I have long believed that we are meant to be life-long learners---not just of data and abstract concepts, but about ourselves---our process of becoming.  Yet I have to laugh at myself because even at 68 I am still sometimes surprised by realizations/insights into my own 'story'.  Often it will just be some little corollary detail about an aspect of my life, my beingness and process, I've long known...but i'll feel that satisfaction one gets when one finally finds the right spot for a jigsaw puzzle piece or you 'level up' on your favorite game app.  And they often come when least expected.  My latest was thanks to 'visiting nurse' doing an initial assessment visit. (My Insurance offers this at no out of pocket cost--not sure if for everyone or just rural seniors like me. The idea is that they can be a kind of advocate and advisor for the patient in coordinating primary care, specialists and 'wellness' tactics. (I know GPs, primary care docs are supposed to do this---but they don't always---sometimes it's that they're overworked, sometimes---they're just looking at 'billable service'. )  As with most medical forms and interviews they include some 'mental health' questions.

Now my answers, as some of you might realize by now, rarely fit neatly into their little boxes of yes/no. Smoking and drinking they think in terms of per week or day---the reality of my use is a handful of times a YEAR, maybe a couple of dozen times a year with alcohol consumption.  Depression? I was suicidally depressed for 15 years of my life, but eventually learned to manage it, without meds (I have anomalous reactions to all sorts of medicines so was always leery of them.) It still tries to sneak up on me sometimes but one of my best weapons now is the knowledge that 1) I've bested it many times in the past because 2) for me my strategies (meditation, mindfulness and LOOKING for the joys in daily life) WORK.  Among the advantages of rural life and having 6 furry companions (3 cats, 3 dogs) is that I CAN NOT pull the covers over my head and withdraw from life.  There are necessary chores which while not anticipated fondly, still leave me feeling productive and energized when I've completed them.   

Often there is, as with this nurse, a question about 'Do you feel you've spent too much time alone recently?'  I understand the question goes to a big driver in depression for most people--loneliness.  But I actually laughed aloud at the question. Then I explained that from childhood I always preferred 'alone'.   Sure it was fun to live in NYC in the late 1960s and Honolulu in the early 1970s...but that the older I got the more I longed for the peace and quiet of a rural life. (Ok there's plenty of sounds--birds, frogs, the neighbors cows, insects, wind---but those sounds are soothing to me unlike constant traffic noise, frequent sirens and neighbors blasting stereos or worse---fights.)  She was surprised but smiled and accepted it.  It wasn't till later I realized--my 15 yrs of severe depression began when my parents divorced and I moved with Mama to much more urban NJ and continued thru those exciting years in two very cosmopolitan cities.   I developed my strategies for coping while living in a 'suburb' of a large city, but another part of this insight about the impact of environment on mental state was the realization that i haven't needed to use them as often since I've moved to my current locale. 

Now i sure don't mean this as an argument that you can 'run away' from your problems---solve things by moving.  Rather i see it proof how critical self knowledge is--something we're not always encouraged to pursue (how we get discouraged from trusting what we know of ourselves is a whole other topic).  Knowing what best suits you socially, environment wise, lifestyle is crucially to maintaining emotional health and finding some happiness in life.  Me, i love peace quiet---cyber discussions satisfy my need for communication, exchanging ideas with others. It occurs to me that my lifestyle is (for me at least) more conducive to thinking about life undistracted and having continuing insights about oneself.   But some people need the hustle-bustle in their lives, they do feel loneliness if on their own for a day or two. (No right/wrong way...just 'different')

So...two questions (because besides sex, curiosity about how humans 'work' is the other primary factor that always drove me to communicate---and it can be satisfied in cyberspace now):
1) When/how do you get your best (as in most helpful to improving your quality of life) realizations about yourself?
2) Have you figured out the ideal environment and lifestyle for you?