Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Warning: You shouldn't read this post if you came here for a laugh today. It's going to be super boring. Because it's about life and stuff. Also, it's long.

One friend in Palau recently gave Daniel a book about "tapping." It's this witch-doctor business where you tap different parts of your body to relieve anxiety or fear about something. I know that is not the clinical and perfectly accurate explanation of what tapping is. Somebody reading this is very annoyed. You can explain it better in the comments and also express your frustration about everything else I'm going to say about it as long as you also compliment my outfit today.

When this friend started telling me about this, I started laughing. Because I don't believe in this kind of stuff. And I think it sounds hysterical. I immediately felt like I was being really insensitive and I had the same conversation with myself that I always have when my impulse is to find humorous another person's beliefs: "Really, Eli? Really? You think it's funny that that person believes in this? You're a Mormon and YOU of all people think you can laugh at someone else's beliefs?"

Daniel was much more tactful and asked to borrow the book, which discusses the technique. He read the entire thing in like two days and without telling me whether or not he was a believer, he just told me it was all very interesting.

So yesterday when I got home from work I told him that since he was such an expert on tapping now, maybe we should start to try to fix a few of my problems.

He had me sit down in a chair while he read from the instruction manual, which told me to focus on something that caused me anxiety, rate the level of anxiety I felt about that thing, and then start tapping my chest and my face and my little finger and a number of other places while continuing to think about this thing.

Daniel suggested that we try to use this technique to get over my fear of snakes and I was all, "WHY THE HELL WOULD I WANT TO STOP BEING AFRAID OF SNAKES!!!?  WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU? YOU PERVERTED RACIST MURDERER!"

Note: I call people "perverted racist murderers" when I'm too flustered to think of more accurate names to call them. Because I feel like it gets my sentiments out nicely enough.

So we chose something else.

I tried really hard to take it seriously. But it was all a little too difficult. And in the end, I mostly just felt really full of anxiety because for several minutes I was thinking about a range of things that sometimes keep me up at night.

The rest of the evening I thought about some of these things and wondered about what I've been able to learn in the last few years about them, particularly since I've been in Palau.

I'm not a very open person in a lot of ways. Yes, I over share about my life with you. You all know way too much about my bowel movements and how many times I have vomited this year. But I really only over share about surface-level stuff. And I realized recently that so often I use my sense of humor in hopes that it will distract people from noticing that I rarely share anything much deeper. At least, not in specifics.

There are so many fears and anxieties that I keep entirely to myself. Also happy and profound feelings that I keep entirely to myself. At one point a long time ago I decided that talking about some things only makes them a bigger problem or cheapens them. And I felt like I was strong enough to handle my own problems and concerns without having the weight of knowing that the people around me are aware of them as well.

Even just telling you that I keep things bottled up a bit is very uncomfortable for me. Granted, that's bound to happen when you're sharing some of your innermost thoughts and vulnerabilities with thousands of people you haven't even met.

One of my biggest fears, one that I have developed almost entirely in recent years, is the fear of loneliness. It's one that I've discussed a little bit here and one that you all have so helped me try to work through. Discussing that fear has not been comfortable for me but I have really grown a lot in being able to do so. And many of you have expressed that this conversation we've all been having together has helped you in some way. So I continue.

The interesting thing about this fear is that I didn't always have it. I mean, I think the thought of being lonely was always a negative thought in my mind, but I never worried that I would be lonely because I felt pretty comfortable with my ability to avoid it at all costs. I was comfortable with my ability to find contentment in all situations, no matter who was or was not present. My religion helped me do this to a large degree, as did a lot of my life experiences.

Sometime in the last year or two, though, I started to equate loneliness with being alone. And I've started to absolutely hate having alone time because somewhere deep down I feel like being out of the presence of other people is despair. And it's odd, because even just two or three years ago, I very much cherished alone time.

I'm not sure exactly what caused the shift in thinking, but I believe it may be a result of too many drastic life changes all at once, pulling me out of my comfort zone and leaving me feeling vulnerable. This particularly felt true when I finished law school and almost my entire social network disbursed throughout the world. And suddenly I felt very alone. So I started grasping for companionship wherever I could find it. And I made some incredible friends in the process. And some bad ones, too. And I decided that I needed to keep those friends around me so that whole uncomfortable loneliness thing wouldn't happen again.

But if I really think about it, equating loneliness with being alone is really unhealthy. I have been alone many times in my life without being lonely. And I have been lonely before, even though surrounded by other people.

The thing that has gotten me to really think about this in Palau is the fact that much of the company I'm around is sort of in a fragile state of existence right now. I had the extremely good fortune of having a friend be able to join me in Palau. And I have been so grateful to have Daniel here. He has kept me company and been a really fun presence.

But from the beginning, Daniel was never really sure how long he would actually stay here. It depended on a number of factors, including the projects he was working on here. And a number of times, he has very seriously contemplated leaving Palau entirely to pursue opportunities elsewhere. In December he was checking flights to the U.S., and every time he did, I pictured myself sitting in my dark apartment at night, all alone. And I could feel the weight of that decision he was trying to make have such control over my peace and happiness.

That, in turn, continued to change me into a person that I had never really been before. One who felt inhibited by emotions and fear. A person who felt largely helpless and often uninspired.

I knew it wasn't fair for me to put pressure on him to stay for my own benefit, so I tried to be supportive of all of his options, although, admittedly, I have not done a great job of that.

Daniel has chosen to stay a couple of times when he could have left. And I have felt temporary relief each time and have set my sights on the new deadline, a month or two down the road, when he would have to make the same decision again.

We're in one of those situations now. Daniel will finish his teaching at the college in May and could very easily wrap up everything else he is working on at that time and leave Palau for good. He was also just asked to take on a new project with the Ministry of Health and, separately, to teach during the summer semester at the college. These things would keep him here until August, which is near the time that I will be leaving Palau as well.

When Daniel told me last week that this project may possibly not work out and that he was thinking about heading back to the U.S. in May, I immediately felt my world crashing down around me again. And he could sense that. He told me he understood that I had this fear but that he needed me to try to be unbiased and help him think through his options.

I felt guilty, again, for not being that person he needed me to be.

And since then, I have tried very hard to help him weigh pros and cons without letting out that I sometimes feel a crushing weight on my chest when we talk about it.

And I'm telling you all of this because I want to share with you something that I'm sort of learning in this process. Because maybe it will help somebody out there work through some crippling anxiety that all too often monopolizes their thoughts.

Anxiety and fear really only affect you as much as you allow them to. I know that's easier to say than to really practice. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that we can always find the support that we need if we look hard enough. Often that support comes through other people. But sometimes, it's just within us. It's through our own willpower to look in the face of pain and laugh at it. Because when you realize that something can't kill you, you can usually find something to laugh at about it.

Some of the things that cause us grief occur because of our own decisions. Some of them are the decisions of others. I have certainly made my share of stupid choices that have hurt me and have hurt other people. But ultimately, when a window gets shattered, the best thing to do is pick up the pieces, move them out of the way, and think of ways to keep the new window from getting shattered the same way the last one was. We don't benefit from leaving the glass on the ground and walking over it barefoot.

For me, the window was shattered when I let myself believe that my happiness depended on the decisions of my wonderful friends. That whether or not someone was going to be around me at all times was going to determine whether or not I'm lonely. And for months, I have walked back-and-forth across that broken glass, barefoot, and feeling the unrelenting pain of letting that anxiety and falsehood become my mantra.

I don't know yet, exactly, how to pick up all of those pieces. But I know that I need to. And that is huge step for me. And I can already feel the layers of anxiety peeling away over the past week. Because I'm starting to tell myself in the very moment that I start to feel the hopelessness that comes with my particular anxiety that what I'm feeling is irrational and self-inflicted. And that I don't have to let myself be held captive by it anymore. And slowly but surely, I'm learning to believe myself when I say those things. And that feels nice.

Still quite a lot to figure out here. But I'm happy that I'm moving in the right direction.

I should totally take over for Dr. Phil. Would I have to marry Oprah to do so?

(Click here to locate information on therapeutic resources.)

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Wow. Thank you for this. It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. It's crazy how prayers are answered.. hang in there, Eli. You're never alone. :)

  2. So my mom is into tapping. Actually she is in to all crazy kinds of witch doctor stuff. Tapping is one of her most current fads. My mom gets pretty excited about this kind of thing so I try to be supportive and find the good under all the craziness. Surprisingly I have found tapping to not be too bad. I look at it as meditation and for someone like me who ADD it helps me focus by doing the action and by actually thinking about something. None of this "clear your mind, let everything go" jibberish. Can anyone seriously do that? Or am I just weird? So I will admit I have done tapping and I will probably do it again. I love my mom and whenever I call her with any thing she always perscribes something usually from her bag of crazy methods. If she were to read this she would be like "Eli, you really should do tapping it would help you with this."
    I appreciated this post and you opening up to all of us.

  3. I have people around me everyday, yet feel very lonely most of the time. even though this is not a funny post, Istill appreciate you writing it. your blog is a bright spot in my gloomy day. btw, I think you really did well choosing that outfit today. it compliments you very well. I think instead of taking over for Dr Phil (cuz honestly that might turn you into someone that annoys me) you should go into the fashion industry.

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I was actually just writing in my journal about many of my fears, etc...and reading this really encouraged me. I enjoy your funny posts, but you really hit home with all of your personal posts. You may find it uncomfortable to personally share, but you really have no idea how many other Stranger readers can relate to you, or learn from you!
    I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, the time that you might be living alone may be a really challenging and good thing for you. It will open up many new things that you have never thought about or discovered before.

    I have been living in Africa for eight months now, and there were so many times I wanted to throw in the towel because I felt alone..but like you said, I looked at who I had around me, and I found a supportive team! Now I am moving back to the States in May, I am going to be going through the same thing, finding a new "family" because they will still all be here in Africa.

    I wish you nothing but the best, and you will be in my prayers!

    1. Africa is so awesome! I want to go there and be a missionary someday!

    2. That is what I am currently doing! It really has been an amazing, life changing experience.

  5. Awww Eli, you know we all love you. Plus, if Daniel leaves in May, think of all the couch surfers you could host between then and August (or whenever you leave). So many new (and possibly crazy) friends!!

  6. I am happy you post meaningful ones like this. It makes me feel like you are human. Plus I can, to a degree, relate to a lot of it.

  7. Thank you. Oh and great outfit :)

  8. I am a person who has spent a lot of time alone. Sometimes I love it. Sometimes I feel like it completely cripples me. It mostly just depends on my mood and attitude. Recently I have been in a good place where being alone is good for me, and feels good too. Mostly because I had been spending my life with the wrong people and I have learned that being alone is much better than spending it moving in the wrong direction. Also I have noticed that for me, loneliness is the most crippling when I lack faith. Faith in the process. Faith in myself. And faith in Heavenly Father. (Not that I am saying that is what you are doing). But having faith and trusting in things I cannot see has usually put me back in a good place and moving in the right direction. Although very difficult at times.
    Great post Eli! Thanks for sharing. And good luck at picking up the broken glass. You've totally got this! :))

    1. Couldn't have said it better myself!

  9. This post makes me want to tell you all about the crap I'm going through so you can see that you're not the only one, and feel a little less alone for it. And I want to tell people about it...

  10. I understand where you're coming from. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I've grown up without many friends and I used to enjoy my alone time, until I met my current best friend. In some ways, our situation was similar to yours and Daniel's, with the exception that this is someone I used to date. When we became friends and after we started dating, we were in college together, so we would spend the entire day with each other every single day late into the night. I became so dependent on him that I no longer enjoyed alone time. It hurt every time I had to go a day, or even a few hours without him by my side. After we broke up, I finally learned that my happiness wasn't dependent on my friends or boyfriends, and that I can be perfectly happy being by myself. Happiness is a state of mind. You can choose to be happy or fearful. And sometimes you have to accept the things you fear and tackle them head on in order to over come them. If Daniel gets an opportunity outside of Palau, then be supportive and let him take whatever opportunities he wants to pursue. As a result, I guarantee that you will become stronger, as well as your friendship. If Daniel leaves, you will not be alone. Your Heavenly Father will always be there with you to strengthen you and protect you, if you have faith. Also, you have your good friends you have already made in Palau, as well as future friends you will make. Be strong. I know that you can do this. How could you not? You always look so fantastic! I particularly love your outfit today. And your hair smells really, really good :)

  11. The most important thing to clear up here is that Oprah isn't married to anyone. She lives with Steadman and makes him chocolate sandwiches in her panini maker and they have a wonderful time. Maybe if you had scheduled all your college classes around Oprah like I did, you would be more advanced in your Oprah knowledge. :) And may I add, your outfit is amazing.

  12. I like your human side posts as well. ;-) Because of the hand we've been dealt in life, I too live in an often very lonely world surrounded by other people. Not always, but sometimes I've found I live there by choice. Over the past few years, especially, I've found that out there in the world some of the people are nice, some are supportive, and unfortunately, there are many out there who are quite judgmental, mean, and hide their true colors behind the cloak of professed, but not actually practiced Christianity. Long story short, the antics of some of those people have shattered my trust in people in general. It's a hard place to live.

    Many people are surprised to hear that I'm not really a people person anymore. I just returned from a wonderful retreat/conference where I discovered MANY more people knew who I was than I knew who they were. They also thought they knew me from my blog and other online interactions. Some really did know me pretty well. Most had no idea who I really am...and even those who I've been closest to over the years really had no idea what a mess I really was at times or how much I've really changed especially over this past year or so. There is a LOT of loneliness in that, too.

    With this conference I just went to, I was in a situation where I was so well known in that circle that I was treated like a rock star of sorts...and yet I found myself feeling like a fraud and wanted to hide because I knew that none of these people really knew the real me. It took a hot pink cape and the wise words of others I did trust to give me the courage I needed to put myself out there again and convince me to let these people love me and get to know the me I am now. It changed my experience completely and opened up a whole host of things I didn't expect to find, too. By the time I left that place, I no longer wanted to hide, but actually grieved the loss of new dear friends who knew me and loved the real me and I knew the real them...and whom I would never have found had I let fear stop me from putting myself out there.

    And the tapping's quite a popular in the world I live in. I was very skeptical of it as well. Let's just say that desperate times call for desperate measures and I bowed to peer pressure and tried it. Guess what? I found out it's not the witch doctor stuff I thought it sounded like and found it to be quite a useful and effective tool, especially for our two most anxious and stressed sweeties.

  13. PS you made me late for my break with this hahaha

    thank you for this post it helped me a lot right now with fears that i will be facing in the next 2 months. I should be telling you something that you need to hear but you told me exactly what I need to hear. so thanks again!

  14. I totally get the whole putting on a front while secretly holding onto certain fears and feelings. I am guilty of it way too often. I try to find things in life that make me feel appreciated even if there is no one there to tell I am, plus I can't tell you how helpful its been being a member of the church. Being alone is a common fear and you definitely aren't alone in feeling that fear, humans are social creatures so its normal to feel anxious about being alone. But do not worry and continue to write posts like this if it helps!

  15. Thank you for this, it's great. This window shattering business is nearly exactly how I pictured things for years, though I always imagined stained glass windows.

    But yes, windows break, and we can either walk on the pieces, or put them away and move on to building the next window. Thank you times a hundred for reminding me of this! For the last several years I've been too focused on protecting one stained glass window and punching away opportunities that might have broken it, even though the window itself has turned out to be ugly. Eli, if I can let go of this window, let it break, and move the pieces out of the way, maybe I can put together a beautiful window some day. Thanks for sharing your growing process with us.

  16. How do you do it? Its like you read my jumbled thoughts that I couldn't put into pieces and wrote them out for me.
    I am a single mom, just finishing school, trying to find a job, move out of state, and keep my home 'normal' so my kids don't grow up to be crazy lunatics. I battle fear of the future and deal with the black murkiness that loneliness brings.
    Let's just say my stomach hurts in crippling pain almost everyday.
    Thanks for the guaranteed laughs and for being honest about your fears. It makes me realize that I'm not the only one in the boat dealing with a storm.
    I'll pray for you :-)

  17. Great post! I know that feeling... and in this world of Facebook and Twitter and others we have become more disconcted and we are more alone then ever. What helps me is Faith in God and trust in him and he is my comfort when I have fears and anxiety! Hang in there!

  18. It is crazy how this is exactly what I needed to hear! I have been incredibly lonely lately even though I see lots of people. I grew up usually being alone and loving it but once I got to college I became used to always having many friends around. But right now all my friends are scattered all over and it has been really hard on me. Your post really helped me. Thank you

  19. Thank you for opening up. You should take over for Dr. Phil! Praying for you Eli! Also if Daniel does go you won't be alone because you said I coul couch surf with you any time.

  20. I liked this post, Eli. You verbalize what so many of us are thinking (and with a better vocabulary, too!). Loneliness kind of eeks its way into my life without my permission, it seems. Out of nowhere, it's staring me in the face, and loneliness (slash fear of it) is NOT my friend... I was reading through this post, a song came to mind; it's called "The Wrong Direction" by Passenger. A few of the lyrics:

    /Cos I'd love to feel love but I can't stand the rejection/I hide behind my jokes as a form of protection/I thought I was close but under further inspection/It seems I've been running in the wrong direction/

    Dude. Everyone needs more Passenger in their life. Problem is, most people don't know about 'em, which is a crying shame. (I'm not a hipster! I won't stop listening to Passenger when they become mainstream! It's my dream that they become mainstream!)

    Listen to the whole song?

    Pick up the pieces and move along, right? It'll all work out, it always does. (You know it's true.)

  21. My brother's girlfriend's neighbor's cousin's cat was totally healed by tapping. She's like a whole new feline.

    And speaking of cat's, you should totally get one. I hear they are great therapy animals and could help you feel less lonely. I happen to know a really talented cat that can even tap... well, tap dance, so it might not have the same healing effect.

    But seriously, I think a cat could help you out. I'll tell you what: I will generously ship you MY cat via Priority Mail. How much cat food should I put in the box with her while she travels?

  22. I find that focusing on the positives of change can help. So, for example, if Daniel moves, you no longer have to share your ice cream!
    Seriously, though, I felt lost and disconnected for years after I finished school, and I was disappointed when I went back for a master's and it wasn't the same. Being lonely for me happens when I feel disconnected or somehow detached from my friends and family. Sometimes it's distance, sometimes it's that our places in life are too dissimilar. I always have to work really hard at keeping up with activities abs people that I enjoy, and living in the now when that happens. It's the only way I don't turn into a hermit.

  23. Thanks for sharing :) If I can offer any advice, this is it...

  24. You wouldn't have to marry Oprah, you'd just have to bear her love child. I hear tapping can totally cause a man to get pregnant! (You're totally welcome for calling you a man, and yes, you do look very nice in that snuggy today.)

  25. I've been lucky enough to have a happy life so far with little trouble because I'm only 17. However, I have had many friends who's lives have not been so great. When my friends are feeling particularly low it always seems to help if I listen to the problem, then give them a big hug and a smile. So consider this a virtual hug, and I suggest you find someone to give you a real one. :D

  26. Just get married!

    1. Bottom line is, tapping worked.

  27. Congrats to you for entering this moment. I have followed you for about a year and always thought there was an element about which you were not honest. I will admit that I (personally) do not believe in religious doctrine. However, I DO believe that everyone finds there own path and no one should ever judge that process. My thoughts are with you. Best

  28. Being vulnerable is really hard, especially to a bunch of strangers. I applaud you. Thank you for sharing about something that so many people deal with. While this is kind of a different situation, I'm going to be a senior in college next year, and already many of the very important friends I have made will start going in different directions this May. When I think about graduating and how slowly we will all be spread out in the world I definitely feel that crippling, chest-crushing fear. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who confuses being alone with loneliness.

    Also, don't listen to this song:
    Unless you want to bawl like a baby. Then, by all means, listen.

  29. I know many on here have expressed their thanks to you for this post, but I wanted to let you know that this post is something that I can definitely relate to and I'm proud of you and thankful that u opened up. As you said, it is hard and uncomfortable to open up about real issues, but I'm glad that you did because you were able to help me, as well as many other of your Stranger followers. Thank you again Eli.

    Oh...before I forget, your outfit looks great today!

  30. Hummm...sounds like the tapping worked!

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  32. EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Can you believe I actually cried reading this today? Hahah i'm a sap when it comes to being lonely. Thank you so much, Eli.

  33. Thank you for sharing. :) I have a couple of friends who know you, and when I found out that she did (she once went running with you and you ran screaming from a snake--leaving her all alone. And she's a frail one, too!)

    Which is really beside the point. I wanted to share a TED talk on technology, cell phones, etc. It talks about how technology has inundated us with so much DATA that we try to fill a void, end up feeling lonely, and never master being alone vs loneliness. it all rang pretty true with what you were saying here.

  34. Well, of COURSE tapping didn't work! I mean, how could tapping your chest, face, little finger, AND other places even happen?!? You only have 10 fingers and two of them are busy tapping each other and your head is a bit of a distance from your heart, I mean, REALLY! No WONDER you had so much anxiety!

    Meanwhile, I understand loneliness, and I understand feeling it in a crowded room, and feeling complete in an empty room. I'm glad it's not dependent on others. I just wish it was easier to understand logically so I could fix it. For me. I can't fix your heart. Sorry. I'm not that talented. But, I can say you aren't alone. Even in Palau. It's a small world, afterall.

    Oops. Now I have a song stuck in my head...

  35. I'm a little late in reading this and commenting but... I can totally relate, with almost everything you said here. I'm also one of those people who doesn't open up and share easily with those around me and I think that in itself can make us feel lonely. Sometimes that fear of feeling vulnerable makes you just close up and not share your innermost feelings and fears and doubts and that can make us feel disconnected which in turn, can make us feel lonely. I am also in a situation that makes me feel full of anxiety and doubt and uncertainty, also, living in a foreign country, on an island (though one much bigger than yours, thankfully ) with friends and family scattered all around and not certain where the future will take me or really where I belong. It is a lonely place to be, and hard to fight that and get over the anxiety and stress to be able to think clearly and realize that it is simply this stress and anxiety and these fears that are making us feel so alone and sort of helpless. So thank you for this post, as I feel I can relate and sometimes, that helps a lot, even though I don't know you or any one else who comments here, it's nice to feel like I can share in your story and relate and somehow, it helps with the anxiety and loneliness. So, I hope you can at least take some comfort in the fact that somehow, you're sharing has the ability to help other feel not so alone and lonely in life. Thank you for that!

  36. You know, I used to feel empathy for you whenever you posted about your feelings.

  37. I'm so glad we're related... you crack me up!!