"


Ari said...

My best friend just moved to the States for college. Other best friend already lives in the States for college.

I'm gonna need this advice. It's good advice.

laura said...

It's true. Spilled milk isn't stinks, literally when you spill milk all over the un-air-conditioned car that you're in with you're mum and dad and 3 brothers and sisters halfway through a road trip from Ohio to California. this didn't happen to me, but it happened to my mum.

In other news, this did make me feel better tonight. Crying with someone rational is excellent advice. they can tell you nice things like, "Don't borrow trouble" and, "It's okay, you can be tough and sensitive too."

I'm hoping that you find your advice easy to follow and looking for something for me to do, love, and hope for to keep my [sometimes premature] loneliness away.

Jenin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenin said...

This was perfect timing! I'm still trying to figure out how to be alone, and not be all Eeyore about it. Finding advice like this is like chocolate for my little Scorpio soul.

saint modesto said...

ari: good luck! we'll find out if my own advice works.

laura: miss you.

jenin: good winnie the pooh reference! mm chocolate.