It was the Fourth of July. I had recently moved to the U.S., after 25 years of living abroad, and knew not one soul in the city.
From the window of my high-rise flat, I could see the city was jubilant with families and friends celebrating the day together. I was alone and the horrible beginning of feeling sorry for myself was creeping up.
It happens to all of us and for many different reasons. It’s part of human nature. On this day it was because I was utterly alone in a new city. At other times, I have felt sorry for myself about the dissolution of my family through divorce, death, and family misunderstandings.
I have felt sorry for myself for not being more social, for not having more money, for not being all sorts of stupid things.
I buried myself in the Wimbledon tennis matches on the telly. Then I went from feeling sorry for myself to feeling shame for feeling sorry for myself. Ouf! I said, “Liza, go outside for a walk!” I didn’t want to, but I went.
The parks and lakeside were pulsing with people celebrating together. I passed by the blankets spread out, chairs and cushions surrounding coolers and grills, families and groups of friends playing badminton, card games, reading, listening to music, and just hanging out.
The scent of grilling and smoke rising came from everywhere, enhanced by the picnic accouterments, containers filled with potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw. Platters of chips, dips and crudites. Iced coolers filled with soda and beer.
Much to my surprise, instead of feeling even more left out, I found myself feeling better! Even though I was alone, I felt part of the action just by being there. I was thrilled by the jubilation and the community merriment unfolding before me.
I took my place as a participant, albeit alone. I belonged just as much as anyone. I was looking at people and they were looking at me. I realized that the reason people like Independence Day in America is that it’s really like Thanksgiving in July. No gifts, no stress; just food, friends, family.
On my walk, I felt thankful to be outside in the glorious summer day. I felt gratitude for the good feeling as my body walked and exercised, the blood circulating through my system.
I felt gratitude for the magic of beautiful, glittering Lake Michigan and the sailboats bobbing en masse as far as my eyes could see. People were swimming, paddle boarding, sailing. I felt grateful to feel the pulse of humanity.
I claimed my spot on the grass and opened my book. I people-watched. I love looking at people, their clothes, their companions, catching snippets of conversation, studying their tattoos, looking at their dogs. Then I started looking at people who were sitting alone like me.
One man, sitting on a park bench, took a selfie of himself – to send to whom, I wondered. He wanted to show he was out, alone, on July 4. I wasn’t the only lone soul out there. There were the truly old, sitting on park benches. There were single men and women walking their dogs alone. We all mattered.
The Dalai Lama is right: compassion is the key to living a good life. Compassion sets you free. How can I feel sorry for myself when there is so much serious, real suffering in the world?
Desperate immigrants are escaping oppressive regimes all over the world, risking their lives on boats and in border crossings, braving the elements, battling unfathomable uncertainty.
How can I feel sorry for myself when millions of people live without water, food, decent health care, and in poverty? But mostly, how can I feel sorry for myself when I am healthy? Because health is everything.
Lady Gaga said it: “Social media is the toilet of the Internet.” One aspect is FOMO. Fear of missing out. Social media can make you feel pretty bad, as in, sorry for yourself. Live your own life, not someone else’s. Find the joy and beauty in your own life.
Select the social media accounts you follow very carefully. And then spend less time following them. Isn’t it better to be busy living your own life instead of watching other people live theirs? And then worse, comparing yourself to them?
Where does that get you? Nowhere.
Make a list of what is good in your life. We forget to do this when we are concentrating on lack instead of abundance. I am healthy. I exchanged my huge house for a carefree flat. I have enough money and my move is a big adventure.
If you must… compare yourself only to people who are less fortunate than you. I don’t have to say another word more on this one.
I have a new mantra for when I sit and meditate. When I breathe in, I say, “health.” When I breathe out, I say, “happiness.” Health = Happiness. If I am healthy, then I am all the happy I could be.
We need to be grateful for our good health every single day, and yet we totally take it for granted. When illness strikes, we are beyond devastated. Remember always that good health is the ultimate gift.
After starting the day as a sad sack, I ended on a high note. After the park, I went to the grocery and bought some gorgeous, ripe summer tomatoes and a small loaf of fresh, artisan bread.
I went home and sliced and toasted the bread, slathered it with organic mayonnaise and piled it with juicy sliced tomatoes. Some freshly ground salt and pepper, and I was in heaven with my summer, fresh, gourmet tomato sandwich.
Later that evening I had a front-row seat in my flat to watch the fireworks, one of the best views in the entire city. Before I went to bed, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Tomorrow is another day,” much like Scarlett O’Hara. We, heroines, are tough.
Do you have any tips for how you talk yourself out of feeling sorry for yourself? It’s a common happening, part of human nature. When was the last time you felt sorry for yourself and how did you get yourself out of it? Please share in the comments below.