There are real pleasures to living alone, like getting to make up all the rules, eating cereal for dinner, and having no one to complain if you leave wet towels on the floor or hang the toilet paper the “wrong” way.
And there are downsides, too. One of them can be that there’s no built-in someone with whom to compare notes at the end of the day. You know, the big stuff. The little stuff. The annoying stuff. The weird stuff. The stuff that if you don’t tell someone, you’re going to explode. Stuff like:
“Can you believe my boss won’t replace my keyboard even though the ‘m’ stopped working? How am I supposed to write without ‘m’s’?”
“Hey, there’s another Chinese noodle shop opening downtown—what does that make, like, 137?”
“I think I’ve got a good shot at landing the account, can I bounce this idea off you?”
When I was four years old and out to dinner with my grandparents at their favorite suburban Chicago club, a stranger approached our table, gave me a dollar bill and a rose and told me I was the best-behaved little girl he’d ever seen. Then he smiled at all of us, and quietly left the restaurant with his wife. My grandparents had no idea who he was or where he had gotten the rose—the restaurant didn’t have flowers on the tables—and we never saw him again.
I am sure my grandparents were grateful to him, because from then on, I was always on my absolute best behavior in restaurants, just in case the guy with the money and the flowers showed up again.
But more importantly, I have been forever grateful to him. For his insight into a little girl who was actually kind of bored by her grandparents’ stuffy country club dining experience, but determined to be “grownup” and not show it. For the unexpected grace and beauty of the moment. For the spontaneous kindness of his act, which has remained vivid in my memory for over forty years now.
“I’ve just got a bad temper.”
“I can’t remember the last time I was happy.”
“My life is in constant turmoil—it’s like there’s got to be some drama going on.”
“I’ve always been afraid to try new things.”
“Things never work out for me. Life is passing me by.”
Sound like you or someone you know?
When statements come packed with absolutes—always, just, never, got to—it’s a good bet the speaker is hooked, caught like a fish at the end of a line by their own pain. They’ve felt angry, or sad, or scared, or out of control for so long, they believe these feelings to be part of their core identity, often never getting in touch with the root thoughts that created them in the first place.
Breaking the cycle can be as easy as asking one word: why?