I've had a spiritual counseling practice for nearly 30 years, and over time, it's become clear that I can pretty much gauge what's going on in our civilization by the small slice of life I see in my practice. It is perhaps not scientific, but it works for me. Lately, the overarching pattern in people, especially women, is isolation and its resulting loneliness.
More and more people are coming to me hopeless, in tears, and with no clue as to how to begin to pick up the pieces and start over. It's very, very sad because it's what we are all called to do at one point in our lives or another.
Take a session from just this past week, let's call the woman Jane. She was in her early fifties, unemployed, living with an old boyfriend who was emotionally abusing her, applying for jobs she didn't want, knowing full well what her heart's joy would be for work, and at a total loss as to how to make even one small change.
I listened to Jane for about 45 minutes tell me the whole sad story, and sad it was indeed, and then I asked her, "Do you want it to change?"
She was so startled that she stopped crying. Big eyes peered at me as she stammered nonsense syllables.
I repeated myself. "Do you want it to change?"
People don't, you know. Or, to be clearer, they want it to change, but they don't want to change, or, they don't want to change it.
Finally Jane gulped, and said, "Uh, um, yeah, I guess so."
Here's a big clue, dear one. As you read that sentence, I know you felt the lethargy, the exhaustion, the hopelessness that it could ever change.
Well, it can, as long as the person at the center of the problem is ready to become part of the solution, and until that person, here, Jane, is ready, I'm just blowing smoke.
We spent another 30 minutes on what it means to want to change.
In Jane's case, she desperately needed to expand her circle of people. She also was an adult child of an alcoholic. I sent her straightaway to Al-anon. Ninety meetings in 90 days, and find a sponsor. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go straight to Al-anon, and learn that you are not alone.
There's the key: You are not alone.
There are plenty of other people in this world who are as miserable as you are right now. Not only that but there are plenty of other people in this world who have been as miserable as you are right now and have moved on from it. You just need to put yourself into the stream of them.
The biggest problem with misery is that we're taught to be ashamed of it when we're in it, which is almost a certain guaranty that we'll stay in it. Argh! Go be miserable with other people!
Jane was financially challenged, living on unemployment. I did not send her to spend more money. I sent her into community. The Al-anon community houses all sorts who are in every single place on the recovery spectrum. It didn't have to be Alanon either. There are all sorts of programs where peers -- those who have been there, done that -- help other peers.
Jane left my office with a new spring in her step. Nothing had changed really in our two hours together, except that she had a place to go, she had a plan, and she knew she wasn't alone. It meant that she didn't need to be hopeless any more, and that was a big enough change to motivate her toward the path she'd wanted all along.
If you're miserable, blessed one, go find a community. Misery needs company.
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