I’m at a spiritual retreat of sorts this weekend. A few thousand people getting together to celebrate their change in outlook, feeling and attitude. I’ve been the last five years, and it’s always an experience. Earlier this weekend, I was with a friend at the pool — I was in the pool facing him, and he was sitting on the edge looking over my shoulder. All of a sudden, he said something I couldn’t understand, and I looked over to see an older man who was sitting there, smoking.
I looked quizzically at my friend, who repeated himself: “Chalk it up.” Apparently, the man sat down with a cup of coffee to have a cigarette, and in getting settled, knocked over his whole cup of coffee. My friend’s response was basically an effort to acknowledge what had happened, commiserate, and then remind the guy that sometimes you just have to chalk something up, put it on the board, and take the loss. It was a simple statement and seemed pretty appropriate at the time. I think I need to adopt it in the context of the whole weekend, actually.
I have never been to one of these conferences when I wasn’t bidding for it. The conference moves from city to city each year, with groups of people from cities around the country and for right now, North America (Canada reps), to step up and present packages showing why the conference should come to their city next year. Sort of what like cities do to obtain the Olympics, except we won’t kick anyone out of their houses or cost the city a bunch of money — it’s all good.
This is our fifth year bidding, and we didn’t get the conference this year. I wasn’t really expecting it due to the fact that we are only 5-6 hours away from St. Louis, and there were going to be other bids who had great bid packages, and better geography. However, I’m not sure what my future with this conference looks like. I want to keep bidding and being a part of things, but I really have felt out of place this weekend. I’ve felt really lonely and isolated, which has beget more isolation. I’ve slept more this weekend than any other conference, I’d say — including missing the main speaker meeting tonight, just because I couldn’t handle the thought of being in a room with all of those people being happy, and having a good time.
I know that there’s a really good chance that some of this has to do with seasonal depression, but I figure that while that accounts for a fair amount of the melancholy I feel, there’s got to be something else at work. I know I’ve drifted spiritually this year, and it’s been hard. One thing that I struggle with is the fact that I feel like I used to be so connected, and now I feel like I’m really on my own. No one is calling to see where I am or why I’m not showing up to things I used to. That sort of thing used to make me really angry — I was promised if I showed up, people would get to know me and care about me — but it doesn’t anymore. I’m more disappointed and dejected about the fact that I just don’t seem to have a whole lot of friends, and I feel like I’m just going solo at life.
Of course, I have people around me who I consider friends, but I feel largely misunderstood. One of the reasons I’ve stayed in my hotel room a lot this weekend, is for the fact that one of the things that I hate the most is trying to express this stuff to people, in real time, and having them just not understand. It’s already hard to be lonely and sad, and it’s 100 times worse to try and tell someone you’re lonely and sad and have them not get it, or not be able to handle it, or to have them tell you it’s essentially your fault.
I stayed in, watched Saturday Night Live to see the new cast members from Chicago, and then decided I’d get up and take a stroll around the conference. I don’t know why I did that — I basically reinforced the feelings of being alone in a crowded room. I just walked past everyone and saw them talking, having fun, smoking cigarettes, being dressed up for the 80’s dance. And I just felt old and pathetic. I didn’t feel like there was anything there for me, and I didn’t feel like I belonged there at all.
“Chalk it up.” I guess I’m going to mark this one on the board as an experience. Our bid was well received and I think it got some younger, newer members excited about trying again. But for me, it has ended in something I’ve been trying to shake all summer: the feeling that I am really going to have to do this alone. Which is weird, because it’s really the opposite of what I’ve been taught here in the past. That we never have to do anything alone again. Somehow, I’ve lost touch with the reality of that concept, and I’m just having a really hard time.
I’ll just chalk this one up and move on when I get home.