why be your best friend
Dear Why Team member,
I hope this week’s message encourages you to become all the more supportive and loving to You.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a few days with my best friend of 47 years - to celebrate his 60th Birthday!
His impact on my life is immeasurable. He’s like a brother to me - shared experiences forgotten by one are brought back to bear for the other - stories and memories that provide context as we continue to come to know ourselves - always insights for more learning - and just fun.
We spoke on so many subjects during our time together, but one keeps coming back to me:
What it means to feel lonely.
Although we are close friends, I moved up north 35 years ago while he remained in Florida. Growing up we did practically everything together and then I moved away. He soon met his wife and had two beautiful children he loves more than anything on earth. A few years later I met my wife and had three amazing kids of my own. Our careers and families captivated us with significant responsibilities. But in recent years, especially hitting milestones in age, we are gifted with reflection, more practice in presence - and this brought up a conversation around loneliness. Now to be clear, being alone does not automatically lead to a feeling of loneliness, nor does being in a crowded room protect you from feelings of loneliness.
And this is what keeps calling my attention.
Recent statistics tear at my heart when I hear how loneliness has become a National epidemic. Of course, being alone is a significant cause of loneliness as so many more today find themselves alone, either through the loss of a loved one, death or divorce, children flying from the coop leaving nests empty, and then there are those who may sit together but no longer see each other. The phone in our hand has become for many the primary go-to for distraction rather than to those around us for connection. The device will keep you company for hours - giving you fake shots of dopamine until reality settles in.
How might we be empowered to address feelings of loneliness within ourselves and in others?
An early book of significant influence in my life is titled: From Selling to Serving by Lou Cassara.
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Lou; he was kind enough to write an endorsement for my first book “Don’t Believe Everything You Think”. During our time together, he shared an insight I have never forgotten, that all our relationships with others are a reflection of the one we have with ourselves. This insight is an invitation to look at how we are doing within when life isn’t appearing so good on the outside. Put it in Anais Nin’s words I often like to share:
“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
At age 25, when I moved from Orlando to Chicago, I embarked on the most alone period in my life - a forced baptism of fire which developed a gift that to this day keeps on giving.
I moved 1,200 miles away from friends and family, from Sunny Florida to Snowy Chicago.
You might ask ‘why?’. :-)
It was a big job opportunity as a traveling salesman, which had me covering four states by car. I had never driven in the snow and didn’t even own a long coat and being young, I didn’t put that much thought into it. But it was the experience of being utterly alone for months that was particularly challenging. I lived in hotels and did laundry in laundromats when I would travel far away from my apartment weeks at a time. I had no real reason to go home as no one was there and no friends nearby. Because of the work demands, it was very difficult to make friends, so all I had was me.
I got to spend a great deal of time with me, just me, no podcasts to download on a hand-held device or a self-driving car at that point. Now, I had and still have a relationship with God, which has been immeasurably helpful, but there was no getting away from Me :-)
Fortunately, I got to know me, I got to experience what it was like to be with me, the good and the bad. Thankfully, this was before emails and smart phones for distraction. That was at a time when people used paper maps to find their way around. A time when human beings gave each other directions. Believe it or not I even used a compass, suction cupped to my windshield, to find my way around.
I learned to tell myself jokes, of course I knew the punchline, but would still laugh out loud. To this day my kids laugh at how I laugh at my own jokes :-)
I learned to be there for me when no one else was. I learned to encourage me when I was receiving no encouragement from others. I learned to believe in me when no one else did.
I was blessed with an amazing mom, but she lived very far away. When I drove north - everything I owned fit into my car. I bought a desk, a chair, a bed at K-Mart two plates, two forks and an ironing board :-). Wow, what a time - and what a gift - to be alone!
There is so much noise and so many distractions today - I feel certain that time alone, quiet and in silence is food for our souls. As I write this, parked along the Ohio River, hearing the birds, I am at peace. Yes, we are herd creatures and are built for relationship and community but, time alone can teach us to be more at peace with ourselves, learning to enjoy our own company and as a result become more beneficial to others.
This week and beyond, consider spending more time alone with yourself; and no doubt as your friendship with yourself improves, you’ll prove to be a better friend to others.
Make it a great week!
Comments are closed.