Rarely Proud to be an American Anymore


How did our country become so selfish?
An interaction that left me Grumpy – and it’s not even Monday!

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
in the Monday Grumpy Monday Series

Walkin’ my Dog

As someone who moved around a lot throughout my life, I am currently living a considerably more isolated life than I would prefer because I have landed in a town I can’t really understand – Cincinnati, Ohio.

From my experience, at least, Cincinnati seems to be one of those towns I’ve come to call “passport towns.”

An introduction from somebody who’s grown up here – or lived here for most of his or her life – seems to be a prerequisite for even so much as a welcoming smile many days, and certainly the passport needed to develop a community of true friends. Since my move here several years ago, I have found myself quite lonely as a result.

True friends share each others’ lives, not merely conversations in passing or occasional calls for help or understanding in times of trouble. Most of my friends are scattered across the nation, so I frequently get a hankering for a a bit of face-to-face interaction, even though, since Kate Kelly’s passing, I no longer know anyone in Cincinnati I could count among my true friends.

Enforced isolation is something I have not experienced since, many years ago now, I first moved to New Orleans, Louisiana for grad school – another passport town. That surprised me, by the way. I’ve always made friends easily, and it’s extremely rare to need a passport in the South. But I think I finally figured it out.

Commonalities

I’ve observed that the two towns I mentioned are alike in this way: people who grow up there tend to stay put or move back “home,” perhaps because they finally tire of living in some other passport town where they couldn’t develop a community of friends either. In any case, a great many of the residents of these towns seem disinclined to widen their circles to include a stranger without the requisite introduction from a local.

Taking my own advice (from the Series I have been writing on loneliness and isolation), my little dog TinkerToy and I get out several times a day – and I smile warmly at everyone I pass on our walks around the neighborhood (even if they don’t return my smile). I engage anyone who seems the least bit friendly in a passing conversation.

“Hi, how are you?”
“Don’t you just love (or hate) this weather?”

When I notice an expression on a face that seems to indicate that they are about to bring our little chat to a close, I wave them on and tell them I hope they have a nice day.

Related posts:
The Importance of Community to Health
When You’re Longing for Connection

But passport towns are not the central point of today’s post.
Walking my dog is how I came to meet Staff Sergeant Brown.

Some actual connection

My little Shih Tzu TinkerToy and I frequently pass a small cigarettes-snacks-and-beer store that serves the many college students in this section of the walking neighborhood I currently call home. Staff Sergeant Brown was sitting on a stoop out in front, keeping watch on two large garbage bags bulging with cans.

Do you know what he can get for those cans these days?  A whole thirty cents – per pound.

And that’s how this courageous, 63 year old veteran of FOUR wars is currently supporting himself – because he is too proud to beg.

Don’t forget that you can always check out the sidebar
for a reminder of how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

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When You’re Longing for Connection


Lonely is not Needy – or alone
Mood menders: history, empathy, and support

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
adding to the Loneliness Series – Part 3 of 3

Being alone is solitude; feeling alone is loneliness.
~ Psychologist & noted Leadership expert Manfred Kets de Vries

We are by nature storytellers
who must recount our days and our lives
in order to make sense of them.
For this we need listeners…
but listeners who are genuinely interested in us as people.

~ from Healing Loneliness, a sermon by Reverend Brian J. Kiely,
Unitarian Church of Edmonton,September 19,2012

About the longing for connection

In an article on everydayhealth.com, Dr. Sanjay Gupta suggests that we need to Treat Loneliness as a Chronic Illness.  He includes a couple of paragraphs that summarize the points made in Part II of this article, Sliding Into Loneliness:

There’s nothing unusual about feeling lonely. “It’s perfectly common for people to experience loneliness when their social networks are changing, like going off to college or moving to a new city,” says Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

The death of a loved one or marital discord can also trigger feelings of isolation. But there’s a difference between temporary “state” and chronic “trait” loneliness.

“Many of the patients we see have had situational loneliness that becomes chronic. They have been unable to rebuild after a loss or a move or retirement,” says psychiatrist Richard S. Schwartz, MD, co-author of The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century.

“One of the ways that situational loneliness can become chronic is precisely because of the shame we feel about our loneliness — the sense we have of being a loser.”

Jo Coughlin has written an interesting article about avoiding loneliness in retirement in which she neatly distinguishes loneliness from solitude:

In most cases, solitude is a temporary state that is usually voluntary. The ability to be happy in the absence of the company of others is seen as a sign of good mental health.

Loneliness, on the other hand, is involuntary – an unhealthy state that creeps up on us over time, often accompanied by depression, a feeling of helplessness and isolation.

Successful engagement, according to Coughlin, hinges on gaining self awareness and focusing on empathy for others. She admits that these are traits often in short supply in those who have spent a great deal of their lives escaping into work to suppress their loneliness.  However, she goes on to say, those traits can be worked on and developed later in life, especially with the help of a therapist, a coach or with guidance from a loved one.

Both of the articles mentioned above include the assurance that it’s never too late to change things — that it’s possible to learn the social skills of engagement and connection at any stage of life, even if you’ve been lonely for much of it.
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