After two consecutive posts about communication and relationships, I’m going to switch gears today, but I’ll definitely come back to that topic again soon. In one of my first essays on this blog, I shared my theme for the year, “essential,” and how I plan to ask myself a lot of hard questions this year about what truly adds value to my life and thus deserves a place in my home, experience, and psyche. I subsequently explored the role of information in my life and detailed the steps I’ve taken as a sort of “digital detox” with the technology I use. I’ve also shifted the way I plan my days in order to maximize efficacy over efficiency.
As we move into the second quarter of 2018, I already feel that my theme of “essential” has made a profound difference toward increasing my sense of calm and improving my quality of life. My stress level has decreased as I consume less information, eliminate “digital clutter” on my devices, and include fewer items to my to-do list. Now it’s time to turn back to a subject that I wrote about for four years on my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic – my wardrobe.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the topics I explored in my last essay, as well as the wonderful comments made by readers in response to what I wrote. For that reason, I would like to continue the subject of emotional isolation in today’s post. I’m glad I decided to open this can of worms because it’s a major factor in my journey toward a more fulfilling, peaceful, and happy life. Some of my relationships feel so broken, with dysfunctional patterns of interacting that are so ingrained, that I’m not sure how to fix them or even if they can be transformed in a meaningful way. But since writing about other seemingly intractable life issues has given me possibility and a way through in the past, I hope that deepening this exploration will make a difference for me and others with similar struggles.
After I expand upon what I view as a key problem in my – and perhaps your – interpersonal relationships, I delve into the five levels of intimacy identified by psychologists and how they manifest in our communication. I then share sage advice from readers on how we can start to break out of our negative ruts. While I certainly don’t have all the answers, I take comfort and hope from those who have walked a similar path and come out on the other side. Included is a helpful exercise we can all use to shift our focus and change our experience with the people in our lives.
Is there a gulf like this in some of your relationships?
We all want to feel connected to others. It doesn’t matter whether we are extroverts or introverts; connection is one of the six human needs that we all share. I have written previously on the topic of loneliness, but my primary focus then was on spending too much time alone and feeling physically isolated from others. Today’s post is about a different type of isolation: emotional isolation, which is feeling alone even in the presence of others. I’m sure most of us have felt this way from time to time, and I believe this type of isolation is a big problem in today’s society.
How Often Do We Truly Communicate?
So many of us yearn for emotional closeness, yet it eludes us, even in this age of extreme connectivity, smart phones, and social media. I feel that emotional isolation largely stems from poor communication. We’re in touch with people all the time, but how often do we truly communicate? How often do we open up and let others know who we really are inside?
When we’re not keeping in touch by way of social media likes and short comment bursts, many of us engage in superficial relationships in which we only talk about macro topics like the weather, what we’re watching on television, and what’s in the news. I’m not implying that these subjects are insignificant, but discussing them rarely deepens our connections. We’re often “pleasant” with each other but don’t really know the person on the other end of our conversations. We stay safe in what we talk about, and we keep people at arm’s length because we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We’re afraid of being hurt should we opt to share our innermost thoughts, feelings, hopes, and fears, and this keeps us separate from others.
Two weeks ago, I accidentally re-published an old post I was editing as part of back-end enhancements I’ve been doing on Full Life Reflections. Some of you may have received this post – titled “How is Your Body Image?” – and wondered about it, especially if you noticed that it dated way back to August 18, 2010. A couple of comments were submitted following the erroneous re-post, which got me thinking that I should write a new post on the topic of body image. Today I’m going to tell you about one of my early blogs (this is actually my fifth blog!), comment on where I am with my body image now, and share insightful tips from friends for me and others who struggle with feeling bad about our bodies.
The Body Image Rehab Blog
Back in 2010, I wrote a blog titled Body Image Rehab, which focused on my journey to heal a very negative body image. As those who have been reading my writing for a long time might know, I suffered from eating disorders for a large portion of my life. I was dangerously underweight for many years as a result of anorexia nervosa, and I was also bulimic for a long time. Even though the bulk of my disordered behavior around food subsided during my thirties (I’m now 51), I continued to struggle with a very poor body image. I remained highly self-conscious about the way I looked and always believed that I was heavier than I actually was. This impinged upon my happiness in many ways, so I decided to start a blog about body image with the hope of healing myself and others through my insights.
Do you struggle with negative body image?
I don’t know about you, but I always seem to have a to-do list that never ends, which leads me to feel like a “hamster on a wheel” much of the time. Even when I have what could be called a very productive day, I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of the many, many things I need to do. What makes the situation all the more challenging is that I have quite a few other days when I feel like I’m slogging through quicksand to get much of anything accomplished at all.
When I look around at those people who I consider “successful,” I think that they must be super productive every single day. They must accomplish considerably more to-do list items than I do, and that’s why they’re so successful. This makes sense on the surface, but I recently read an article that gave me a whole new perspective on the concept of time management. In today’s post, I share the key concepts from that article, how I’ve been putting them into practice this week, and the way it has positively impacted my life.
The Myth of “Successful” People
Tim Ferriss is the author of multiple best-selling books, including The Four-Hour Work Week and Tools of Titans. Despite the fact that he wrote about working only four hours a week, I always thought he got a lot more done than me with far fewer days of floundering or spinning his wheels. It’s no big surprise that I thought such things, as “successful” people like him are typically portrayed as superheroes by the media. We think they don’t experience the same types of challenges that we mere mortals do, but we’re wrong.
When I launched this blog two months ago, I mentioned that it would pretty much pick up where my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic, left off. The tagline for that blog was “Trade Your Full Closet for a Full Life,” but the majority of my focus during its four year tenure was on the full closet part of the equation: responsible and mindful shopping, wardrobe management, and personal style. I’m proud of the progress I made in all three of those areas, but I feel that I still have a long way to go in terms of cultivating a fuller and more fulfilling life, which was in large part why I started this new blog.
Many of us have the goal of leading a full life, but what does that really mean? I pondered that question first back in June 2013, but I’d like to delve a bit deeper today. I’ll revisit my original answer to the “What is a Full Life?” question and share new insights I gained from one of the articles I saved when paring down my overloaded “articles to read” folder a few weeks ago.
My 2013 Thoughts on a Full Life
I recently re-read my initial post on the full life question for the first time and I still wholeheartedly agree with what I wrote almost five years ago. That essay included the following quote from Rita Mae Brown:
“Happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.”
Earlier this month, I wrote about the subject of information overload and how it relates to my theme for the year, essential. Specifically, I shared about my difficulty in narrowing down the articles I want to read and my feeling overwhelmed by so much information. In today’s post, I delve deeper into my journey to get to a more peaceful place with technology and the Internet. I have taken further steps that may also be helpful to you if you struggle with similar issues.
An Update on the Articles
I will first give a bit of an update on how I’m doing with the articles. You may remember that my husband suggested that I create a new “articles to read” folder each month and only carry over ten articles to start off with. Doing this was difficult and took me over an hour, but I felt a good release after letting go of close to a hundred articles that I had been meaning to read “someday.” Over the course of this month, I have read some of the carried over articles and I’ve also saved additional articles to read. At the time of this writing, I have 23 articles in my February 2018 articles folder. I’ve decided that I’m not going to carry any of them forward into next month. Over the next three days, I will read the ones that most interest me and start with a clean slate in March.
When we want to make changes in an area of our lives, we often think we need to take big, significant steps. At the beginning of every year, it’s common for people to make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, as many as 45% of Americans resolve to make at least one major change each year, with the most common resolutions being to lose weight, start exercising, or quit smoking. Sadly, however, over half of these people give up on their goals by the end of June, and many quit much sooner.
Although there are many reasons why people abandon their resolutions, I believe a common explanation is that they over-commit and attempt to take on more than they can handle. For example, a person who wants to start exercising joins a gym the first week in January and starts going to daily boot camp classes. Another individual who wants to lose weight shifts from eating carbs all day long to consuming an ultra-low-carb diet consisting of mostly meat and vegetables. It’s no big surprise that such people struggle to maintain such difficult regimens and ultimately end up abandoning them. Of course, some can and do keep up with their lofty plans, but it’s a recipe for failure for most of us.
“Baby Steps” Can Lead to Big Changes
As I mentioned several posts ago, I didn’t set any New Year’s resolutions for 2018. Instead, I just chose a single word – essential – as my guiding intention for the year. That doesn’t mean I don’t have specific changes I want to make in my life, however. There are actually quite a few shifts I’d like to see happen in various aspects of my existence, but I’ve learned that small steps are the best way for me to successfully make and maintain change in my life. What follows are two such examples of how taking “baby steps” has led to meaningful shifts in terms of my health.
Yesterday morning, the power went out in my apartment and didn’t come back on until late in the afternoon. In today’s post, I share my thoughts about that experience, what I learned from it, and how I plan to take these lessons forward in my life.
It’s a strange feeling when the power goes out. Everything just kind of … stops. It’s not a common occurrence around here, but it happens often enough that I wasn’t too rattled by it. Usually, the power comes back on after about an hour, so I decided to read a book I’d been meaning to finish and just wait. When close to two hours had passed, I began to panic a little bit. I didn’t want my entire day to go down the proverbial tubes. I called the power company to find out what was going on and learned that city workers drilling into concrete nearby had damaged some electrical equipment. It wasn’t expected to be fixed until at least 3 p.m.
The Best Laid Plans…
I had planned to do many things yesterday, including writing and publishing a blog post. I was understandably annoyed at the turn of events, but it actually ended up being one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. Instead of raging against something I couldn’t control, I decided to just go with it. What I didn’t expect was how quiet and peaceful it would be. All of the normal hustle and bustle of my neighbors running appliances and milling around was gone. I felt like I could breathe more easily and I gave myself permission to remove any expectations around what I would accomplish.
Last week, I shared that my word for 2018 is “essential.” This word is already making quite an impact on my life and I suspect that I will be writing a number of posts on its influence as the year progresses. Today I will address the subject of information and what is and isn’t essential. I actually started an essay on a different topic yesterday, but I had an experience last night that pushed me to write and publish this one instead. I suspect that I’m not alone in my struggle with information overload, and I hope that perhaps we can help each other develop a more balanced and peaceful (my themes for the past two years…) relationship with the input that is coming into our brains and our lives.
Too Many Articles!
I first wrote about the subject of information overload back in 2014, and I have since made a lot of progress in cutting back on how much information I consume. I no longer subscribe to magazines and I have reduced my email and blog subscriptions dramatically. I stopped using the Pocket app for saving articles, as I had amassed hundreds of articles that I never got around to reading. Unfortunately, those shifts mostly just put a Band-Aid on the problem as opposed to actually solving it. I still have far too many browser tabs open and too many emails in my in-box at any given time. When I take the time to close tabs and clean out my email queue, I often end up saving articles into a browser folder that I have labeled “To Read.” Much like my Pocket queue, this folder has expanded to hold a large number of articles, probably verging upon a hundred as of yesterday.