Loneliness is a Normal Emotion

Often I have friends back home ask me the question, “Do you get lonely?”  They ask this because I have lived overseas for ten years.  Bella and I are currently living in our fourth country.  And the answer is yes, but I think the emotion of loneliness has become so normal that I do not always name it that.

I am not ashamed to say I get lonely.  This does not have to do with the lack of a romantic partner, but the lack of true friends and community.  There’s so many ways we can be lonely, but all has to do with lack of connection. The thing is we can be lonely, even if we are surrounded by others and do not feel understood.  We can even be lonely if we are living in our hometown, but currently not feeling bonded with others.  Loneliness doesn’t always have to do with newness to a city, but oftentimes that can go hand in hand.  Years ago, at a therapy conference I heard author and relationship expert Esther Perel say that the number one problem in America was loneliness.  This fact was verbalized pre-covid.  We know with the pandemic, loneliness increased in societies throughout the world.  We had to learn how to navigate this emotion in this new way of being in the world. 

But this is a blog on happiness? True, but to avoid these difficult emotions is to veer into the world of toxic positivity.  We must embrace the totality of our emotions.  It’s when we know we can feel the lows, that the highs are appreciated at a greater depth.

So what do you do with loneliness?  

Recognize.  Notice what is arising internally, give it a name.  If you could stop a moment, and tune into your body.  Where in your body is this arising?  What is it like? It’s the first step.   

Allow Feelings.  Give yourself permission to feel it.  And what does that look like for you? Tears.  Frustration. Anger.  Let it out.  Give yourself space to feel, and offer the self- compassion to yourself to be vulnerable right now. 

Voice. Voice out your feelings to others.  This could be to a therapist, or via phone calls with friends and family in other parts of the world.  You may express it through journal entries that release the turmoil inside.

Elevate. Now you took the time to notice what’s going on, feel the feels, voice it, and now you can elevate it.  This is transforming the motion.  It’s been said that emotion is energy in motion, and if emotions are truly expressed and felt only last several minutes. So now what? Maybe you want to harness that loneliness and transform it into a creative project. Or it’s a time to reassess your goals.  It can also be a time to now express what in your life you are grateful for.  

Although this process is laid out for loneliness, you can use a variation of this for any difficult emotion.  This is temporary, just like everything else.  Next time you are lonely, turn to this process, and let me know how it works for you.  It will pass and you are okay.

Small Changes To See The World Differently

“Time wasted at the beach is time well spent.” – Unknown

I have lived in Malaga for two months, and outside of a tiny trip with a friend to her vacation home, I have stayed in the town center.  I had vowed that today I would venture on a bus or metro to go to another town, but it didn’t happen.  Therefore, I would simply walk further by the beach for my daily walk.  It was interesting, because I think my dog Bella knew this. 

We walked towards Malagueta, and generally stop at one of the first two grassy areas to sit.  But today we walked further, not much further.  There was a beautiful opening to the beach and empty benches looking at the Mediterranean.  Bella stopped and took towards the sea, then pawed at my leg.  She seemed to say, “this is good enough.”  We don’t have to walk further to experience the beach differently, we can actually walk the area differently.

And so we walked towards the sea, it was the first time in these two months that Bella’s paws touched the water.  She’s not a water dog, and runs away from it versus towards it.  Therefore, as I walked barefoot in the sand, I carried her during this process.  Bella is my fourteen year old chihuahua pug mix, and although she has a curious heart, her paws get tired every so often. As we walked, I saw beautiful seashells that still capture my sense of awe, as they did when I was a child.  Previously when we only stayed in the other grassy areas, what I saw was remnants of litter from prior picnics. But I realized I need to walk in the sand to see the shells.

 We sat on a new grassy area for awhile, which was clean and less crowded.  We experienced the beach differently.  On our return walk home, we took a new route.  And this was our version of an adventure today.  It doesn’t take much to have a shift in perspective.  We don’t have to spend loads of money by travelling to far off lands, but we can take a new route in our own town or in our local parks.  Interacting with the land in a new way keeps our relationship fresh, just like in marriages.  We need to see and appreciate the space from a new perspective to keep the flutter in our hearts.  And for that today, I am appreciative of our new walk.

5 Truths About Love And Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day.  We love it or hate it, dependent on if we have a romantic partner.  Ever since I was in school, we passed out Valentine’s to crushes or hoped we would receive one from an unrequited love.  The greeting card industry, Hollywood, and advertising agencies remind us that we have to show and receive love from our partner through romantic gestures.  We are searching to find this “love” state. There are so many things we get wrong, but here are 5 Truths about love and Valentine’s Day.  

  1. We Don’t Have To Wait For A Date.

The first time I heard of this concept was in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist Way.  She encourages us to take ourselves on a weekly artist date.  Oftentimes we wait for someone to go to that movie we have been longing to see or try out that new restaurant.  Why wait for a date to do something you love?  

Although this book is geared towards creatives, I loved the concept.  I have offered it as a homework exercise for many clients. 

  • How will you treat yourself to an artist date? 

2.Love Exists in Many Forms.

We know this in theory, but how often do you feel it?  I’m so glad that the television show Parks and Recreation had an episode about Galentine’s Day, where girlfriends celebrate love for each other.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYv1zjBOMew)Years after the show ended, memes still come around every February 13th.   Love exudes in our friendships, family, co-workers, pets, community, or even with strangers.  

  • How does love show up in your life today?

3. You Can Still Love Exes And Old Crushes, It’s Ok. 

There may be a debate about this concept.  Some people think we need a clean break of all of our emotions about our exes and old crushes.  We can still love them, as they were witnesses to our lives and who we once were.  It doesn’t mean they have to stay in our lives in the same capacity or that we should still be in contact with them.  But we can still love the place they had in that period in our lives.  We helped shape each other. 

  • What lessons did you learn from your old flames?

4.Love Is Something That Happens To Us.

These days with online dating, we must swipe right, match with a partner, actually go on a date, have chemistry, and hope for a second date.  There’s the term of “falling in love,” as if it is out of control.  But love is not passive and doesn’t just happen to us if we have good luck.    Love is a verb and an action we can engage in daily.  Again, it doesn’t always have to be linked to romantic love.  The other day I witnessed a tourist who bought two loaves of bread to feed to the birds.  He didn’t expect anything in return or didn’t know anyone was watching him.  Automatically afterwards, I saw a mother running with her child, but backed up slowly so her child can win.  Both of these moments are love in action, and love is really all around if we open our eyes to see all the ways it arises.  

  • In what ways have you expressed love this week? 

5.If You Can’t Love This Moment You Will Always Be Searching.

For many of us, happiness and love are something we are always striving for.  If only I ______, then I will be happy.  Fill in the blanks can range from get married, have a child, find the perfect job, take that dream vacation, make $1,000,000, or retire.  Happiness is always over there.  But the truth is once we arrive, we may find that it is fleeting.  If we keep waiting for the right moment, we will always be waiting.  

  • How can we experience and love this moment right now? 
  • How can we remind ourselves to do this daily? 

We explored in this blog post 5 Truths About Love and Valentine’s Day.  Hopefully the reflection questions will help recall all the ways love exists in your life, regardless of your relationship status. Valentine’s Day is one day per year, but we need to remind ourselves how to show up and express love in all of it’s forms all other 364 days of the year.  

To explore more about the other types of pilgrimage we embark on, check out this piece https://amodernpilgrimage.com/types-of-pilgrimage/

A Modern Pilgrimage

Currently I am working on another blog www.amodernpilgrimage.com, which focuses on internal, external, and communal pilgrimages we take in today’s world.  In creating content for this blog, and accompanying pinterest and Instagram, I am sorting through old pilgrimages I have taken over the past 10 years. 

            There are so many forms of pilgrimage, not just religious or spiritual.  Pilgrimages can be food pilgrimages, art, nature, literature, internal journeys (such as silent retreats, meditation), or concerts in special locations.  Contemplation can exist in so many forms, and I want to remind people that in today’s world.  The primary essence of it is intention.  Intentional travel. 

            As I create reels from old photos and videos, I recall the moments I have spent over the years in foreign lands or even my homeland.  I am searching to create themes in these little vignettes.  This is a time where we have stopped printing pictures or creating tangible photo albums.  But for many of us these photos and videos exist in our phones.  They are resurrected in some ways with this project.  Some include individuals that are no longer in my life in the same capacity, even my beloved Puzo who died this past summer.  But we were all witnesses to each other’s life and are part of each other’s journey. 

            I recommend this practice for any of you to do.  Bring back those old memories to life.  These images do not have to be digitally dead in your phone, they can live on with a beautiful song to accompany it.  Author Anais Nin once said “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.”  Regardless if you are a writer or not, allow those sweet memories to be tasted twice.  And savor them. 

New Moon Versus Full Moon Rituals

A Full Moon arises tonight, and I feel it’s been beckoning me.  I began to go down the rabbit hole of researching Full Moon Rituals versus New Moon Rituals.  Here is what I learned.

New Moons are best for setting new goals for the next month.  Creating new goals are not only reserved for the new year.  We can do this every lunar cycle.  Explore what it is you want to transpire in the next 28 days.  What areas do you want to shift and how can you make that happen.  This is the time to vow to make changes in your life and commit to taking action.  New Moons are for manifestations.  

  • Take time to create an intention of how you want the next month to go
  • Visualize attaining these goals
  • Work on a vision board, crystal grid
  • Verbalize your goals aloud to a trusted friend for accountability

Full Moons are best for cleansing.  Let go of what no longer serves you.  But there are mystical healing properties of a full moon.  So one can additionally cleanse crystals, water, or oneself under a full moon.  We are to reflect on the goals we began two weeks ago during the New Moon phase, but we don’t take action now.  Energy is focused on taking care of one’s self.  Self-compassion and slowing down.  Clean out what is stale in one’s home and rest.  It’s a time for grounding ourselves.  Our emotions may be heightened during this time, therefore it’s best to not make any rash decisions.  Full Moons are for cleansing and compassion.

  • Clean out and declutter your space
  • Sage and clear your atmosphere of stuck energy
  • Cleanse yourself and crystals under a full moon
  • Slow it down with some yin yoga and hygge self care

Regardless if you believe in the moon phases or not, this makes sense.  Once a month focus on manifesting/directing where you want your life to go.  Another aspect of the month, chill out and take care of yourself.  I hope you take time to demonstrate some compassion for you on this lovely full moon evening. 

Living in a Small Tourist City

I’ve been living in Malaga for six weeks.  It’s the sixth largest city in Spain, but small in regards to the size of other worldly cities.  Malaga sits in the Costa del Sol, home to Pablo Picasso and Antonio Bandera.   Over time it also has become a port stop for cruise ships.  Several days a week, hundreds of tourists step off the boat, pop into the town to squeeze in the most they can out of their half a day on land. They will partake in walking tours, food tours, and bicycle tours.  Eat paella and drink sangria, as they relish in the Spanish atmosphere for the day. 

My dog Bella and I choose to take a walk daily on the same path along the Calle Nuevo.  A new street that parallels the port filled with cafes, tourists, street performers, and dog walkers. When you walk at the same time every day, you notice what time artists have their gig on a particular corner or when a local older man singing his heart out gets a haircut.  I see the same DHL man on his bicycle delivering orders throughout the city.  You notice the smallest of things.  

Prior to moving here, I had visited six times.  This is the first time I stayed more than several days, and it was interesting to see the fadeout of the holidays after 3 Kings day to early prep for carnivale.  Although it is over one month away, it seems Malaga always wants to be ready for the next reason to party.  And why not? The city seems to ooze with joy and wants the exclaim it to all the tourists who are here for a sneak peak.  

At the local market, I tend to go to the same grocer weekly.  I know most of the words for the vegetables and fruits, but I guess not for cucumber.  I tried to say it in English and French, and they played along.  But after the third time, they kindly corrected me with “peppino.”  I appreciated that, small lessons to be learned each day.   Peppinos always seem to run out of by the time I arrive. 

Malaga is filled with new people day after day, but now Bella and I are slowly becoming staples that fill the background.  I must be the crazy dog lady who goes to the beach, sits in the sun, and carries her 14 year old dog halfway home due to her tired stubborn legs.  And that is okay with me.  

There’s something comforting with smallish cities.  Other people travel here to escape their winter blues.  I take a daily walk to the beach and run into acquaintances on the street.  I asked a local how long does it take to become a malagueno, she said three years.  Let’s see if I make it to that status.