The Surprising Truth about Rejection

I started a journey a few months ago–the journey to publication.

I’ve been published before, but poetry and articles are vastly different than a book.

Being the person I am, I did my homework going into it, and man, was there a lot to learn! I knew the journey would be arduous and fraught with rejection. I was prepared for it. Armed with my optimism and resilience, which I have an abundance of, I thought I’d be able to weather the difficulty with grace.

At first I did. I got the inevitable rejections, but I also got many full requests that acted as a buoy. I would plunge down, but my optimism would pull me back up.

But then something changed.

dealing-with-rejectionI found myself in a funk I couldn’t seem to climb out of.

Being a psychology professor, I pulled out my usual bag of tricks. I got outside. I focused on what I was grateful for. I exercised. I spent time with my family. I requested extra hugs and snuggle time. I escaped into books, played the piano, and sang my heart out.

Usually any combination of these would do the trick, but this time, none of it was working–and it was driving me crazy.

When I looked at my life logically, I was filled with gratitude. I like who I am. I like where I’m headed. And I like the people who are along for the ride. I had no reason to feel what I was feeling.

I knew the culprit had to be the rejection. Though I had expected it, though I am usually very resilient, something was different this time.

I got curious.

This led to a journey of discovery.

The-Human-Brain-Processes-Rejection-Like-Physical-Pain-According-to-ScienceRejection, from a biological standpoint, is one of the absolute worst things we can experience. Worse than physical pain. In fact, according to Psychology Today:

fMRI studies show that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. This is why rejection hurts so much (neurologically speaking).

In fact, our biological response is so similar to the experience of pain that Tylenol actually reduces the emotional pain of rejection.

Last night, I was feeling the malaise I’ve come to associate with my recent experience with rejection. I also had significant muscle pain. I decided this gave me the excuse to test out the research.

And it worked. Within ten to fifteen minutes I felt like myself again.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not recommending reaching for the Tylenol every time you’ve experienced rejection. What I am suggesting is that we need to recognize the very real effects rejection has on our Psyche and how we experience that pain in a very real, biological way.

In fact, our biological response could be defined as worse than physical pain in that it reaches into our future. Psychology Today puts it this way:

We can relive and re-experience social pain more vividly than we can physical pain. Try recalling an experience in which you felt significant physical pain and your brain pathways will respond, “Meh.” In other words, that memory alone won’t elicit physical pain. But try reliving a painful rejection (actually, don’t—just take my word for it), and you will be flooded with many of the same feelings you had at the time (and your brain will respond much as it did at the time, too). Our brain prioritizes rejection experiences because we are social animals who live in “tribes.” 

As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, rejection also causes a surge in anger and aggression, it causes us to attack our self esteem, and it temporarily lowers our IQ.

And it doesn’t respond to reason.

Yikes. That is a nasty list of symptoms.

And as a Twitter friend reminded me the other day, rejection does not end when my books get published. Reviewers can be cruel. I have chosen a road of continued rejection.

So, what do we do when we have chosen a road filled with inevitable rejection? Do we just accept that this is part and parcel and a part of the price we pay?

I say no. Being aware is the first step in dealing with rejection in a healthy way. Being kind to ourselves, acknowledging the very real wounds, and seeking out relief in healthy ways can make a difference.

Ignoring it is not the right answer. We would not ignore a cut on our arm, would we? We would care for it. In the same way, we need to acknowledge the very real wounds caused by rejection and care for it accordingly.

The wounds are real so treat yourself to the same compassion you would extend to a friend in pain. You deserve it. And you need it.

self-care-for-writers-1080x618

The devil in my head…is it you?

A few weeks ago, my daughter told me that I’m the voice in her head.

She said that when she wants to give up, my voice tells her to keep going.

When she thinks she can’t, my voice tells her she can.

When she wants to take the easy road, my voice tells her it’s unhealthy–that the best is always hard.

Talk about humbling.

devil onshoulderAt the time I took it as a parenting win. I reminded myself I needed to be careful to live up to this responsibility, but it was mostly a fleeting thought. A cursory nod.

And then, I moved on.

But today I find myself circling back to this idea.

I am the voice in her head…who’s the voice in mine?

We all have voices in our heads. Some of the voices are uplifting. Some of the voices tear us down.

Some of the voices should be kept and encouraged.

Others we should send packing.

Adios. Sayonara. See you never. Goodbye.

This all ties back around to self-talk which I’ve talked about here.

But this time I found myself thinking of this from a different angle. We all have voices in our heads.

My voice is in Arabelle’s head…who else hears my voice in their head and what is my voice saying?

That’s a crap ton of responsibility. That voice has power. That voice is the bringer of life or death. That voice speaks and I didn’t even know it was speaking and I don’t have a clue what it’s saying.

I want my voice to be a voice of life. Of hope. Of perseverance.

But if I’m honest, I haven’t walked mindfully enough, carefully enough, to know that my voice is always going to be a positive one. It is for Belle, but what if for someone else, my voice doesn’t build up–what if it tears down?

wordsAll of us, each and every one of us, are the voice in someone’s head–most likely several someones. Our voice can build them up.

But it can also tear them down.

I believe  we need to be mindful of the power we hold over others even when we don’t know we hold it. What we’ve said. How we’ve acted. Our abundance or lack of empathy. Our generosity or our stinginess in encouragement. When we listen or choose to be more interested in our phone or our computer. When we walk away in a time of need. Close our eyes to their struggle.

All of these, and so many more, contribute to the voice they hear.

I am convicted. I need to do better. I want my voice to always be a voice of life.

I want my voice to to be a voice of truth.

the helpYou are beautifully and wonderfully made.

You matter.

You are loved.

There is nothing you do that makes you unworthy of that love.

You are enough. Today. Just as you are.

I challenge you to think of who it is that hears your voice, because someone does.

What do you think they hear? Are you okay with it?

Or, like me, do you fear that carelessness may have allowed criticism or negativity to sneak in in places you hadn’t considered?

We need to begin acknowledging the power we hold. And we need to wield that power conscientiously.

Not in anger. Not in carelessness. Not thoughtlessly.

We need to wield it with purpose.

good

Pick yourself up, Dust yourself off–And let go…

I’m a dreamer.

When I was a girl, my mother liked to say I was driven. And I was.

I was driven to succeed, to exceed expectations, to push through obstacles. I was never satisfied with the status quo. I wanted more.

I had the American mentality of old. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. There’s nothing hard work and perseverance couldn’t achieve.

I’m gritty. Determined.

And I often rely too much on myself.

The thing about walking in faith is that it requires us to relinquish control. It asks us to let go.

rowboat-man-sea_siThis is something I’m not very good at doing. When things aren’t going the way I want them to, my instinct is to take the wheel, make a plan, and conquer it head on with my own strength and by my own power.

But when I do this, I’m often going against what God is trying to do. I’m paddling in the wrong direction and so my boat doesn’t move. It’s stuck in the same place–or worse, I drift in the wrong direction completely as my strength comes into opposition with the will of God.

I look around, scratch my head, and wonder why I’m stuck–not even realizing that the moment I picked up those oars and started paddling, I’d sabotaged myself.

Sometimes the direction God is leading us feels counter-intuitive. It feels like we’re going backward or on a detour. Or it feels like we’re not moving at all. Like we are in the middle of a sea just floating.

But when you feel that itch to pick up the oars and start rowing yourself, I would caution you. That might be the very worst thing for you to do.

I believe God is moving me into something. I feel it in my gut. But my reality doesn’t match what I feel Him doing. I look around and I see failure. I see chaos. I see broken dreams.

And I want to fix it. I want to hack my way to the life I want. I want to, with grit and determination, fight for my future.

ballerina.jpgBut God is telling me to trust Him and to let go. To let Him row my boat.

I’m reminded of an analogy that Lysa TerKeurst shared in her book Uninvited.

“It’s like the crazy notion I had as a little girl that ballerinas could fly. I wanted to fly. So I begged my mom for lessons and pink shoes. I wore myself out from all the leaping. Sure, I caught a bit of brief air, but never did I soar. I simply landed with a thud” (TerKeurst 34).

I’ve spent too much of my time leaping in my own power wondering why I haven’t managed to fly. In my own power, all the leaping in the world is only going to end with the inevitable thud.

And so I surrender my oars to the God who sees the full picture. The God who sees passed my present reality into the things of the future.

In the words of Ayn Rand, I will “check [my] road and the nature of [my] battle. The world [I] desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s [mine]…” but only if I remember to let go–which goes against every instinct I have.

Are you leaping and landing again and again with a thud?

Are you paddling with all your strength, but stuck in the same place?

Then I would challenge you to let go and let the God who loves you immeasurably move you to the plan He’s had for you since the beginning of time.

He knows the way. He knows all the pit stops you need on the journey. And He never fails.

 

 

 

Caraval Review

I really wanted to like this book. I expected to like this book. I had heard so many good things about it that I was saving it for a special time when I really needed a good book…but sadly, it did not deliver.

Rating: 2.5 stars

caraval

I loved the concept of the book. Excellent idea with so much potential, but the execution was lackluster at best. I was bored. I kept waiting for it to get good. I kept thinking of everything she could have done to make it better, where she could have gone…which does NOT make for an enjoyable read.

The world building was mediocre. I did not feel pulled into the world. It should have been incredibly fantastical, but I felt like there was little that lent an aura of magic and intrigue. She threw out some absurd details here and there that felt unimaginative in an attempt at world building, but they felt contrived and uninspired and there were just too few of them to give a real sense of setting. Too often her descriptions felt forced and stilted–like she was trying too hard. Since this is one of the most important aspects of the concept…failing to deliver on this front is huge.

The characters. Yikes. Flat, unsympathetic caricatures. One of the most important things in a story for me is well rounded authentic characters and I didn’t feel like there was a single one in this book. I’m going to focus on Scarlett since she was the main character.

Scarlett was weak. She was naive and simplistic. There was no depth of character. She always acted as expected. She was boring, not especially bright, and seemed like an impressionable school girl. She did grow a little by the end of the story, but the growth was not believable. It didn’t fit the character. And a personal annoyance–why did she see emotions as colors? What was the point of that? I kept waiting for it to mean something–but it never did so WHAT WAS THE POINT? Was it a Scarlett thing? Does it indicate some magical ability? Was it a world thing and they all saw color? Something like this needs to have purpose. As it was, it felt like she had this undeveloped idea of “this would be cool” but she lacked the imagination to make something of it.

Sometimes the dialogue felt forced and stilted. It lacked a feeling of authenticity. The language used seemed to vacillate between too simplistic to trying too hard. It reminded me of students I’ve had in the past who were told that they need to up their vocabulary use and they lose their sense of voice in their attempt to up the level of their writing. It lacks flow and authenticity.

The overall focus of the book was a problem for me. This book should have been about the intrigue–the mystery, but that was an afterthought, a subplot. The clues were simplistic, the mystery in discovering the answers non-existent, and sometimes the conclusions drawn felt completely random or didn’t make sense. I love a good mystery. I love trying to figure things out with the character. This did not happen in this book. It was background for the real focus: an ill conceived romance between the main character and Julian.

Why do I call the romance ill conceived? I could see Scarlett being drawn to Julian, though I don’t think it was in her character to fall in love and trust that quickly. The bigger problem was what in the world about lackluster Scarlett would draw a guy like Julian? Especially given he’s much older than he appears and she is a very naive little girl. That’s downright creepy, and given Julian’s character, I don’t buy it. In other words, the main focus of a book that was supposed to be a fantastical mystery is a teeny bopper romance that lacks authenticity…Ouch.

The ending, which I imagine was supposed to be a big surprise, simply wan’t. I saw it coming from a mile away. I anticipated the deaths and the fact that they weren’t really dead (which felt like a cheap fix) long before either happened. And then for Scarlett, who isn’t trusting, to just accept this man (old man) that it turns out she doesn’t even know…nope. Not buying it. The warm satisfied feelings I should have felt at the end were more reminiscent of dissatisfied grumblings.

Gaslighting

Gaslighting

The ticking clock echoes in my head…

The silence deafening–

Anxiety growing.

Tossing…turning…flipping…flopping…

Reaching in the darkness for the glowing screen

Which does not speak and does not calm.

 

Sighing…worrying…plumping pillows.

Counting an endless stream of sheep.

One, two…twenty-four, twenty-five…sixty-seven, sixty-eight…

On and on, but sleep evades.

 

Mind racing, chasing, caught in an endless cycle of doubt–a game of torment.

Sleep flees–A girl on the playground eluding, dodging…

Refusing to be caught…

 

Because you’re not here.

The bed cold, an ocean that won’t be crossed.

An empty space of isolation–

Of fear.

A slow death at the hand of doubt.

 

Water I can’t drink.

Words that dry and parch,

That leech the life from my trust,

A slow draining, a hollowing out of love.

 

Presence–an empty promise.

Thirsting for answers that won’t come.

Absence unexplained.

Answers filled with breath and air.

No substance–no sustenance.

Limp, fragile, hollow excuses

That leave a bitter taste in my mouth

And nausea in my stomach.

 

Doubt creeping, a whispering shadow,

Suppressing light and instilling dread.

Analyzing every glance–Questioning every word…

The ding of a text–Heart pounding…

A hushed and silenced conversation–dread pulsing…

 

I know…I know–but I don’t.

I believe…I believe–but I won’t.

 

I run from the knowing–

And flee from the believing–

Embracing poorly masked lies.

 

I cling to the disparity– questioning my mind–looking for doubt.

A reason to not believe.

 

It’s me. It’s me–the problem is me.

My fault the decay, my fault the poison that spreads.

The doubts my weakness–the chasm that widens.

It’s me. Not you–It’s me.

 

And you…

     Continue to leave–Continue to text–Continue to talk–

     Continue to cheat.

 

And I blame me.

 

Do You Want the Best or Do You Want Comfortable–You Can’t Have Both

When a parent is asked what she wants for her child, she usually says happiness. Prosperity. Safety. Comfort.

And on the surface, that seems like the right answer.

But I’m beginning to understand it’s really not.

That’s not what I want for my children at all…

I want the best for them.

mouse-trapThe best is not comfortable. It’s not necessarily happiness–though there will be happy times. It’s not safe.

The best requires them to get uncomfortable. It requires risk. And it requires adversity.

My daughter Arabelle is amazing. I couldn’t be prouder of who she is, and yet, I find myself telling her more and more (and praying) she needs to rock her boat. She needs to step out of her comfort zone, confront her fears, and RISK.

If she is going to have the best–be the best, things need to get a bit dicey–that’s how she’ll GROW.

our-pain-god-s-purpose-1Our relationship with God is much the same. It’s not that God wants us to hurt–it’s that He wants us to grow.

The world tends to tell us that if we’re doing things right, we should get more comfortable, more prosperous, and more established.

My faith journey is constantly challenging this concept. Where God leads me feels like it is in complete opposition to what should be–but that’s because I’m listening to the world’s version of success, not God’s.

Put simply, God’s goal for me is simply this: to be more like Jesus.

It’s not success. Or influence (though I believe He puts us in positions of influence as we grow more like him). It’s not money. It’s not happiness.

His desire for me is simple: Be like Jesus.

67c6291c4dfffc67cba784911b2c44e0A few months ago, God called me to step out of comfortability and to follow Him. At first the following wasn’t so hard, because I do trust Him. But He led me to what appeared to be a dead end. He led me to the bank of the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s army stood before me, the Sea behind me. He led me to a place that appeared impossible.

But He’s the God of the impossible. He parted the Sea.

I still have no real idea where He’s leading me. I have hints. Ideas. Possibilities.

But He said walk, so I walk.

The waves feel like they will overtake me, but that’s only when I focus on the waves and not the God of the waves.

I don’t see what’s ahead. I see where to put the next foot. And the next. And the next. Only as it is time to place that foot down do I see where to place it.

My decision to follow doesn’t make sense. It isn’t practical. And it’s hard–really, really hard.

But I believe, God wants the best for me–and there is no easy path to my best.

I believe He wants the best for you too. That road is not easy. It often hurts. And it might not make sense. But if you follow where He leads–I believe you will find exactly what you never knew you needed. And it will be your best.

 

Alone in a Sea of People

I have not dipped my toe in the poetry waters for a very long time. I’ve been consumed with finishing my two novels, and even though poetry was the medium that led me to writing in the first place, I just haven’t ventured back in literally years.

A couple of weeks ago, a request from my university for submissions for their publication led me back to poetry.

I’d just finished reading “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” (I highly recommend it–see my review here) and I’d found myself reflecting on the epidemic of loneliness in the modern world.

It’s not a new topic for me, I teach loneliness in my College classes, including the correlation between loneliness and technology. Technology, which connects us more than ever, has the opposite effect–it leaves us utterly disconnected. I can tell you all the reasons you should put your phones down, make eye contact, and get back to talking to actual in the flesh people.

But this time I didn’t find myself in teaching mode–I found myself in the skin of Eleanor.

What would it be like to feel that alone?

It is that thought that inspired the following poem.

If you are lonely, I encourage you to make connections. Go to a church or synagogue. Join a meetup group. Find a hobby and join a class. Do something.

If, like me, you are lucky enough to be surrounded by people you love and who love you back, open your eyes to the people around you who don’t have what you have been blessed with–and be a hand extended. Be a voice of kindness. Offer an invitation. Extend a little piece of yourself across the void.

Because no one, absolutely no one, should feel like this.

lonely

Loneliness

Minutes that feel like hours–

Hours that feel like days–

Days so silent the silence speaks.

 

It speaks my fears,

My doubts,

My isolation and my otherness.

 

Alone. Alone…so unbearably alone.

 

Longing for a voice–

A whisper…

A sound.

 

A reason to hope–

To believe

That tomorrow

Will be less alone than today.

 

To believe that someone–

Somewhere–

Will see.

 

Someone, anyone, to bridge this silence. This otherness.

 

A voice spoken in digits if not words.

A tagline.

An avatar.

A virtual friend.

Some connection.

Any connection–

To end this isolation.

 

A cry in the void–echoing.

A cry in the dark–swallowed.

A cry in the emptiness of my room.

 

Unheard. 

Unknown.

Unseen.

 

A cry in the night to fracture the silence–

If only with my own voice.

 

It echoes into nothingness.

Into space.

Into a virtual world–

 

That cannot see–

Cannot touch…

And does not hear.

 

A world that cannot breach the silence.

 

And I am still alone.

Still alone with my minutes that feel like hours,

And my hours that feel like days.

 

Still alone. Alone…unbearably alone.

 

Left counting down the moments

Until I have the illusion of connection–

A room filled with strangers

Talking to one another.

 

Surrounded by sound.

In the midst of the noise–

I can pretend.

 

I can pretend that I am not so unbearably alone.

loneliness

What monsters are lurking in your basement?

When I was a kid, I had trouble making friends.

I was awkward, insecure, and an introvert. Talk about three huge obstacles to childhood success!

Most of my early report cards had comments like: “Heather has difficulty getting along with the other children” and “Heather doesn’t play well with others.”

Ouch.

bullying-and-teasing-no-laughing-matter-4-3

I didn’t know what made me different, all I knew was I didn’t fit. And, as kids will, they sensed this otherness and my insecurity and they often exploited it. I was picked on, mocked, and yes, in today’s lingo, I suppose I was bullied.

People who know me now, probably have trouble matching up the picture of the early me to the me I am today.

Today I am great with people. I’m an excellent speaker. A great listener. I can be funny and witty. I’m confident.

But that took years of work.

Years of watching. Years of trial and error. Years of learning.

And I did learn. But that learning didn’t erase all the years of error. Of failure. Of rejection.

Those years left their mark.

The new successes don’t really replace the old failures. They might cover them up, but they’re not just gone.

As I learned how to interact better with people, as I slowly gained confidence, I made plenty of friends. By the time I hit High School, I had lots of friends, many of whom I am still friends with today. These days, despite my introversion, I can strike up a conversation with anyone. I can leave any social group with more friends than I had when I came. People tend to just like me.

So don’t my more recent successes make up for the rejections of my childhood?

Yes and no.

When things are going well, the answer is yes. I can go into a meeting where I know no one and walk away with friends. I can go to a party confident that I will be liked.

But when things aren’t going well, I find that perhaps I’m not quite as far past that rejection as I thought.

My early years influenced my structure, the base that I build my life upon. And my early years were filled with rejection. So my “house” was built on a foundation of rejection.

In her book Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst uses an analogy to describe exactly what I experience.

structureal damage

She describes her kitchen. They had torn it down to the studs preparing for a remodel, and when they did, they found that one of the supporting beams stopped short. They’d had no clue, because the structure on top of it looked great, and the house hadn’t yet experienced any trauma. But when a carpenter friend took her upstairs he showed her how “the second floor dipped and sagged. One good jump or one heavy thing dropped in that area, and the supporting board would likely come apart” (TerKeurst 12).

This describes us so well. We have trauma. Difficulties. Rejections. Pain. And we move on. We build on top of them without fixing the damage.

We are building on a broken structure. “Broken boards can’t provide stability” (TerKeurst 12).

My early rejection left me with a core belief that there was something wrong with me. All the friends I gained didn’t fix this belief. They hid it. And most of the time I wasn’t even aware I believed it at all.

Except with guys. I’ve always been much more aware of the structural damage in this area when it comes to guys.

My Dad and I didn’t have a great relationship when I was growing up and we tended to miscommunicate. The end result was that I felt very insecure in my relationship with him, which left me very insecure with males in general (My Dad and I are fine now btw–miscommunication can do a lot of damage when it’s not addressed. We addressed it and now we have a good relationship.)

My core belief was that there was something wrong with me that made me unlovable by men. Guys might like me on the surface, but when it came down to it, when they got to know me, I would be rejected.

In high school, guys liked how I looked–it wasn’t uncommon for them to stare at me…but they never asked me out. I went to Prom with my best friend in lieu of a date.

This reinforced this core belief.

In college things got a little better. I did get asked out. But usually not by the guys I wanted to ask me out. Still, I gained a little confidence, but I still had a core expectation of rejection. They liked what was on the surface, but they didn’t like me–because me is not how I look, it’s who I am.

But finally, I found a guy who liked me not just for the way I looked, but also for who I was. He proved that this core belief was incorrect. I wasn’t unlovable!

No surprise, I married the guy.

And for years, the rejection monster slept.

dragon sleepingHe slept–but he wasn’t dead.

Eventually he opened an eye. And then he lifted his head.  Then he stretched, prowled around my heart, and let out a mighty roar.

My husband, the more he got to know me, the less he liked me–or at least that’s the lie I told myself.

Whatever the case was, in the end, he rejected me and shacked up with someone else. (Most likely the result of his own broken foundation)

The rejection monster was alive and well and wreaking havoc in my life.

Mostly, I’m a secure, independent, and confident woman, but underneath, deep down, I’ve been building on a broken structure.

Add to this the perils of online dating…

Plenty who like how I look, but once again…not interested in who I am.

But in a way I’m glad.

I’m glad, because it’s forced me to acknowledge this broken part of myself, this part that needs attention. I need to know that there is nothing wrong with me, that I am worthy, that I am lovable, not because anyone else out there says it, but because God Himself says it.

I need to go back to the broken boards in my structure. I need to stop pretending they’re not there, and I need to let God heal them, and heal me.

Until I do, I will always be one trauma away from a cave in.

I think, when we’re honest, we all have these broken parts of ourselves. Parts we ignore or parts we’ve forgotten about. Sometimes we bury them, because they’re too painful. Sometimes we ignore them, because it’s easier. And sometimes we simply forget about them, because we think we are past them.

But if we never dealt we them, they are still there, broken, unable to support this life, this person, we have built–and eventually something or someone will put stress on exactly that area to remind us that we never got around to fixing it.

Where has the past left you damaged? Are you one trauma away from a cave-in?

Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the core beliefs that are lurking beneath the surface.

 

Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

This book was fantastic–5 full stars. Go out and get it. Read it. Think about it. Let it change the way you think, live, and interact with the people around you.

eleanor oliphant

As a Psychology professor, I am aware of just how devastating loneliness can be. I teach it. I read articles and watch Ted Talks about it. I know the statistics: how it literally takes years from your life and the growing epidemic it is becoming in this digital age that fosters skin deep relationships that leave people feeling incredibly alone.

Unlike many, I really do get it on a conceptual level. And heck, I’m not a stranger to feeling lonely. We all feel it sometimes.

But understanding it conceptually, and even feeling it upon occasion, is not enough to really understand just how awful it is for someone who lives in that place day in and day out.

I feel like, having read this book, I understand a little bit better. No, a lot better.

In my opinion, the book did start a little slow. It is a character driven novel, and Eleanor is very awkward and has limited interactions in the beginning. There wasn’t much plot initially. But that was kind of the point. Despite being slow at the beginning, it was still amusing and it kept me reading, and as the book developed, it was very clear that Honeyman started this way with purpose, and it very much worked in the end.

Honeyman does an excellent job of taking us into the psyche of someone who is so lonely that it is killing her–a very real problem according to recent Psychology research. Eleanor is certainly not your typical heroine. She is painfully awkward, very eccentric, and at times downright rude. And yet, as you get to know Eleanor, you come to love her, and your heart begins to break, little by little, until you just want to take her home and show her what love and family really should look like.

This book is not a fun read, despite it’s humor (and I did laugh out loud many times).

It was an important read, and I think it is one of the most impacting books I have read in a very long time. It hit on the very real topic of loneliness and what life is like for many people in this crazy, hectic, and sometimes isolated world we live in.

I cried like a baby and wanted to go out and find people who feel like Eleanor because no one should feel that way. It made me more aware of the people around me, and it also reminded me of how incredibly lucky I am to have the family and friends I have.

Thank you Honeyman, for helping me understand. Even though I’m a Psychology professor and understand the power of loneliness, I didn’t understand it enough. I plan to be much more vigilant as I watch the people around me. Hopefully I can make the Eleanors of this world feel a little less alone.

What we think BECOMES

I’ve been pondering how the choices we make can impact our lives in very big, and very real, ways.

Most choices are so small, so innocuous, so seemingly innocent, that we often make them without really thinking at all.

We dismiss the voice of caution. We disregard the impulse to wait, to think it through. We get swept up in the moment, and it seems harmless enough, so we just go with it.

What really got me started on this journey was my second book. Many years ago, I became intrigued by a question. I had heard of a young mom who had cheated on her husband. To all casual observers, they seemed like a happy couple. They were in love. They had a beautiful family. She was a good person.

What does it take to get a person, a good person who loves his/her spouse, to take that step?

I wasn’t curious about the casual cheaters; that’s a whole different animal, but the ones who aren’t wired that way, who aren’t narcissistic, who do try to do the right thing–how do they choose such a devastating path?

As I contemplated, I attempted to put myself in the head of a person like this. It very quickly became obvious to me that it isn’t a single decision; it’s a slow slide into a choice. It’s not one choice made in a vacuum. No one wakes up and decides to take that step unless they have already been riding the landslide of dissatisfaction.

It starts with the little choices. The seemingly innocuous ones. It starts in the mind.

Depending on the person and the situation, that journey can look, and be, very different, but I believe, it all starts with careless thinking.

the mind1As a Psychology professor, I have long had a fascination with the mind. The mind is powerful. What we think can literally change who we are and how we live.

I’ve explored this topic multiple times in terms of self-talk, the lies we tell ourselves, and the false narratives that we adopt as truth, but I think there is another angle that gets less attention. It’s even more subtle, and it is a breeding ground for dissatisfaction.

Our daydreams. Our wishes. And our comparisons.

Alicia Britt Chole puts it this way in her book Anonymous.

Consider a new parent drowning in diapers who daydreams about the freedom and time he would have if he were still single or childless…who wakes up with less patience and more resentment toward his spouse and children. Or a woman lost in daydreams of being swept away by an attentive Prince Charming…who wakes up, rolls over, and wonders why her husband is looking more and more like a frog. Or a young professional smiling, lost in a daydream about high-profile companies fighting over him with ever-increasing pay scales…who wakes up somehow less satisfied and motivated in his current job (Chole 122).

Thoughts like these start the landslide. They fester. They breed dissatisfaction.

Not everyone has the affair, chooses a divorce, or makes a huge devastating choice of one kind or another, but MANY live in a haze of discontentment. Dissatisfaction that steals their joy and kills the love.

And it starts with such small choices.

Reading too many romance novels.

Chatting with someone who isn’t your significant other through social media (hey, it’s just talking–no harm no foul).

Daydreaming about the what if’s (what if I hadn’t married her? What if I’d stayed with so-and-so? What if I’d taken that job instead?).

Comparing your spouse to your friend’s spouse, or your job to the job someone else has–social media is terrible in this regard. The photoshopped version of our “friends” lives always make the grass seem greener somewhere else…anywhere else.

And before you know it, dissatisfaction has begun to grow.

Chole puts it this way:

Vain imaginations make us discontent…we often dismiss our daydreams as harmless, as though our minds were some sort of locked vault (Chole 122).

The thing is, we know better. Psychology has shown us again and again that our mind is a HUGE influencer. What we think is what becomes. What we think infiltrates our emotions, our lives, our decisions, our families.

Our minds are not contained environments; they are controlling environments (Chole 122).

We need to pay attention to the stray thoughts we think, to our daydreams, to the comparisons we make–because they influence everything.

Terrible life destroying decisions start here.

Perpetual dissatisfaction and discontent start here.

Our tomorrow starts here.

We need to pay more attention to these stray wishes and dreams. And sometimes, we need to make a choice to stop wishing, stop dreaming, and to remember why we chose to be exactly where we are–because there was a reason, and very possibly that reason still exists if we only take the time to remember it.

the mind