I’ve had ideas swirling in my head all day. My thoughts seem random, yet connected. I’m not sure how to express them in a coherent fashion, yet I feel compelled to write.
I was talking to Greg about how sometimes I want to feel unique and special. And yet, at other times, I want to feel I’m not alone. This dilemma makes me recall when I’ve been in therapy and the therapist tries to “normalize” my experience by saying, “I think everyone feels that way.” Sometimes this can feel validating, and at other times, it feels dismissive. Why is this?
Greg said it reminded him of a poster he once saw that says: “Remember that you are unique, just like everyone else.”
After this philosophical discussion, we ate dinner, not really talking. Thank goodness I’m married to another introvert who is comfortable with silence.
I still couldn’t figure out what I wanted to write, so I went downstairs to walk on the treadmill. I watch DVDs while I’m walking, and I’m on Season 2 of Mad Men. In the episode I was watching, Don Draper is having marital problems, and he is visiting with an old friend who offers some sage advice: “The only thing keeping you from happiness is the belief that you are alone.” What a great line! I thought this was surely a sign I needed to go upstairs and get busy writing.
Still, nothing came. I decided to do my meditation practice for the day.
This is week 4 of Sharon Salzberg’s Meditation Month and the focus is on Lovingkindness meditation. In this type of meditation, you focus not on your breath, but on certain phrases such as: May I be safe; May I be happy; May I be healthy; May I live with ease. You then extend these phrases (along with heartfelt intention if possible) to someone in need, then to someone you may know only casually, then to someone who you find difficult, then to people everywhere. (For more details on this type of meditation, click here).
The person who popped into my mind when it was time to think of someone who may be in need was a previous client of mine. She had a child with a very rare and complex health condition. The condition wasn’t visible to others, so she was often given standard parenting advice that simply did not apply to her situation. Well meaning people would say things such as, “That’s just normal teenage stuff” or “You just have to use tough love.” These statements, meant to help her feel less alone, actually did just the opposite. She often told me she felt isolated from others, and that she was “crazy.” She seemed to feel better in our sessions when I found a way to validate her experience that, yes—her situation was different and unique. Somehow, paradoxically, that is what helped her feel less alone.
Looking back on it now, I wonder if I could have done more if I had helped her realize that somewhere (although not necessarily in her peer group), there are other mothers with similar challenges, going through similar painful circumstances. Would that have helped her feel less alone? It’s so easy to second-guess myself, but I really don’t think I would have done anything differently.
Well, I’ve thoroughly confused myself further, and probably you, as well.
If I can come up with any take-away points, they’d be:
- Life is hard. It’s okay to acknowledge that fact.
- We’re all in the same boat. We all want to be happy. We all want to suffer less and be at peace. It’s not always easy to find that place. I’m learning that meditation can help.
- We’re not alone, even when we think we are.
- I need to use the word “AND” more. We are unique AND we are the same.