Category Archives: Friends

What I’ve Learned by Being Alone

Before sitting down to write I did a quick Google search on the following words: loneliness & alone.

The results were just as I’d expected.

There were tons of posts on the growing public health concern of loneliness, Psychology Today articles on combatting it as well as the human need for socialization. What I didn’t see in my quick search, however, was what I want to write about here — what I’ve learned and the benefits of being alone.

For the past year and half I’ve been contemplating the concept of being alone. I moved to Long Island in 2014 for a dream opportunity. I packed up my belongings and transplanted myself in a locale quite culturally foreign to me. I came here without a network of friends and only some limited family nearby. I was, for all intents and purposes, alone.

Before I came out here I had a vibrant social life and a unique circle of friends of all ages. I’d also never truly been alone before, at least not in the way that I have been in this new setting. Here I have not been able to call up a friend and announce that on a moments notice, I’d be at their door. I’ve always had friends to explore and hangout with. So, as you can imagine, this change was pretty abrupt and harsh for me.

At first I rejected the area and its inhabitants. I assured myself that it was time for me to put my head down and to work hard — harder than ever before. If I threw myself into my work, I wouldn’t have time to feel lonely. This was partially true. The first few months I was here, I worked like a dog. I tried to push the loneliness out by working so hard that the weekends could only be a time for rest, relaxation and recuperation. But as expected, feelings of loneliness would creep up on me when I least expected them. There I was again – at the beach, in random parking lots, in my kitchen, on the phone, in the car – crying. I had never been so lonely, and for so long, in my entire life.

When I sat down with the purpose of writing about being alone out here, my intent was to explain the life lesson that I’ve been learning and not to make anyone feel bad for me…or worse, for ME to feel for myself. Just so I’m clear, loneliness does not necessarily equate to unhappiness for me.

Sure, I have days where I feel melancholy and nostalgic and wish I had my best friends nearby. I’ve even had extended periods of time where I’ve felt this way. However, what I’ve been feeling recently is more balance between being a social butterfly and being alone.

Before I moved here, there were many things I didn’t know about myself. I never needed to ask myself questions like Who am I? What do I want most? Do I love myself? I had a barrage of social reinforcements that I defined myself against, and our collective mentality was supreme. I was able to be a unique part of a whole, but I never felt truly whole myself without my friend group.  But now that’s different, and I am different. I have more insight now that I didn’t have before, and I know myself better.

I have a better understanding of my social patterns and tendencies.  I know that when I feel alone I use Instagram and Facebook as a crutch to to feel connection. Or that I pursue romantic possibilities even when I’m not fully keen on the person.  And I know that I will pick up the phone and dial everyone in my ‘favorites’ in order to hear a voice on the line who can reassure me that I am still awesome.

These patterns and tendencies are hard to admit because they go against one of my core values–give to yourself what you would ask of others to give to you. To simplify what I mean by that would essentially be to say, “Hey, go connect with yourself. Be your own best friend. Fall in love with yourself.”

But I am only human. And I frequently forget that I am one with everyone and everything — I am never truly alone.

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So what, you may ask, is the benefit of being alone for this long? For me, it has been having enough time to take a good look in the mirror. In the past two years I’ve been able to shift some of my most negative patterns in a more positive direction because I’ve had the time to look within. None of this means that I’ve perfected my ways, but I’ve definitely made progress.

I’ve learned to value myself and my time more. I have learned to be non-judgmental and kind to myself when I am having a off day. I’ve learned that meeting new people takes time and requires lots of patience. I’ve learned to be more patient. I’ve learned that connection is all about quality and not about quantity. I’ve learned to be more aware of my time spent on social media and handheld devices. I’ve learned to get out there and do things that interest me. I’ve learned to kick box and to tango. I’ve learned to be more grateful for the things that I do have. I’ve learned to relish a quiet Friday evening at home, and most of all I’ve learned that “me time” is a necessity.

So while it’s been a bumpy ride over the course of the past few years here on Long Island, I’ve learned a great deal about who I am as a person and what I am capable of manifesting all on my very own.

 

 

 

 

 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 29–Meetup

About a month and a half ago, my colleague from Switzerland, Kerstin, was here on Long Island for a business trip. We spent a good amount of time together, both working and hanging out. We were talking about my life on Long Island and the usual blah blah blah of how challenging I find it to meet people with similar interests as me when she suggested I try Meetup. She explained that Meetup is a website and an app that you can download that you plug your interests into and it finds groups of people in the area who come together around their shared interests.

I’d never heard of the app, and I was curious to find out more so I downloaded it and proceeded to tick off my interests in this order: hiking and outdoors, spirituality, yoga, reading, meditation, politics, and languages. Hundreds of Meetup groups around the area popped up and I could choose to RSVP to any of the gatherings.

One particular group that peaked my interest off the bat was the “Center Reach French Club,” which meets at Panera in the Smith Haven Mall every Tuesday night from 7-8:30pm. It seemed do-able and safe and if worst came to worst I could always get a soup and baguette and pretend that it never happened. I joined the group, RSVP’d, and then didn’t show. The other day on a Skype call with Kerstin, she asked me if I’d gone to a Meetup group yet. I gave her all my excuses and then told her that I planned to go to the French Meetup this Tuesday as long as nothing else came up. Today she sent me a friendly reminder via Skype and so I right then I pulled out my phone and RSVP’d before I could change my mind.

This evening I hopped in my car and drove 25 minutes to the mall, all the while telling myself that I had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was welcomed by a small, yet diverse group of francophiles of varying language level, age, nationality, sex and race. To my pleasant surprise, everyone was dedicate to speaking in French, with the occasional Franglish sentence thrown in to make up for lacking vocabulary. We held a lively conversation that touched on subjects such as issues with the Common Core Curriculum, differences between American and French schooling theories, favorite places we’ve traveled, and then the usual stuff, like introductions, occupations etc. I was quite pleased that I hadn’t lost my French completely…though frustrated with how rusty it has become after being back in the US for over a year and a half. But I felt good about my grammar, conjugations and my accent….and in general I just felt SO good to be speaking French again.

Beyond the explicit function of this group being to practice and upkeep our French language skills, there is also a strong element of community involved. This small but mighty group has been in existence for over two years meeting once a week to speak in French. I immediately fell in love the idea of having a weekly friend group consisting of an Indian mathematician, a Guadalupian middle school teacher, an Italian immigrant police office, a retired high school French teacher and a young American woman who was also a former English teacher in France like myself–such a diverse group of people, all of whom shared my passion pour la langue Francaise.

I felt the accueil chaleureux (warm welcome) of the group as a whole, and also an immediate bond with the young woman, Audrey, who taught for a year in a French school near Versailles. We stayed after the group left and ate dinner together, getting to know each other a bit more and sharing our similar experiences teaching abroad in France. It was a monumental moment for me to connect with another female in general, let alone someone that I have something in common with! Honestly, I could snap my fingers and have a date with a dude around here in two seconds, but meeting girls to be friends with is another story completely.

Tonight was a homerun, and I’m super grateful for all of the pieces that fell together to make this night happen so beautifully. I’m grateful to Kerstin for introducing me to the concept and then pushing me to join a Meetup group. I am grateful to have spent an hour and a half using my brain and practicing my rusty (but functioning!) French. I’m grateful to the group for their warm welcome, wonderful conversation and diverse perspectives, and finally I am grateful to have met Audrey, a young, smart, and interesting woman with a brilliant handle of the French language and my newest official friend crush.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 34: Friendship

I’ve needed a lot of connection recently due to the secluded nature of my new life. I’m far enough away from my friends to make seeing them frequently a real challenge. Thus, today I am so grateful to the people in my life who continually make a concerted effort to reach out to say that they are thinking of me, because I am always thinking of them!

What I love most about friendships are the undertones of equality that the relationship is built on. True, sturdy, healthy friendships are the kind where both friends give and take symbiotically. I have some of the most amazing friends in the entire world, and while the closest of them are still a few hours trek away, I know that I am never alone and that I have a network of soul mates world-wide.

Today, I am grateful to all my friends, who have been my rock solid support through it all. I am also grateful to my friends who let me give, and who graciously take my support when they need it. Nothing makes me happier than to be able to give of myself unconditionally to a person who I know is going to give right back when I’m in need. I’m grateful for the heart hugs, the cuddle puddles, the out of control dance parties and the sharing of literally EVERYTHING (underwear and toothbrushes included!). I’m grateful for all of the soul-searching conversations, the break up counsels, resume and interview prep, howls at the moon, bottles of guzzled wine, pep talks, meditations, motivation and inspiration.

My friends and I would go to the edge of the world for each other. We’ve flown thousands of miles to reunite, and upon seeing each other, pick up without skipping a beat. This post is written with undying gratitude to all who have nestled themselves deep in my heart. So much love to you all.

XO,

Lizzie

 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 33: Lightening Our Loads

Today I was supposed to write about self-sacrifice, but I decided that sounded a little too heavy as far as my day goes. However, something that I can be grateful for, which directly relates to self-sacrifice, is teamwork. If you think about it, self-sacrifice means to give up your own convenience (for lack of a better word) for the benefit of a group. Teamwork, is this and more!

Working in a team means that the groups functionality must take precedence over our own convenience. Sometimes when we work as a team, we have to make compromises. But in a team, we can accomplish so much more than as just one person. Therefore, we ultimately make everyone’s life less burdensome by spreading out the weight of a hefty task upon many shoulders.

The idea of lightening our load through teamwork is what I am grateful for today. Whether it is a physical or mental task, a personal issue or a collective issue, sharing it with others makes it easier. Today in particular I have two very different examples of how teamwork has worked to my benefit. The first is very evident, as it happened in the work place–a common space for teamwork. Today my staff and I sat down together and re-divvied up our tasks. We will be working together over the next few weeks to train each other on how to do the new tasks. The goal of re-delegating was to freshen up the environment and breathe some enthusiasm into what had become wrote and mundane. We all agreed that this would take some work to learn our new tasks, but that ultimately the team would function better once we had our new routines mastered.

My second example relates more to emotional teamwork. I don’t know if this is even a thing, but I’m sure somewhere in a psychology journal someone wrote the obvious: sharing an emotional burden with a friend, family or stranger helps take the pressure off of ourselves. Today, I am grateful to my best friend, Kaitlin, for being my sounding board. My friends, in general, are always there to listen with an open ear whenever I have something I want to talk through. They’ve helped me lighten many a burden, just be giving me the space to analyze and get things off my chest.

As I lighten my mental and emotional burdens, I am of course lightening my physical burden through this cleanse. I feel much lighter from the juice already! And in case you were wondering if  I was hungry as a result of the juice cleanse, the answer is YES!  But, I’m more hungry for wisdom, and the mindfulness component of this cleanse is filling me up.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 24: Unexpected Connection

Yesterday, after work, I went with some colleagues to have a few drinks at the bar. Being that I am just visiting the Boston office, and I am new to the team, getting to know people in a more casual setting is a nice way for me to put faces to names and build my connections. The night took an unexpected turn towards amazing, when I struck up conversation with a young woman named Bethlehem.

As our conversation evolved from the typical, what’s your name? where are you from? chitter-chatter, we both began to recognize that we “read from the same book.”  Our conversation was a journey of self-discovery and the bar around us faded into the background. The only indicator I had to denote the length of our conversation was the 3 empty glasses of Malbec. Our conversation flowed from travel to spirit, spirit to conflict, conflict to identity, and finally identity back to spirit. We discussed books and critiqued philosophies; we talked about religion and about God and our role prophetic models, Carl Jung, Christ and the Buddha.

As the after work crowd began to dwindle, we came back into our surroundings and mingled back in with our remaining colleagues. Together, we felt like a force of wisdom, strengthened by the old age of our souls. We began to talk with one of our co-workers about relationships, and we completed each others thoughts and nodded vigorously as the other spoke. Upon leaving, Bethlehem, a stranger two and a half hours prior, said to me, “I feel like I am talking to myself seven years ago.”

Upon hearing this I to stopped and acknowledged the feeling of unity and oneness of all beings. If she is me, seven years my senior, I am excited for all of the spiritual growth yet to come. And thus, I am grateful for an unexpected connection, and the reminder that continuing to feed the soul with deep analysis and discussion is how I will ultimately continue to grow. I am thankful for my spiritual community and for all the people in my life who nourish and push my spiritual boundaries.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 22: GIRL POWER!

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Today I sat around a table of powerful, smart, self-aware, successful female executives and directors. Being in the presence of my seasoned colleagues, and listening to their words of advice and wisdom was inspiring. These women have so much passion for what they do, and they are pretty damn boss–literally.

Approximately 95% of the employees at Cultural Care Au Pair are women, which doesn’t come as a surprise, given the nature of the child care beast. I don’t mean for this to sound gendered, and in fact, the whole point of this post today is to give thanks to all the bad ass female colleagues and role models in my life.

Here’s to the women who inspire me both professionally and spiritually and have played a key role in my personal successes. Keep being bad ass!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

 

 

 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 19: Bittersweet Transitions

There are multiple moments in my life where transitioning from something comfortable into the unknown has been electrifying, yet all together bittersweet. Leaving behind people and places in order to embrace the unfamiliar is never easy, and I have done this multiple times throughout my late teens and early twenties as I moved away from home and subsequently made my way all around the world.

Though I feel that this transition into some semblance of an “adult” life is well underway, it has brought up lots of of reflections on all the people and places in my life that were once brand new– all the strangers that became friends, places that became home.

I always think back on these people and places in fond reminiscence, and there are so many little triggers that quickly jog my memory of them. I can smell Burkina Faso. I can dance San Francisco. I can drink France. I can hear Morocco. I can walk Spain. These small things, which act as portals and transport me through time, if only for a minute or two, so that I can relive a beautiful moment, in a beautiful setting, surrounded by beautiful friends. And when I come back to the present, it’s always with a smile and a sigh. A smile of thanks for all the day’s that have been seized, and for all of the amazing people whose presence has graced my life. But also, a sigh of longing for the days gone by,and the people who are now so far away.

Thus, today I am thankful for the smiles and sighs, because I have been blessed with countless opportunities to discover the world and to befriend genuinely amazing people. They are a reminder that each one of my fond memories was once an uncomfortable new beginning, which blossomed into something worth longing for when it passed.

And if I am able to remain aware through discomfort of the new life chapter I’ve begun, I can let the wave of bittersweet memories wash up on the shore of the present moment, and offer up some gratitude to those people and places who have made my life so meaningful.  I must continue to breathe myself back into the present moment, so that I am able to create new memories here and now that will ultimately be worthy of a smile and a sigh sometime down the road.  There-were-some-memories-1024x884

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What is Love?

With Valentine’s Day just around the river bend I have found myself thinking about love. I was feeling like I was shutting down and being bitter about it all, and so I asked myself what would be necessary to keep my heart open and the love flowing freely. I went around in circles until I realized I didn’t know what love actually was. Sure I have felt it, but I’ve never tried to define it. It’s one of those feelings that isn’t exactly easy to pin-point because it varies in degree. However, like any type-A person, I knew I had to try to hash out what love meant to me, and I, of course would do so by making a nice and accessible list.

I wrote “LOVE IS…” and then let the pen flow.  But before I tell you what came up, can someone please cue the Haddaway music?

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Love is ego-less. It doesn’t compare or contrast. It doesn’t need an identity. It is everything and nothing. Love just is.

Love is communication. It speaks from the heart. When the heart feels deeply it shares its sentiments with the world.

Love is spirit. It is the uniting force that threads the universe together. It is an omnipotent energy with the power to create and destroy, to re-create and re-destroy.

Love is vulnerable. It expresses all of its deepest and scariest truths.

Love is intimate. It brings people together physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Love is a kind act. We express love through action. How we treat others is ultimately how we treat ourselves. Through kindness to others, we bestow love on ourselves.

Love is trust. Love knows best. Love knows all. Love sees the bigger picture and it trusts the journey.

Love is reciprocal. Give it. Take it.

Love is real. Love gets real. Love is not a mythical unicorn. We’ve all experienced love’s many truths and lessons.

Love is non-attachment. It doesn’t need to control or be controlled. It allows itself to flow freely in non-resistance.

Love is passion. It is the driving force within us that allows us to create and support life. Love is music, art, food, travel, politics, sports, religion, work.

Love is healthy. When given the proper care, love grows and blossoms like a beautiful flower.

Love is barrier-breaking. Love sees no borders or boundaries. It knows only one language, that of itself. It makes no distinctions of race, class, gender or creed.

Love is soulful. It emanates from the deepest part of our being and seeps from our pores.

Love is unique. It differs from friendship to friendship, family to family, couple to couple.  It is colorful and funky. It wears polka dots and floral, suspenders and bow ties.

Love is you.

YOU are love!

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I See the Moon, and the Moon Sees Me; A Tribute to Connection

I have come to realize recently that with all the twists and turns that that my life’s journey has taken thus far, across languages and cultures and countries near and far, the thing that remains ever constant in my life are amazing human connections. Though many miles (and even more kilometers) separate me from the vast majority of my soul mates, I live in constant gratitude for the connections I have made.

I’ve been ruminating on connection a lot lately, and something in the back of my brain keeps bringing me back to Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point. One thing that clearly stood out to me in his book was his classification of people as: mavens,salespeople, and connectors. In a nutshell, the mavens are the ones who gather and distribute information, the salespeople are the charismatic persuasive negotiators, and the connectors know and introduce lots of people.

Let’s just say that, at the core of my being, I am a connector. I know a lot of people.

I also LIVE  for connection. I live to make connections, and more importantly to sustain them. Therefore, I am not only a connector, I am a communicator.

One remarkable thing I have manifested for myself is a multitude of real, deep and intimate connections with a variety of friends and strangers alike. I have met amazing people on trains, planes and buses. On little French street corners and on Spanish  hiking trails.  I’ve met people in bars, coffee shops, yoga classes, clothing stores, lecture halls and dance floors. Each connection life altering in its own way.

Once we’ve met, I am never the same person again.

I have moments (like I am currently having) when I feel a total sense of awe and wonder at all the incredible people I have attracted into my life. How lucky could a girl get?! All these people who are  filled to the brim and boiling over with passion! Passion to change the world, to be leaders, and communicators, and educators, entertainers and healers. Each with their own different and unique enthusiasm; people who believe deeply in the power of food, and technology, the great outdoors, yoga, spirituality, social justice, travel,street art, music, improv comedy, language learning,  dance, lyrical poetry …and the beat goes on.

Being a connector/communicator, I do weird things like make lists of people I haven’t talked to in a while. I send songs on Spotify, emails and text messages. I also  indulge in lengthy phone conversations and especially Skype video calls.

Because to me, it is incredibly important to sustain relationships with the people I know and love; they are my motivation and my mirror. They push me to be the best possible me, and remind me that I am already the best possible me. They uplift me, they enlighten me, they illuminate me.

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So whether it is a 2 a.m. Skype date or an e-mail or a road trip or even a positive vibe that bridges the physical distance between us,  our connection makes my soul sing, my feet dance and my heart leap.

If it has been a while (and even if it hasn’t been), I would love to hear from you.

LOTS OF LOVE,

Lizzie

Open your eyes and “C”

Crossroads, conjuncture

Carrefour, crissing, crossing

Calamity

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