So many of us are isolated these days. Lonely, depressed, and alone in our big empty houses. A lot of us don’t live in the same towns as our parents. Most of our interactions with our friends are online. Even wedding invitations are being sent on Facebook. I’ve recently come to accept that this is not enough for me. I need a tribe, closeness and connection, and real live humans around me in order to feel whole.
Most of you know that I attend Paleo conferences, like the Ancestral Health Symposium, PaleoFX, and PrimalCon on a regular basis. I know that many of you attend similar events. Whether it’s PantheaCon, ComicCon or BurningMan, when you’ve got something in common with a group of people, they feel like family.
I first met most of my friends from these events online, and online is where we all do most of our networking and communication. We have so much in common and have laid such a great foundation that by the time we get together in real life, it’s like we’ve always known each other. I fall fast and hard for each friend I meet–it only takes a couple days–and I’m really sad when the weekend is over and we all have to go home. It’s not uncommon that plans for the next event, or meeting, are made while we’re still together. We all feel the same way.
With each conference I’ve been to and each trip I’ve taken, the depression and feeling of loneliness gets worse when I get home. I feel like there wasn’t enough time for each person, realize that I didn’t get to see particular people at all, and cry all the way home on the plane. I’m not the only one to experience this. We come together as a community for a couple of days, work, play, and learn together, and then go our separate ways. Even those of us that aren’t very active on Facebook are suddenly posting 20 times a day after one of these things. We want to maintain that awesome connection over a long distance. These people matter to us. We’ve bonded with them.
But, as most of us know, long distance relationships never work out. Over time, we get on with our daily lives, which unfortunately just can’t include all those people that live halfway around the world from us. Sure, we continue to “like” their posts, and send them messages from time to time, but it’s harder to maintain that closeness when they’re far away. We can’t just call them up for coffee, or hang out on the weekend, unless they live close by.
I was so upset after this year’s PaleoFX–actually, this time round it started during the event–that I questioned whether or not I even wanted to attend these things anymore. I vowed that it would be my last one. And then the reality of never seeing my friends again hit me.
I know that I listed Bonding as number five on my list of things I want to do on this long, strange trip but in reality, it’s the most important thing. It is, in fact, what fueled my desire to get away in the first place. As I flew home alone from PaleoFX, I just couldn’t stomach the thought of not seeing my friends again until August. That’s when I realized that I could visit them.
I know, it seems like a no-brainer. If you miss someone enough, you should go and visit them. Flights are cheap, plus you’ve got a free place to stay. If money isn’t the issue, then what is?
For me, part of the problem has been what to do with the kids while I’m gone, since traveling with them at this age (and the mental state I’m in) is like taking a trip to the fourth ring of hell. The other part of the problem is my self-esteem. If someone hasn’t come right out and invited me to come stay with them, it’s hard for me to believe that they would actually want me to visit. Moving every two to three years my entire life (and leaving behind more friends than I can remember each time) has definitely caused some self-esteem issues. I rarely went back to visit. I hardly ever kept in touch. If it wasn’t clear that someone wanted me in their life after I moved away, I tended to think that they didn’t. Even today, if I feel that someone has ‘chosen’ someone or something else over me, or if I haven’t been officially invited to something, then I don’t feel welcome and I figure they don’t want to be friends with me anymore. I’m really trying to work on this, and part of the way I can do that is to impose myself and watch what happens.
I’m not going to be able to visit everyone I want to during this trip, unless I start taking transatlantic flights and spend approximately 30 minutes in each location. But I can visit people who live a few days driving distance away from me and spend a couple of days getting to know them better. It’s been incredibly hard for me to set this up, though. Pretty much announcing to people that I’m showing up in a few days to crash on their couch whether they like it or not is not in my nature. Asking for help isn’t either. And that definitely needs to change if I’m going to get through this experience they call life intact.
[box] Hugging is a great way to bond with people. It also releases oxytocin–but only if you hug for six seconds or longer. While at PaleoFX this year, Evan Brand and Jackie Reger taught me a powerful lesson on the value of hugging. Jackie said the best way to hug and connect to someone was heart-to-heart. I had never consciously done this before. Hugging Evan heart-to-heart for longer than six seconds moved me to tears and made me feel immensely powerful at the same time. Next time you’re about to shake someone’s hand, think about this. If you want to connect with them on a deeper, personal level, try a hug instead.[/box]