There is an old African saying that goes like this:
A stick alone can be broken by a child, but sticks in a bundle cannot be broken.
And now the deep question of the day: Are you in a bundle? By bundle I mean are you in a tribe? Are you surrounding yourself with good folks with common interests. Folks who would have your back in a time of need? Couple of examples to help stimulate the old noggin—are you in any clubs? Meet with a small group? Constantly meeting friends offline? Getting away from screens and in front of eyeballs? Your bundle will help you become unbreakable! Read on so I can share with you my experience trying to find a new bundle. As with most of my blog posts, here’s the premise: I’ll screw up in life, then write about it, so you don’t have to. Stick around for this one though as there is a redemption story here. Every now and then I do something right, and I am getting pretty good at bundling as a means of survival. Let me explain.
A recent stressful life event for me was the demise of my 25-year marriage. It sucked on every level and sent me into the pit of misery, which is the polar opposite of Dilly Dilly land. It was here that I sort of did a stupid thing, but it felt necessary. I packed up all my things and moved to a town where I knew NO ONE! I didn’t whip out a map and randomly throw a dart at it to pick a new city. I moved just up the road to Greenville, SC, and there were two very good reasons to come this way. My two boys would be closer!! I don’t want to smother them, but I like to be to close to them and this strategic location gave me that, and not much else. I left all my friends, church family and basically every piece of support I had back in Blythewood. This “bundle” included my men’s bible study, which got me through the entire divorce process. What was I thinking? I changed my people, place, and things, and it looked good on paper, but in practice, it sucked. I was alone way too much, and it is here where the darkness found me. We are not meant to be alone and my winter of discontent happened to coincide with the actual season we call winter and down the rabbit hole I went. This one got dark.
Now you are probably thinking to yourself—-Dennis you are a mental health advocate—this stuff doesn’t happen to you? Well after I fart in your general direction, let me ask you this: Why do you think I advocate for mental health? Because my life is so AWESOME!? No! I am not immune to everything I fight for, and this work gives me one great advantage when the darkness shows up. I recognize it and I know some strategies to help fight it off. A broken brain can’t fix a broken brain, but if you educate yourself when you are well, you will recognize when you are not well and hopefully put the proper strategies into place. No guarantees they will work, but I will try them all. So alone in a great city I started to go back to therapy and even tried some meds, which was new for me, until I found my new bundle.
I need to be around people—- was always that way. I was the sort of kid who went to the bathroom and left the door open in case I missed something. I needed my peeps and I had none in Greenville, until I found this hiking club. Someone told me about this app called Meetup and it is not a hookup site! That is the last thing I needed in this funk. It is a place to find people who like the same things you do be it writing, exercise, movies, anything and I saw this hiking club on there. I signed up and that was the easy part. Now I had to go and actually meet people and hike. Well, I found a hike that worked with my schedule and signed up. This was weird because I knew NO ONE! Now the heavy lifting had to happen. I had to show up in a McDonald’s parking lot, get in a stranger’s car, and go spend about 6 hours with these folks. Oh, but Dennis you are such an extrovert—this should be no problem! BS, I was nervous, and I hate labels. Sometimes I am an extrovert and other times I am an introvert. During the darkness the default mode is introvert. I isolate and pull away. Stay up late, sleep in, eat alone…and I don’t feel like “peopling”. This first hike gave me a bit of anxiety, but I knew I had to do it. The apartment walls were closing in on me and I needed to breathe.
Well I showed up for the hike and I happy to report that I am bundling with these folks on a regular basis now and they are wonderful. You learn their stories on the trail and I have come to find my fellow hikers were looking for a bundle too. Translation: You Are Not Alone! I’ve been on three all day hikes with these folks and I find myself looking for hiking gear all the time now. I’ve got the fever. This week I cannot go on the hike, but its for a good reason—-I’m going to visit friends. Another bundle, so to speak. As a man of faith (pretty sure God is laughing at that one—dude I’m trying!) I am still searching for my church bundle here in my new town, and I am sure I will find it. Just need to be patient and know that it will reveal itself. But I have this one bundle right now and it has done wonders for my head. I sleep well after the hikes and I look forward to the next one. When you look forward to something that gives you hope. Hope and social connection keep us on this planet. Online bundles are ok, but that is such a shallow intimacy. Face to face is much better and combine it with an activity you like and BAM you have something. You are now sticks together.
So, I am going to throw this back to you—who is in your bundle? What tribe do you belong to? Who are your peeps?
We are not wired to go through this thing called life alone. I wish you well in your search and remember sticks in a bundle cannot be broken. I don’t want you to be broken. The world is full of broken people looking for a bundle and they are looking for you to join their bundle. Remember this my friend, you cannot spell bundle without U in it. Get out there and find your bundle!
Meetup website: www.meetup.com The phone app is awesome.
Need to find a therapist: www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
Great article on “Bundling”: https://www.newsday.com/long-island/li-life/god-squad-preventing-suicide-1.19228779
Science Geeks: http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-mind/mind-body/article/what-science-happiness (Geeks is a term of endearment here!)