There are certain points of pain that magnify our need for wellbeing. I think the one that impacts me the most is the social, which the book Wellbeing describes as “having strong relationships and love in your life.” I want to know that I am contributing to the lives of others, that I am a good friend and that I am loved by those in my life. When I returned from my travels I found that San Diego had become a lonely place. My group of friends it seems have scattered and moved on to new places or aspects of their lives and I have not done much for the last few years to replenish my relationships here.
When we don’t feel well connected to community we begin to beat ourselves up and to think that there must be something wrong with us or we would have more friends. The vicious cycle begins when we so dislike ourselves that we think others don’t care for us either. The more we retreat into isolation the more our insecurities are affirmed until we have walled ourselves into self-made prison cells of isolation.
I think that part of the reason why we struggle to make changes even when we know that we need to is that we allow ourselves to be tied down by the way things have always been. I could connect more at my job or at my church but I have been at both of them for several years without doing so. How am I supposed to all of the sudden engage now? I think this is part of why travel is appealing. There is no history to hold me down. What’s to lose? Engage every person you meet, enjoy every meal and take a picture of every place. What do you have to lose?
Somehow we need to remind ourselves that it is not impossible to create new routines. We have to believe that if life is worth living the way we live it is worth changing. I think that at the heart of believing life can change for the better is the underlying faith that we are beloved children of God and that he wants us to live our lives to the fullest. We may not always know what this means or how this can be true in light of our current realities, yet if we truly believe that God loves us as much as he says does, it will change our outlook.
Henri Nouwen once said that we all hope for a good life and define what this means in various ways. We sometimes base the value of our lives on what people think of us. At times we build our confidence on what we have accomplished. Other times we define ourselves according to how much we possess. Throughout our lives each of these will go up and down. Sometimes we will feel loved and other times criticized or disconnected. At times we will have a lot and sometimes we may lose it all. There are times where we feel like we can accomplish whatever we want and others where we feel hopeless to do almost anything. If we are counting on any of these for stability our lives will always fluctuate above and below the line of wellbeing.
The one thing that holds true through all of these is that we are God’s beloved children. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3) This is just as true when we feel worthless and that our lives are over as it is when we feel accomplished and like things are going quite well. If we can begin to believe how much God loves us, we will see our lives and the people in them through new eyes. This will raise our perceived limits on how much others can love us and how good life can be. This is the place to start in the journey back to wellbeing.