For a very, very long time in my life, I felt lonely. REALLY lonely, like I was the only person on the planet. For all intents and purposes I should not have felt that way. I was surrounded by people through work, family, friendships, church, in groups, online, and in my own house. I had been married for 10 years and had (still have) three kids that I desperately loved. In fact, almost all of my time was spent with people. I hadn’t so much as peed alone for five years, but I still felt most of the time like I was the only one alive.
I felt like a tiny, isolated island in the middle of a choppy, wild ocean, my very existence completely unknown by anyone except myself, constantly beat on from all sides by waves that eroded me away.
I felt like a palm tree in the eye of a raging, savage, tearing storm, cemented in place and unable to move, small and insignificant, bowed and bent and victim to circumstances outside of my control.
Being inside my life felt like being stuck in slow motion on a busy sidewalk. I was sweating and pushing to go faster, muscles straining and heart racing, trying to wave my arms and scream at the top of my lungs just to be NOTICED, but even with all possible effort I was invisible. Forgotten. People buzzed past me, bodies brushed by, and my omittable self was drown out by an endless cloud of blurred faces and swirling voices.
Being lonely when you’re all by yourself is one thing. Being lonely when you’re surrounded by people that say they love you is something completely different, and infinitely worse.
And it happened ALL. THE. TIME. It happens to all kinds of people, all the time.
In fact, at one point or another in your life I bet that it’s happened to you.
I just felt so empty. And hollowed out, like something inside of me was missing. I felt a sense of LACKING. And LONGING. I knew I desperately needed something, I just couldn’t figure out what.
And I did TRY to figure out “what.”
I thought I needed MEANING. I am a Christian and felt “maybe more Jesus.” I studied religion, dove into my faith, and devoted myself to the church. It was a great distraction, but it didn’t help.
I thought I needed FRIENDS. I’m an introvert by nature, so “maybe more friends.” I joined several different mom groups, Bible studies, classes, and attended parties when I could get away. I always left feeling sadder and worse than before I went. The relationships I had with people were draining, not filling.
I thought I needed ESCAPE. I drank. And took pills, and abused over the counter medication. I lost myself in television, books, and music. I cleaned A LOT, obsessively, and tried to lose myself in anything I could hide inside of.
I thought maybe I needed to get out of my own head, and be SELFLESS. I volunteered my time and money on other people and their problems, played cards with those dying of terminal illnesses, had parties for sick kids at Children’s Hospital. I left the country to serve as a missionary in South Africa, dedicating all of my time and focus to raising children orphaned by AIDS. I buried myself in the suffering of others to avoid the suffering I felt in myself.
I thought I needed PURPOSE, and so I poured myself into my jobs, worked 80+ hour work weeks, and committed myself entirely to whatever was on my plate. I adopted every purpose I could find in order to fill up the empty space inside.
I thought I needed SEX, to be physically desired and sexually fulfilled. I initiated sex more with the man I was married to, bought gift baskets, toys, and trinkets from a store I was too embarrassed to even LOOK AROUND IN, and was willing to try a lot of uncomfortable things in the hopes the “different” would help. It did not help. I remember feeling cheap and objectified, hollowed out and empty, and crying quite often during and after.
I thought I needed BEAUTY. That my body was holding me back, that I needed to be more girly, or feminine, or smaller. That I was too fat, and that I needed “healthy.” I starved. And then binged, and then starved some more. I went on crash diets and exercise plans. I lifted weights, lost some size, then gained it back. No matter what size I was, no matter how great or bad I thought I looked, I still was aching to be something I wasn’t.
I thought that having KIDS would help. And it did mostly, but not all the way, and only some of the time. I had a lot more to think about with three extra people demanding attention, but they weren’t a FIX. They were a distraction from the problem. I found myself taking my frustrations and where-the-hell-is-this-coming-from anger out on them, making them pay for me feeling lost.
The SYMPTOMS were anorexia, bulimia, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, being a bad mother, having a bad sexual relationship, a life that seriously lacked meaning, a frantic need for escape, a failing marriage, and poor friendships.
The PROBLEM was LACK OF DEPTH.
In a time and place where we have at our disposal more methods and opportunities than ever before to connect with the people around us, DEEP AND MEANINGFUL relationships are getting harder and harder to find. Whether it’s a relationship between parent and child, boss and employee, spouses, lovers, colleagues, friends, siblings, OR WITH OURSELVES, truly deep and meaningful connections have become rare.
WHY IS THAT.
I’m seriously asking. Have you thought about it?
We do not lack forums for communication. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest see to that. With comments and forums available on most sites, I’d guess more than 80% of web pages allow for interaction of some kind with another person.
We do not lack things to talk about. According to studies, the amount of information in the world doubles every two years. HOLY CRAP.
We do not lack people to talk to. Facebook boasts 1.25 BILLION PEOPLE using the site each month. Twitter has 555 million active users, Instagram just hit 100 million. The population of the world is currently speculated to be 7,130,912,559 (and I had to type that number fast, the US Census clock rolls over so fast I barely got the number written before it changed.) There are people EVERYWHERE, and at least ten different ways to get to them.
We do not lack access. With smartphones and 4G-superfast-hotspots-networking-wifi-and-apps, most people are able to connect to any single person at any given time, day or night, regardless of location. We could even figure out where that person lived, what their favorite food is, their marital status, and criminal history if we put five minutes of effort into it.
SO WHY, then. With all that access to all those people and all that stuff to talk about, why do we feel so alone?
We are SUFFERING. We are separating from one another, losing ourselves and our purpose, and we are DYING. In a world that is tied more closely together than ever before, we are killing ourselves to feel connected. In a world that can’t stop commenting, tweeting, liking, opinionating, judging, and justifying, we are in a delirious frenzy to be FILLED. To HOPE. And LOVE. And to CONNECT.
Even with our extensive opportunity and ability to form connections, we suffer more in our country from depression, obesity, breakups, eating disorders, bankruptcy, and divorce than almost anywhere else in the world. We spend SO MUCH MONEY on therapy and prescription medication to feel better about ourselves and our lives. We suffer from shame, isolation, and segregation, even though we are not alone. Even as we surround ourselves with hundreds of thousands of people, we feel lonely.
We. Lack. Depth.
Write that down. And get ready to take notes, this is going to change your life.
We lack Depth. Not MEANING, really, because most of our relationships (even the crappy ones) feel meaningful when we’re in them. We feel that they serve some purpose, and good or bad, recognized or hidden, we feel they fill a need.
“Meaning” is something that differs from person to person depending on their upbringing, religion, experiences, and choices. DEPTH does not. Depth is kind of like love. Or AIR. Or FOOD. Depth is something different.
As I was thinking through the chaotic six-computers-fifty-web-pages-two-hundred-forty-three-tabs-open-each thoughts in my head, I realized this concept of depth. And it CLICKED. And suddenly everything made sense. ALL of it. US, humanity, life, love, relationships. ALL. It made so much sense, and once the concept clicked I couldn’t NOT see it. I see it everywhere, both the abundance of it and the lack, and I want you to see it too.
I will do my best to explain it to you.
True connection, TRUE DEPTH, is not the same thing as love. I think they’re connected, in a way, “correlated” to one another, but they are not the same thing. Depth is multi-faceted. For some it looks like RESPECT, for others it looks like SERVICE. Two people with a deep dislike for one another and insurmountable differences can find a very real depth.
Depth is CONNECTING. And FIGHTING for that connection. If the relationship in question is a body of water, Depth is the very, very bottom. It is as far down and deep as you can go, and there is no bottom. There is always more room to go deeper still.
Depth is not about sex. It’s not about LUST or physical desire. Those can be byproducts of Depth and connection, but they are not in and of themselves requisite to finding it. True and real Depth can be found between ANY two people. Parent and child, husband and wife, sister and brother, best of friends. It is possible for two heterosexual, fully grown, happily married men to create a deep relationship. A “bromance.” (And now I’m chuckling, because if I call it that most men I know will deny it. We’ll be instantly fighting.)
Depth is not NECESSARY to any relationship, but without it I absolutely guarantee that the relationship will feel lacking to at least one person inside of it. Without real depth, at least one person will feel they are constantly “chasing.” OR, one person WISHES they were chased.
Depth is saying nothing and still feeling heard. Depth is knowing that your deepest, darkest, ugliest stains are completely known, sifted through, talked about, and explained completely, yet you are loved. And TREASURED, and forgiven. Depth is telling the man you love the horrible, awful things you want to do to yourself with food, and him holding your hand and handing you tissues while you cry it out.
Depth is understanding that the PERSON is more important than the ARGUMENT or the ISSUE.
Depth is a woman finding joy in her friend’s joy, even when the thing her friend is joyful about drives her freaking nuts.
Depth is a man of 100 years kissing his wife goodbye after eighty years of marriage, and following behind her the next day.
Depth is a mother holding her sick baby close to her chest because that’s where he’s SUPPOSED TO BE, nevermind the puke and fever and diarrhea.
Depth is a man with such a clear sense of priority and purpose that he changes the world with his vision and action.
Depth is a lover oblivious to the temptress at work because the woman waiting for him at home occupies his every thought.
Depth is a man that hears his love has been in an accident so he leaves work without notice, drives to her, and sleeps on the hard hospital floor to be sure he’s there when she wakes.
Depth is telling the one you love exactly what you think, without verbal hand grenades, without the desire to harm, but with complete and plain truth, and then holding the one you love as they cry through the reality of your words.
Depth is working side by side with someone to accomplish the same goal. It is the feeling of brotherhood you have after digging foxholes with a fellow soldier, after winning the state championship with your teammates, after completing a test and showing the grade to your all-year-long study buddy.
Depth is effort every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, and year to keep your mind, eyes, heart, body, soul, and intention focused on just and only the one person you’ve committed your life to.
Depth is King Kong and Ann Darrow, the love that conquered the beast, and the ends to which he went to be with her.
Depth is Noah and Allie in The Notebook.
Depth is The Link shared by Changelings, and two wrapped up together in one pot. Depth is Borg. (YES, those are Star Trek references, YES I am a dork. Also a geek, also a nerd. I’m okay with all of those things.)
Depth is Buttercup and her sweet Wesley, fighting all odds to find one another.
Depth is COOPERATION. And UNITY.
Depth is CONNECTION.
We WANT Depth.
AND, as much as we WANT it, we NEED IT. In the animal kingdom, humans are pack animals. People are not like polar bears, they’re like penguins. I honestly believe that TRUE CONNECTION is one of our feral instincts. One of our feral REQUIREMENTS.
WE NEED CONNECTION. We need PEOPLE. Regardless of introvert or extrovert, party animal or hermit, we all need some form of connection and personal contact. SOMEONE needs to know our name, to recognize our face, to say “OH HI” when they see us walk into a room. We need to feel significant. And meaningful. Not all of us require to feel momentous or powerful, but we all need to be KNOWN. “Connection” is the stuff we’re MADE of.
And most, most, most importantly, we need depth with ourselves. We need to be able to look into the mirror, look into our own face, and then recognize, accept, honestly assess, and EMBRACE WHAT IS THERE. We need to KNOW ourselves.
DEPTH WITH SELF is how we conquer the world.
Depth is Walt Disney and his vision to accomplish the impossible.
Depth is Jerzy Bielecki escaping from Auschwitz.
Depth is Rosa Parks and her steely will.
Depth is Oprah Winfrey, turning her life and SELF into a multi-billion dollar empire.
We cannot have a real, honest, productive life if we do not have a real, honest, productive relationship with ourselves.
Even more, we CAN. NOT. have a relationship with another person any deeper than the one we have with ourselves.
If you are not willing to look into your own depths, how can you ever expect someone else to do it?
Here’s the good news.
If you want Depth, I can teach you how to get it.
In my experience as manager, leader, wife, lover, daughter, sister, friend, and Mommy, I’ve learned a lot about Depth. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. I’ve made SO MANY MISTAKES, both with myself and with others, and each of those mistakes has taught me something. They’ve given ME depth, and now I want to share with you how to get some too.
Over the course of the next year I’ll be blogging about Depth. How to find it, what stands in your way, and the mindset I’ve adopted to see Depth in the same way a photographer sees light. Or as a surgeon sees a human body. We will take apart the pieces of life and relationships, find ways to create Depth, and put them back together.
I AM SO EXCITED.
No matter where you are at in life, there is always room for improvement. And I don’t know about you, but I will push every day to dive deeper into life than I was the day before.