Life can be tough sometimes – and for lots of reasons. Something I personally struggle with is affording importance to people in my life when that isn’t reciprocated by those same individuals. Luckily, this is something that smacks me in the face only occasionally.
Most of us need friends or loved ones or spouses. Some of us – I suspect a great many – need friends AND loved ones AND spouses. I think, for those whose current lives don’t include people who could be labeled as friends, loved ones, or spouses, there are likely others in life who at least point in the same direction: People such as amicable coworkers, cashiers at stores frequented, or just familiar faces at the gym.
I think it’s probably always been true of people in general, but definitely seems like a symptom of modern times that our problems present themselves as their own solution – a false solution we quickly and mistakenly believe – only to later realize that the solution presented by our problem really just perpetuates the problem itself. This kind of mental math should fall within the realm of common sense, but too often it does not.
An example of this is smoking: Someone starts smoking perhaps to be social. Then, after becoming addicted, realizes what a hindrance smoking actually is to being social – sometimes even around other smokers. (Smokers are statistically less social than nonsmokers… a trend that only increases the longer a person is a smoker.) Smoking is also expensive and additionally is the root cause of many health issues (literally can be the cause of everything from lung cancer to a dick that won’t work when you want it to). All of these things (financial strain, health deterioration, and the social component) are stressful to the individual. So the individual smokes to (falsely) feel relief from the stress. (This is particularly foolish because smoking only creates a physical / chemical sensation that mimics a feeling of relaxation – the body’s physical response to smoking is actually not congruent to the true experience of relaxation or destressing. And obviously, the issues that made the smoker feel stressed are completely untouched by the fact that smoking has occurred. To be clear: smoking will not pay your bills with money you still don’t have after finishing a cigarette. The stress and stressor actually remain.) So smoking is the foundational cause of the same stress from which it promises relief.
Many of us do the same thing, on a bigger, less precise scale, in life with our human relationships. In our heads, we place so much importance and emphasis on stuff like our job or the presentation we have to put together, on our volunteer programs, on our gym memberships or personal training schedules. Many of us fill our lives with these things that, in the end won’t matter much at all. Many of us do this because we’re lacking the human connections we’re truly needing. We think busying ourselves will take our mind off of it all. What’s worse is that we’ve talked ourselves (in many cases) into believing that if we do these things we’ll find opportunities for those connections: If I volunteer, then maybe while volunteering I’ll meet a nice person with whom I can connect. If I dedicate to my job, maybe I’ll be promoted and the increase in my income will make me more of a catch. If I spend 100 hrs a week with my personal trainer, then the results will mean that others will want to be my friend or maybe more.
The truth is that all of these things can bring those results – not unlike the way smoking can mean increased sociability at first. But there’s a tipping point (probably different for everyone, and probably encountered sooner than anyone realizes is the case) whereupon these things become a true hindrance to the benefits or blessings we think they’re designed to bring. To try to roll them all into one: A person who’s so busy with work or volunteering won’t be free enough to allow what they actually want to take place.
Thus we have the saying of someone being “married” to his work. In the same way we say you have to love yourself before you can love someone else, you have to be able to give that which you hope to receive – this is a part of the essential foundation of the concept of karma. If you want a husband, you have to be able to be a husband. You can’t be a husband if you’re too busy with life to actually exercise that ability. The same obviously applies to anyone hoping to have close friends, etc…
So, personally, I’ve refused to ever be married to work or to pass up on connecting with others for the sake of being involved with a task or a project or a goal. There are times when you truly have to handle business, but people, not power point presentations, are important. It’s the people in our lives that make us feel less lonely, less weird, less messed up – less singular. And that’s precisely what a lot of us seek, desperately.
The flip side of this is that there are those among us who are willingly available to these human connections and those with whom we’d connect aren’t. The result is that we’re prioritized in the same way work projects and volunteer opportunities are – only we will usually fall lower on the priority ladder than those things. For the person who can’t be “bothered” because of time spent on presentations and personal trainers, we’re the ones who aren’t bothered with. I suppose this is why we sometimes hear the advice never to make someone a priority for yourself when to them you’re only an option. It hurts a little, and sometimes it hurts more than a little.
Why are so many of us blindly not available to that which we would receive?
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti