Have any of you had this said to you? Have you said it to yourself, perhaps? I bet the meaning behind the phrase and the very tone of it were quite different in the two cases. Well, since a friend of mine messaged me this week to ask whether I could meet up with her for a coffee because, as she put it, ‘I need to get out’, I knew she meant the latter of the two meanings, and I obliged because I know only too well what it feels like to be cooped up indoors needing a social outlet. But the phrase got me thinking of the different permeations of this instruction: the positive, the negative, and the anticipated rewards of ‘getting out more’. What is it really all about?
How do you feel when you see this open door? Does it make you want to leap out there and embrace outdoors and all that goes with it, or do you prefer, for whatever reason, to stay indoors today? If you can see beyond the obvious fluctuations upon our moods in response to the changing weather, dark and raining or bright sunshine having quite different ‘invitations’ to our inner spirit, do you know where you stand in relation to the open door? Are you pulled out, knowing you are indulging in some resisting procrastination towards your creative work, or are you weary and ready for a change of scene after a spell of working hard? In a nutshell, are you happy with your outdoor/indoor life balance?
When you say ‘you should get out more’ to yourself
The case for saying it to yourself seems simple and constructive enough. And for many creative people who work from home, it’s hopefully built into our lifestyle to balance the intensity of self-directedness of creative work, to get out and about and enjoy the company of others, or to gather material for our work which can come from a multiplicity of directions. As another friend put it, ‘we need other outlets to feed our creativity’. So you meet up with friends, or you do some voluntary work perhaps, to focus on others for a change, or you have a part time job for necessity’s sake, but which also functions to keep you connected to your social milieu, to ‘what’s going on out there’ in the mainstream – and in all these ways getting out more is a positive conscious act of self-care and a way of maintaining a healthy perspective on yourself and your life.
But what can also be a positive act of self care is to get out of the house to be alone in nature. This is probably my number one favourite getting out activity. I just have to open the door and I’m where I want to be and I never take the ease of this for granted. I rarely meet someone else on my country lane walks or when I’m trudging the fields and I love it exactly like this. Creative ideas or writing solutions may pop into my head because I’m not trying too hard to consciously solve a problem through sheer willpower. It’s as if there is a precious stream, of dare I say it ;>) inspiration!, which bubbles alongside me and which throws some golden nuggets into my path now and again, and I think, Yes! That’s it! Perfect! I know from other writers and creatives that this is a common experience, which we appreciate and shouldn’t take for granted for one second. We accept the magic and the mystery and say thank you.
But would this magic happen if you are in the company of someone else and all the chatting you end up doing dominates? Would you have any aha moments then? I don’t think so. And would, what I’ll call, conventional mainstream society, agree that going out for a solitary walk fits the concept of the meaning behind getting out? Or do they mean something different? Something far more socially programmed and therefore ‘received’?
I used to tell myself I needed to get out more in the early 80s when I was stuck in an unpleasant rut during my early twenties with no job and barely any social life. I’d kind of dropped through the social net, after walking away (more like running away in horror) from my science degree course. I was very lonely, needed some good company, and through that some personal validation which I was lacking, and I was desperate to go to discos or clubs and dance the night away. I loved dancing! I grabbed some rare opportunities that came my way to dance the night away, only to find the tinnitus I had contracted through a virus at the age of 18 reacting to the volume of the music with a competing volume of its own, so I had to be very careful not to linger at the ‘ball’ – a bit like Cinderella, only needless to say I wasn’t running out on a Prince Charming (He came along a few years later, and my real-life prince happened to hate dancing.) Other activities were my getting the bus into the city to shop in the arcades, to feed on omelette, chips and beans in a café (no worry about putting on weight in those ‘halcyon’ days of youth), or going to the cinema by myself with a hotdog and plenty of mustard and a Coke to get stuck into. I guess I was trying to follow Petula Clark’s advice in ‘Downtown’ because the lyrics fitted my situation perfectly:
When you’re alone, and life is making you lonely
You can always go
When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, things’ll be great when you’re
Downtown, no finer place for sure
Downtown everything’s waiting for you
Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows
Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close
Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You’ll be dancing with him too before the night is over
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, where all the lights are bright
Downtown, waiting for you tonight
Downtown, you’re gonna be alright now
…but somehow it was pretty hard to feel as upbeat about it as Petula. I felt on the ‘outside’ of what I conceived real life to be, and envied those on the ‘inside’ who in my estimation, at the time, were living life properly. I didn’t know anything about the varying natures of introverts and extraverts and their different needs, and I’d never heard of Jungian types to discover there were more people like me, so I didn’t rate what I was doing at all – namely drawing, reading psychology books, developing self awareness, and getting out in the fields. And I had a sister who was leading the life of an extrovert to negatively compare myself to. And of course, when we’re young there is a natural drive to want to belong, to fit in, so that is what you want to pursue. There were some sporadic social times which came about through meeting people when I was working as a lab technician, and years later I upped my social life which was linked to work again, only to discover something which floored me…
And it came as a revelation. I discovered what I thought I’d been missing out on was actually not worth having. ‘Is this it? I asked myself. There were no in-depth conversations, no revealing of personal feelings, opinions, or ideas, like I’d imagined people sharing with shiny-eyed enthusiasm. Everything stayed on the surface. There was a superficiality with a focus on ‘safe’ small talk (menu choices, the weather, cars) which I just couldn’t understand. I should point out that the types of people I’m talking about weren’t creative types, but still…I felt disappointed and frustrated. Was it worth the effort, I asked myself. I suppose my introvert me was hard to please and my introvert prince (by then my hubby) happened to feel the same way. So for a long while we became sufficient unto ourselves, as they say. There were no busy bars with people having to physically shoulder-but their way to the barman to place an order, but having to look cool at the same time, where any conversation has to be shouted to be heard over the background babble. There were no bustling city restaurants where everyone says the food is great and it is the place to go, or pub crawls to be part of the crowd. If we tried any of these, we left early.
To this day, my hubby and I have never held a dinner party. We have been to a few, with my having pushed him to accept an invitation, but something was usually lacking – so needless to say, I stopped pushing. So some people need to get out more than others, is the moral to this tale, and what you need to get out to do is highly dependant on your own individual preferences and your own nature – and these may well result in you swimming against the more generalised tide. However, to be lonely, to be isolated is a terrible thing, because we are essentially social animals and need at least a measure of company. We so need to connect with other people for our mental health. And if you find yourself in this lonely position, then you simply must say to yourself – I need to get out more, I need to find an outlet. You can begin with just one activity and take it from there…
But what about when someone else tells you ‘You should get out more’?
This can be absolutely straight and to the point and said for your benefit, and if it is well-intentioned it should be followed up with some empathy and constructively helpful suggestions. However it can also be said with pure sarcasm, in a disparaging and scoffing tone, for which there is no follow up. The phrase just hangs there, accusingly, making you feel withered, ‘other’, and small. And what they really mean is something like this:
I don’t get you.
You’re really weird. You’re not normal.
I don’t get the things you like or the topics you are talking about. What planet are you on?
…where their perspective alone is deciding what is ‘normal’, and whatever your perspective is – well, it just isn’t right. It’s downright odd. It’s a case of them believing that their perspective fits the socially accepted and sanctioned mainstream conventional norms – and yours doesn’t even come close. They are making a value-judgment and you are falling short.
A related phrase that comes to mind, and which is also pretty common is: ‘You need to get a life’.
Who’s life do you need to get? Theirs? Because they know how to make the most out of life and you don’t? Again it is a highly subjective, narrow and judgmental comment to make. Imagine saying this yourself to someone. How arrogant would you feel?
So what we’re talking about in relation to ‘you need to get out more’ in this negative context, is a judgment based on personal values. And your own values may fit with the majority, or they may not. In relation to this, I came across something interesting in Maslow’s Towards A Psychology of Being . He maintains that people who operate from a more authentic way of being, ‘assume a new relation to their society…and to society in general. They resist enculturation…they become more detached from their culture…they become a little more of a member of their species and a little less a member of their local group.’ And he maintains this is the essence of psychological health where increased detachment and the desire for privacy help increase personal autonomy. We all need other people, but we can need them as fellow humans to share our common humanity with, rather than feel bound to belong to a particular group and that group’s particular mindset.
Here’s a fitting section from Maslow which supports diversity and individual growth:
‘Just as all trees need sun, water, and foods from the environment, so do all people need safety, love and status from their environment. However, in both cases this is just where real development of individuality can begin, for once satiated with these elementary, species-wide necessities, each tree and each person proceeds to develop in his own style, uniquely, using these necessities for his own private purposes. In a very meaningful sense, development then becomes more determined from within rather than from without.’
So to attempt to sum up:
When you really do need to get out more, when you need a social outlet, then you must act. You can work with something small to begin with, just one weekly social activity can make a huge difference to your wellbeing. Just being around other people can be beneficial in itself.
We should watch out for value judgments. Spot them and defuse them. Don’t let them put you down or bring you down.
When you have determined you don’t actually need to get out more, when you are getting out enough for you as an individual, whether it be social or solo, remember what you have gained by giving up the feeling of missing out, of having to belong, and the very real fundamental freedom that can bring you. Be true to you and your own personal values.
Cheers for now!
(pics from Pixabay)