What to do when everyone else seems to be having a great summer but you.
Summer is the time of year when people are talking about travel plans, cookouts, and neighborhood parties. TV and social media show everyone happy and gearing up for holiday fun. Kids are out of school, working parents have permission to take some time off (usually!), and extended families have traditional ways they celebrate summer. But what happens when there’s nothing on your schedule? And you feel excluded and isolated from others?
Maybe it used to be different, but now distance makes connection harder to work into our schedule, money is tight, or health issues require so much more to consider. Adult children have children of their own and establish their own family traditions sharing the summer with others. Or parents of adult children move away, travel and establish new routines and friendships, and are not around as much. Maybe divorce, quarrels, or angry or hurt feelings limit our access to others. Whatever the reason it leaves us lonely and blaming others. So how do we stop the anxious, sad, angry thoughts and start living for now? Consider these 3 ways to take charge today.
1. First realize the power of grieving the loss of a dream. Consider that you are grieving. You probably didn’t think you’d end up here. And it is a terrible loss. What I’ve discovered and what many of my clients agree is that the “loss of a dream” is perhaps the most difficult loss to navigate. Loss of a dream takes many forms – who you thought would be central in your life at this time, what you would be doing in this season, where you might be living, how meaningful life would be, or how others would relate to you. And losing a dream can happen at any age or at any time – in adolescence, young adulthood, at midlife, or later in life. Processing this type of loss has a lot of facets to work through. So please don’t try to go through this alone. Talk to a professional who works with people who are grieving and talk about what you are experiencing. There is no timeline to grief so you can’t really rush the process. And nobody else can rush it either. One thing about the process is that you have to relive some of the emotions as you move through the stages of grief and that can be difficult. But believe me, it’s a proven way to find a new center and come out standing stronger than ever before.
2. Next, focus on you and on the present, not on others or the past or future.
Avoid Time Travel - Once you gain a deeper understanding of grieving and are standing with your feet more fully planted in the present, try to increase your mindfulness. Traveling back and forth in time between the past and the future is exhausting. Centering in on this very moment in time is more self-compassionate and gentle. And takes so much less energy. Think of time travel as useless noise over which you have the power to “turn down the volume”. It may be in your thoughts fairly often so don’t deny it or judge yourself about it, just turn down the volume so that there is room in your mind for today.
Be an Observer - As you focus on the here-and-now, take on the role of an Observer of your life. Be curious about the patterns you see in your behavior that you’d like to change. Here’s where you may think of doing a life inventory. Observe how you spend your time over a month – write down what you did, who you did it with, and the time you spent doing it. As you perform these tasks, make a note of your emotions. Did you enjoy what you were doing? When you see an event on your calendar do you dread it or are you really excited about it? Just Observe. Doing this step well will pay off for you moving forward. If something feels heavy or brings feelings of dread or resentment, make a note. These may be areas that are draining your energy. On the other hand, when you lost track of time doing an activity or being with someone, that is something to note as well. How we sit in the world can either drain our energy or refresh us. Take note of this. It’s exciting to explore and discover how you move through your day to day world!
Focus on what’s within your control - Now consider the actions you want to take, focusing only on the things that are within your control. Some things within your control include the way you care for yourself, your daily habits, how you spend your time and money, and the words you say. Taking responsibility for your words means communicating clearly about how you feel, what you will do or not do, in who you will do life with up close. Taking control here does involve others and that is difficult. And it means taking action to change how you relate to others who do not consider your wants and desires, and how you express gratitude and appreciative for the meaningful relationships in your life. You have a right to engage with people in mutually beneficial relationships and to care well for those who care for you.
Outside of your control is what others do or don’t do, say or don’t say, and how available they are to you. Whether or not someone else changes is out of your control. But stating clearly how you will change and meaning it is your responsibility. Following through with the words you say helps others to understand you better and have the opportunity to engage with you differently. But what they do with what you say is not up to you and no amount of energy you expend in playing the judge or victim of others will ever be energy that reaps a reward to you.
The middle ground of influence is perhaps the most misunderstood of the three parts of the Control Continuum. When you take responsibility for your words and actions, you can provide others with an opportunity to be influenced by your choices. When you make changes, others can gain inspiration from you and perhaps make changes as well. How many times have you been inspired by the hard work of others, and from that inspiration you gained the motivation to do more, reach higher, and break negative habits.? Consider how you may be an inspiration to others and find motivation there. You will gain momentum here when you realize that the changes you make can be inspiring to others and help them make meaningful changes in their lives as well.
3. And finally, be compassionate to others as you change the rules. Finally, recognize that although you’ve been doing the hard work of sorting out your loss, others have not. When you start making changes in your relationships, others may not understand. Relationships have a reciprocal pattern. For example, someone makes a remark, you tend to always respond in a certain way, then they offer their usual rebuttal, and so on. When you make a change in the way you engage, it often leaves others confused and off balance. Instead of being vengeful, offer compassion to others as they process the changes you are making. This does not mean backing up from your actions, just acknowledge the difficulty others may be experiencing in adjusting to this new you. Be calm, confident, and persistent in your words and actions so that others believe what you say is true. If you don’t believe it, and follow through, then others won’t either. We all teach people how to treat us, and not following through teaches others that we are not serious about our decisions. It’s not fair to blame others when you fail to mean what you say. So, don’t confuse them with on-again-off-again behaviors. Be compassionate with yourself and when you fall back to old habits, simply apologize to others and continue to move forward. It’s the caring thing to do.
So, what will you do with what you have learned? There’s a lot of summer left, so why not use the time to consider the changes you can make now that may pay off in a big way for you when next summer rolls around? Instead of waiting for someone to be good to you, take this lull in your schedule to be good to yourself and see the time of disconnection as an opportunity to connect with the most important person in your world – YOU! It’ll be so interesting to see the changes you’ll make!
Dianne Presley, LCSW
Owner and Founder of Believe, Hope, Inspire Wellness Services
Looking for someone to come alongside you on your journey? That’s what I love to do. Reach out at my website above or give me a call at 850.450.7223 for an appointment today!