Reflections

I Don’t Belong in the World Today

Our world can be a harsh place to live. I’m not just talking about the social challenges, the awkwardness and pain of feeling like an outsider, or the fear over the divisive political climate. I’m talking about the literal, physical act of living in this world. The things that seem to say I don’t belong here.

For one thing, I’m allergic to the world. I have been from the time I was a tiny baby. Milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, cats, dogs, pollen, mold, trees, and bees, the list goes on and on, and on and on.

Allergies make me feel I don't belong in the world

My food allergies are bad enough that I don’t go to restaurants or eat many prepared foods. (Plain sashimi/nigiri has an acceptable risk/reward ratio!) I used to brave restaurants, but I’ve had too many bad outcomes.

That makes travel difficult, too. I have to bring my own food everywhere I go, find a place to store/eat it, and stay in hotels that have kitchenettes.

I manage, but our world wasn’t designed for that. Our social world was designed around eating out, enjoying dinner parties, and vacationing where someone else can cook for you.

Beyond allergies, swift shifts in the barometric pressure kill me. They trigger fatigue, joint pain, irritability, and migraines.

By migraine, I do not mean a bad headache. I mean, my entire nervous system goes to hell. (a.k.a. basilar migraine). I have light/sound sensitivity, dizziness, double vision, lack of coordination, muscle pain, face/jaw pain, nausea, and an inability to think. And a killer headache.

Weather-related migraines make me feel I don't belong

If the migraine is bad enough, it triggers fibromyalgia (musculoskeletal pain, brain fog, and mood swings). The inflammation often concentrates around my ribs and chest, making it hard to breathe and often requiring a just-in-case EKG or other tests. And it all lasts for several days. It’s super not fun.

When I’m not in a fibromyalgia flare, I’m still managing a hypermobility condition that causes chronic pain and frequent injuries. Much of my life is spent finding just the right amount of activity/exercise. Too much, or not enough, and I’m in pain. Just the right amount keeps my body happy.

My body is friggin’ Goldilocks.

Balancing chronic pain makes me feel I don't belong

I also struggle with social anxiety, trauma, attention issues, imposter syndrome, and the anger/helplessness of living in a cruel, unjust world.

All of that is my normal. And it can be physically exhausting. Even if others can’t see it.

Invisible pain makes me feel I don't belong

That exhaustion is also hard emotionally. I don’t want to throw myself a pity party. I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me. Overall, I’m doing well. I’ve raised two kids, I’ve written multiple books, I teach yoga.

I look around and see so many people who are dealing with worse health challenges. Or with social stigmas. Or with a million painful things. They aren’t complaining. They aren’t whining about feeling like the world is out to kill them. I want to be strong, too.

But sometimes I’m not strong. Sometimes, I fall apart.

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is telling me that I don’t belong here.

It all makes me feel I don't belong

I often don’t recognize how depressed I’ve become until I look around at all the things I’m not getting done. Honestly, 2019 is a blur. I’m struggling to recover from the incredible setback of last year’s broken foot, and every time I’ve started to get back on my feet (ha!), something has come along to knock me down.

But here’s the important part: I’m still here.

I may not feel like I belong in this world. I may feel like everything is stacked against me, like every day is an uphill battle, but I’m still here.

It feels like I don't belong, but I'm still here

What if that’s enough?

What if I belong here, simply because I am here?

What if you belong here, simply because you are here, too?

What if that’s true for every single one of us?

I think it is, and that’s a comforting thought. ❤️

End Your Envy on Social Media, a.k.a. Love Your Own Life

Do you ever find yourself scrolling through someone’s social media page and starting to feel like your life is small and unimportant/uninteresting by comparison?

I can say, “Don’t do that!” And I try not to do that myself. But, occasionally, it happens. When it does, it can be a sneaky, slippery dive into depression.

So how do you pull yourself out of that?

  1. Remember that most people only show their “best self” on social media. You likely aren’t seeing the challenges, insecurities, and dark moments in their lives. (We all have them!)

  2. Think about the things you see on their page that you find lacking in your own life. Be specific. Is there something you’d like to do more? Travel? Exercise? Take art classes? Go out more? Volunteer with a local charity?

  3. Think about what’s stopping you from doing those things. Is it fear? Is it money? Is it time? Are they things you actually want or things you think you should want?

  4. If you actually want them, what steps can you take to bring them into your own life? Not by copying what the other person is doing, but by finding your own, personal way of trying a similar thing. If you only think you should want them, why do you think that? What if you let that idea go?

  5. Think about what you already like about your life. Exactly as it already is. Would some changes enhance your life or take away from the things you already love? Can you find balance with whatever changes you may want to try? Maybe try some gradual changes?

The grass may look greener in your neighbor’s yard but consider your own yard carefully before you start watering, weeding, seeding, treating, or tearing it up to re-sod.

Sometimes you need a major change. Sometimes you need some minor tweaks. Sometimes you just need to stand back and appreciate what you already have. Without comparing yourself to anyone else.

Bring Back Boredom

Our brains think. It’s their natural function. Left alone in an empty room, we will quickly become aware of our own thoughts.

Sometimes we need a break from all that thinking. We need to quiet down, let our thoughts drift by, without notice, like clouds passing overhead. Millions of people are learning how to do that through meditation classes, books, and apps.

Those meditative breaks, where we tune out our thoughts, are great for resting our brains and reducing stress. But we also need time to tune in—and turn up—our thoughts.

Mug by Barbarah Robertson Pottery

We need time to wonder about the world around us. Time to be curious. Time to imagine how things work, why things work, and how they might work differently.

We need time to put down our phones, turn off our TVs, close our books, and be alone. With nothing else to do.

We need time to be bored.

Boredom leads us to the space where creativity lives. Boredom leads us to those aha! sparks of inspiration. To the epiphanies and eurekas.

Yet we often avoid being bored. We preoccupy our brains incessantly. As a defense mechanism. We keep our brains busy with other things because we can’t stand to be alone with our own thoughts.

Because our thoughts hurt.

We dwell on regrets from the past. We worry over fears for the future. We judge, and compare, and criticize ourselves. So, we try to stop thinking. We try to keep our brains distracted.

But when we preoccupy our brains to avoid the thoughts that cause anxiety, we cut off our other thoughts as well. We don’t give our brains space to process our experiences or to be creative.

What if we weren’t so afraid of our own thoughts?

Before we let our minds wander, we need to feel safe. We need to stop beating ourselves up for things that happened in the past. We need to stop beating ourselves up for the things we think we might do wrong in the future.

We need to stop judging ourselves every waking moment.

That’s easier said than done. But what if we can practice positive, healthy boredom, the same way we practice quiet, mindful meditation?

If we can’t stop the anxious thoughts all of the time, we can still set boundaries on our thoughts during planned periods of boredom.

We can give ourselves permission to spend a set amount of time just letting our thoughts flow, without judgment. During that time, we can idly think about something—anything—besides ourselves.

Wonder about the stars in the sky, the dust bunnies under the bed, the sounds of the traffic passing by. Make up silly stories in your head. Picture an imaginary animal. Maybe you’ll capture those creations on paper later, maybe you won’t. For a time, just let them take shape in your head.

Observe the ideas that come up, without judgment. Give yourself space to see where your thoughts go when you give your brain time to be bored.

But, more than anything, just appreciate that boredom isn’t a bad thing. Boredom is the break your brain deserves.