I am NOT a fan of surprises, good or bad and ESPECIALLY absolutely unexpected ones. You know what I mean – I mean, you can usually make a pretty good educated guess as to whether you’re a prime candidate for a surprise event of some sort.
Example 1: you’re 8 months pregnant and people in the office have started to ask you questions about your cravings and your home life and other random tidbits that no one ever asked about before – and you’ve been working with these people for 5 years. You can (at least, I would) assume that they are gathering information for the Surprise Baby Shower they’re planning.
Example 2: your upcoming birthday is one of those “milestone” birthdays (like 21, 30, 40, 100, etc.) and every time you enter a room, conversation seems to die and you get those overzealous-ish fake smiles from the occupants formerly in conversation before you got there. You can assume that they’re pow-wow-ing and prepping for a surprise birthday party.
I don’t like surprises mainly because I don’t like being “out of the loop,” uninformed, missing information, and possibly dressed inappropriately. Is that so bad? I don’t think so. I’m sure this guy feels the same:
Confession: I’m stalling. See, what I’m about to share with you is something that I consider deeply personal. So why am I sharing it then, right? Well, part of my efforts to be a better me – the best me – that I can be include me willingly entering potentially uncomfortable situations for myself when what I have to share might help someone else in a similar situation. Soooo, even though I’m squirming in my seat with anxiety and can feel the backs of my ears tingling, I sincerely hope that this reaches the person that it needs to, largely for my own sanity, I’m not gonna lie. But seriously, all jokes aside, I have faith that the reason is already in progress.
A few weeks ago, I scheduled some time to catch up on all the things I’d bookmarked and clipped over the previous few days, and I was leisurely making my way through articles and posts and cartoons and quotes and, of course, TED talks. One of the TED talks was about the longest study ever done about happiness. For 75 years, some very dedicated Harvard alums tracked the lives of 724 men from varying social classes, ethnicities, and later, careers, incomes, and marital statuses. The surprise here, for me, was not that the people who reported being the happiest and in the best health weren’t necessarily the most wealthy or prominent business persons, and not even necessarily white – although I assume most of the 724 men were white given the time period, the school, and the area (Massachusetts). Okay, I’m going to insert the video here, so I won’t spoil it for anyone who actually wants to watch it and find out for themselves.
NOTE: these next few slides are supposed to act as “intermission music” so that anyone who wanted to watch the videos doesn’t inadvertently see the continuation of my story due to an innocently wandering eye or two.
And we’re back. If you opted out of the talk, no worries, here’s the big takeaway, are you ready?
“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”
Robert Waldinger (the speaker), Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, and Zen priest.
Mr. W. tells us that there are 3 main lessons to learn from this study:
- People with strong, close relationships with others live longer and in better health than those who are isolated and without social connections. Loneliness can be toxic – deadly even. Humans are social creatures and we need, we crave interaction.
Who we marry, or otherwise partner up with in a preferable arrangement of the romantic nature, is hugely important. Those in the best of health at the end of the study had strong, long term relationships where they knew they could count on the other person. No matter what happened in life, they always had someone who had their back and was right there with them.
- Quality, solid relationships don’t just save our physical health, they save our mental health, too. Conversation and good will and just looking forward to being with people you care about keeps your synapses firing for longer. It’s like you have a reason to stay active, so you do.
After I listened to the beautiful talk, I was lost in thought, thinking about a million things, ranging from whether I would participate in that kind of long term survey and did the participants get any freebies, to whether or not I see myself in a solid relationship when I’m 80. I started skimming through my mental Rolodex of people, family and friends, and somehow I got stuck on the topic of “someone to count on,” from #2 above, and I felt a chill start at the bottom of my spine and climb up as I mentally ran and reran through all of the people in my life, past and present, and I realized that there is no one on this earth that I completely trust.
There is no one that knows all of my secrets – or even half of them, if I’m being honest. There’s no one that I have ever shared my dreams and long-held hopes. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and my friends, I love them all very much, but I’ve sort of taken on the role of The Therapist for longer than I’ve legally been an adult, and after hearing their issues, well…what started as simply me not wanting to burden others who obviously had problems of their own – that I had just given them advice about – became a way of life for me. Even the 2 therapists I saw over the years never heard the grit. In fact, I usually – but in the moment, unintentionally – maneuvered the therapy sessions so that we talked about them almost as much as me. And as the habit insisted, I didn’t want to burden them with the doozies.
This is why I hate surprises. There I was, sitting at my computer with tears running down my face, on the verge of desperate hysteria. The realization that there is no one that truly knows me – not family, friends, lovers, or even therapists- was the biggest surprise of my life. So far.
I’m still processing things and I have no idea what I’m going to do – if I’m going to do anything about it. I love the people in my life and I know they love me. My problem now is worrying whether they would still love me if they really knew me. I have a hard time loving myself most days, so how could I expect anyone else to do what I can’t all the time?
I wish I had a few options to throw out for anyone in a similar situation, but I don’t. Yet. But I will.
So why bring this up when I haven’t found any viable resolutions yet? Because I know that sometimes all a person in pain needs is to know that they’re not alone. If that person is you, please know that you’re not alone. We probably don’t know each other, so I understand if you’re not ready to exchange notes with me, but please know that if you ever are, if you ever want to bounce your thoughts against something other than your own frontal lobe, I’m here, pull up a seat.
My best and warmest blessings,
xoxo – K