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Reflections May 2016

Tunnel Visions

Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Green?

By Bonnie McCune

No one, not even an independently wealthy super-introvert (which I'm not), can survive with no external stimulation. We're human beings, and we need interaction with others, even if they irritate us upon occasion.

Through chance, not planning, I have the great fortune right now of being able to escape an eight-to-five job. With this flexibility, I've turned to writing fiction, which always has been my goal. Still, after several years, the strangest result occurred.

The freer my time and the more open my schedule, the less motivated and more depressed I became. It got to the point I couldn't answer the simple question "how are you?" and I avoided talking to friends and family. No project seemed important enough to complete. I dreamed up excuses to slump in a chair reading or click through television stations searching for something, anything, to fill my time. My initiative disappeared, and I laced what little conversation I supplied at family parties with extended references to my health. I'd even forget what day of the week it was!

What was wrong? Was my iron low? Supplements didn't help. Did I have an undiagnosed mental malady? I still cracked jokes left and right when I found myself in a group. Was I just getting old and experiencing a decline? I knew plenty of people my age and older who still were going strong.

The answer, or at least an answer finally came to me at a meeting. Every woman who spoke seemed to be traveling or working on an exciting project or changing the world for the better. I was envious of every single person there. This didn't make sense, I thought. I'd never felt this way before.

That's because I'd previously always been super-busy. Held down a full-time job, wrote in my spare time, volunteered with several groups, went places with my husband, saw friends regularly. But since my self-imposed isolation (after I quit a regular job to take my retirement benefits), I mostly had contact just with myself.

This situation came on gradually. For several years I accepted contract consulting work and helped a marketing department conduct interviews. A philanthropic cause closely related to my previous career kept me in touch with colleagues. But little by little I pulled away from those activities, supposedly to focus on my writing.

Whom was I kidding? No one, not even an independently wealthy super-introvert (which I'm not), can survive with no external stimulation. We're human beings, and we need interaction with others, even if they irritate us upon occasion. We require the give-and-take, the ebb-and-flow of life around us, or else we stagnate. That's what was happening. I was stagnating. As Bob Dylan wrote years ago, "He not busy being born is busy dying."

With that realization, I've begun reconnecting with old acquaintances, attending an occasional event I used to avoid, becoming involved with a group whose work I support. I've found a myriad of topics to discuss with others. Even more important, I have new things to think about on my own. Began making connections among news reports, books, people, ideas that hadn't been evident in my isolated state. Discovered insight. Felt excited and energized, even if at times I became irate.

The break out of routine in this manner presented another advantage. Perhaps a challenge and benefit as well, my exposure to others' perspectives increased. In isolation we can start feeling our view point is the only valid one. I'm convinced that extremists of any stripe become extreme because they don't have any interaction outside their "hive," their own little circle of acquaintances who already agree with them. Studies support this theory. We tend to disregard and belittle opinions different from our own. By deliberating mixing with a diversity of people, I become more tolerant, better informed, and equipped to deal with a huge, confusing world.

Before I flip open my calendar now, I already know what day it is. That's because my schedule has a variety of engagements to keep me on my toes. I'm forced to make better use of my time as I move from a meeting or lunch to writing at my computer. Topics of interesting conversations are at the tip of my tongue. Best of all, my activities are so much more than dental or doctor appointments.

Jealousy is supposed to be a green-eyed monster. But in my case, envy sparked a major improvement in my life I might not have achieved otherwise.


Bonnie McCune is a writer and has published several novels as well as other work. Reach her at

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