Photo by Huy Phan / Unsplash

People are getting tired of life a lot sooner than they used to. How did we get to the point where people have had it at thirty?

About two weeks ago I had a hand surgery which turned into a royal clusterf--k shitshow. Sorry for that opening sentence, but it's relevant to set the stage. The subsequent emotional fallout nearly ended me, for one simple reason: the failure of the anesthesiologist involved and my willingness to trust them resulted in the re-enactment, in horrible accuracy, a rape which happened to me in 1975.

The event was a repeat of too many of the same circumstances: drugged, strapped down, my left arm strapped down for surgery on my left hand and cloth over my head while people inflicted pain, all while I was awake enough to fully participate. Not intended, not at all. However the outcome wasn't particularly pleasant.

I had to head home to an empty house and walk through that particular crap sandwich alone. I did get, and deeply appreciate, several emails from those of you in whom I trusted that event, and calls to close friends helped a great deal as well. Without those I am not sure that I would be here to write.

I needed friends. Those who showed up lived far away, but it was friends to whom I held to walk that very difficult path for a few days. Priceless. You know who you are.

This was the trigger memory:

In 1975, I was 22, enlisted. I had slammed my left hand in a car door. A few hours later I was pre-op, drugged, strapped to a gurney and in a hallway waiting my turn at Walter Reed.  A predator, a senior officer and a doctor, found me, and that was that. I could say or do nothing whatsoever.

I have had nightmares for years.  That was also the beginning of four decades of eating disorders. While that issue is solved, apparently body agency wasn't. That was troubling.

After this last surgery, it was nearly impossible for me to sleep for a few nights. I was very tempted, as are we can be at times, to bloody well give up. Just give up. If after all the work I have to done to inform my caregivers still results in a horror show like that one, honestly, what is the point?

I asked that a lot.

If I still don't have body agency at seventy, when the hell, right?

It took me a couple of weeks to get back on my emotional feet. I had what I pray to be my final surgery on my right  hand yesterday. Before that I had very different conversations with both the new anesthesiologist and that same doctor, who was both defensive and unhappy with my feedback. It wasn't about his fault, I was simply trying to tell him what the incident brought up.

Thank god for friends, because they helped me do this:

I didn't back down. I was factual, fair and clear. Nobody's to blame, but it's not functional to allow certain important things to go unsaid. His discomfort isn't my problem. We all let people down, and even the best hand doctor in the region, in the fifth surgery he's done on me since I got here, didn't listen carefully enough.

My friends helped me talk through that process. No matter how brave we think we are, we need to lean our vulnerability into those who can help us walk through the feelings. My doctor and I had a respectful conversation, not a condemnation, and the surgery went extremely well.

I think it went well because of this, and because of my friends.

When we speak our truth and express our pain to those who caused it- and that includes ourselves when we agree to actions which don't serve us-  we take a massive burden off ourselves.

It's impossible to speak truth if we're not connected to our own truth. We can't be connected to others if we're disconnected from ourselves. We can't be connected to ourselves if we can't connect to others.

To that then: yesterday I read a story about another hugely talented young Black woman who took her life. Too many give up way too young;  "weathering" and societal damage defeat people in marginalized communities where the lack of real support from so-called allies leaves them feeling even more alone.

The Surgeon General was right when they said this was an epidemic.

New Surgeon General Advisory Raises Alarm about the Devastating Impact of the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the United States
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy Calls for Action to Address Public Health Crisis, Lays Out Framework for a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection

Those of us past fifty find ourselves spending more and more time isolated. Especially after moving to Oregon, I might see someone on average about twenty minutes out of every 24 hours. Online contact only goes so far. While some of that is because of surgeries and long recovery times, the point is that too many of us slip into isolation without realizing it.

Being disconnected is exhausting.

We spend too much time alone. Period.

My father fell into a terrible depression when, late in life, after finally getting off the road (eyesight issues), he and my mother settled into a retirement community in Denver. They made some friends, but those friends often died, leaving them to have to begin all over again.

Which brings up another point about connections. This is why we, no matter what the age, need to ensure that our connections aren't solely  close to our age. We need rich, lively inter-generational pals and people in our lives whose worlds we also enrich.

This article caught my eye because of the rather intense pressures I've been feeling lately as it relates to trying to thrive in a brand-new place.

Tiredness of life: the growing phenomenon in western society
Tiredness of life is a distinct form of suffering in which life seems stripped of meaning.

So many huge shifts in society forced rifts and changes in family, friends and where we even fit into society any more. We've not found our feet. For older folks, what Covid peeled back about the abuses and horrific nature of too many retirement communities and nursing homes was a legitimate source of fear for themselves and their families. Just providing for basic needs isn't enough.

The single basic requirement that gets us through it all is connections.

Our kids don't feel connected. Sadly, that often leads to bullying, which leads to suicide rates skyrocketing among kids. What does that say that children are weary of life to the point of suicide as young as nine?

I've read any number of very powerful self-help books lately. What fascinates me about all of them is that the throughline for every single one of us is that if we are to survive and thrive, we MUST feel connected to each other.

This isn't just an issue for the aged. It's the issue for the ages.

Marginalized people feel disconnected from society.

Older folks, younger people, mid-life folks in crisis, you name your -ism and I will tell you that the only way to weather these storms is to feel connected.

Being angry at life and the world only pushes people away. Being angry at ourselves for our mistakes and failings (mostly false) pushes us into a corner where we bite our nails and feel the only way is out, completely out.

The only true answer is connections.

Being disconnected is aging us all prematurely. No question.

Is there a way past this?

Yes. In other words, we have to SAY yes to other people.

First, to all those friendly folks who took my business card and didn't call, I hope you did at least call someone else. To all those people who ghosted me after the beginning of a friendship, I hope others don't ghost you. To all those people, who, like me, have tried with all sincerity to create community in a new place, don't give up if folks keep shutting the door in your face.

I won't. Because my life depends on it. So does yours.

I get how scary it can be to reach out or receive invitations. I get it. But we can't keep saying no. For there will come a time when you, as do I, need community in a very big way. And those take investment.

Say yes. Keep trying.

Whoever you are, please don't allow fear to force your actions. Say yes to new people. Say yes to taking a chance on a lunch partner once in a while. We all have to try out new friends, and some don't work. Occasional disappointment is part of the menu.

Dessert still is on the menu. Dessert is friends. Friends remind us why life is so worthwhile. Friends ARE family.

Photo by Surface / Unsplash

Yes to friends is yes to life. Yes to life is to never ever ever EVER being tired of life until it's truly time to go.

Before then, you are a gift to a lot of someones who are waiting to find you.

Say yes, and then say good bye to being tired of life.

Photo by Fuu J / Unsplash

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