Warning: You shouldn't read this post if you came here for a laugh today. It's going to be super boring. Because it's about life and stuff. Also, it's long.

One friend in Palau recently gave Daniel a book about "tapping." It's this witch-doctor business where you tap different parts of your body to relieve anxiety or fear about something. I know that is not the clinical and perfectly accurate explanation of what tapping is. Somebody reading this is very annoyed. You can explain it better in the comments and also express your frustration about everything else I'm going to say about it as long as you also compliment my outfit today.

When this friend started telling me about this, I started laughing. Because I don't believe in this kind of stuff. And I think it sounds hysterical. I immediately felt like I was being really insensitive and I had the same conversation with myself that I always have when my impulse is to find humorous another person's beliefs: "Really, Eli? Really? You think it's funny that that person believes in this? You're a Mormon and YOU of all people think you can laugh at someone else's beliefs?"

Daniel was much more tactful and asked to borrow the book, which discusses the technique. He read the entire thing in like two days and without telling me whether or not he was a believer, he just told me it was all very interesting.

So yesterday when I got home from work I told him that since he was such an expert on tapping now, maybe we should start to try to fix a few of my problems.

He had me sit down in a chair while he read from the instruction manual, which told me to focus on something that caused me anxiety, rate the level of anxiety I felt about that thing, and then start tapping my chest and my face and my little finger and a number of other places while continuing to think about this thing.

Daniel suggested that we try to use this technique to get over my fear of snakes and I was all, "WHY THE HELL WOULD I WANT TO STOP BEING AFRAID OF SNAKES!!!?  WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU? YOU PERVERTED RACIST MURDERER!"

Note: I call people "perverted racist murderers" when I'm too flustered to think of more accurate names to call them. Because I feel like it gets my sentiments out nicely enough.

So we chose something else.

I tried really hard to take it seriously. But it was all a little too difficult. And in the end, I mostly just felt really full of anxiety because for several minutes I was thinking about a range of things that sometimes keep me up at night.

The rest of the evening I thought about some of these things and wondered about what I've been able to learn in the last few years about them, particularly since I've been in Palau.

I'm not a very open person in a lot of ways. Yes, I over share about my life with you. You all know way too much about my bowel movements and how many times I have vomited this year. But I really only over share about surface-level stuff. And I realized recently that so often I use my sense of humor in hopes that it will distract people from noticing that I rarely share anything much deeper. At least, not in specifics.

There are so many fears and anxieties that I keep entirely to myself. Also happy and profound feelings that I keep entirely to myself. At one point a long time ago I decided that talking about some things only makes them a bigger problem or cheapens them. And I felt like I was strong enough to handle my own problems and concerns without having the weight of knowing that the people around me are aware of them as well.

Even just telling you that I keep things bottled up a bit is very uncomfortable for me. Granted, that's bound to happen when you're sharing some of your innermost thoughts and vulnerabilities with thousands of people you haven't even met.

One of my biggest fears, one that I have developed almost entirely in recent years, is the fear of loneliness. It's one that I've discussed a little bit here and one that you all have so helped me try to work through. Discussing that fear has not been comfortable for me but I have really grown a lot in being able to do so. And many of you have expressed that this conversation we've all been having together has helped you in some way. So I continue.

The interesting thing about this fear is that I didn't always have it. I mean, I think the thought of being lonely was always a negative thought in my mind, but I never worried that I would be lonely because I felt pretty comfortable with my ability to avoid it at all costs. I was comfortable with my ability to find contentment in all situations, no matter who was or was not present. My religion helped me do this to a large degree, as did a lot of my life experiences.

Sometime in the last year or two, though, I started to equate loneliness with being alone. And I've started to absolutely hate having alone time because somewhere deep down I feel like being out of the presence of other people is despair. And it's odd, because even just two or three years ago, I very much cherished alone time.

I'm not sure exactly what caused the shift in thinking, but I believe it may be a result of too many drastic life changes all at once, pulling me out of my comfort zone and leaving me feeling vulnerable. This particularly felt true when I finished law school and almost my entire social network disbursed throughout the world. And suddenly I felt very alone. So I started grasping for companionship wherever I could find it. And I made some incredible friends in the process. And some bad ones, too. And I decided that I needed to keep those friends around me so that whole uncomfortable loneliness thing wouldn't happen again.

But if I really think about it, equating loneliness with being alone is really unhealthy. I have been alone many times in my life without being lonely. And I have been lonely before, even though surrounded by other people.

The thing that has gotten me to really think about this in Palau is the fact that much of the company I'm around is sort of in a fragile state of existence right now. I had the extremely good fortune of having a friend be able to join me in Palau. And I have been so grateful to have Daniel here. He has kept me company and been a really fun presence.

But from the beginning, Daniel was never really sure how long he would actually stay here. It depended on a number of factors, including the projects he was working on here. And a number of times, he has very seriously contemplated leaving Palau entirely to pursue opportunities elsewhere. In December he was checking flights to the U.S., and every time he did, I pictured myself sitting in my dark apartment at night, all alone. And I could feel the weight of that decision he was trying to make have such control over my peace and happiness.

That, in turn, continued to change me into a person that I had never really been before. One who felt inhibited by emotions and fear. A person who felt largely helpless and often uninspired.

I knew it wasn't fair for me to put pressure on him to stay for my own benefit, so I tried to be supportive of all of his options, although, admittedly, I have not done a great job of that.

Daniel has chosen to stay a couple of times when he could have left. And I have felt temporary relief each time and have set my sights on the new deadline, a month or two down the road, when he would have to make the same decision again.

We're in one of those situations now. Daniel will finish his teaching at the college in May and could very easily wrap up everything else he is working on at that time and leave Palau for good. He was also just asked to take on a new project with the Ministry of Health and, separately, to teach during the summer semester at the college. These things would keep him here until August, which is near the time that I will be leaving Palau as well.

When Daniel told me last week that this project may possibly not work out and that he was thinking about heading back to the U.S. in May, I immediately felt my world crashing down around me again. And he could sense that. He told me he understood that I had this fear but that he needed me to try to be unbiased and help him think through his options.

I felt guilty, again, for not being that person he needed me to be.

And since then, I have tried very hard to help him weigh pros and cons without letting out that I sometimes feel a crushing weight on my chest when we talk about it.

And I'm telling you all of this because I want to share with you something that I'm sort of learning in this process. Because maybe it will help somebody out there work through some crippling anxiety that all too often monopolizes their thoughts.

Anxiety and fear really only affect you as much as you allow them to. I know that's easier to say than to really practice. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that we can always find the support that we need if we look hard enough. Often that support comes through other people. But sometimes, it's just within us. It's through our own willpower to look in the face of pain and laugh at it. Because when you realize that something can't kill you, you can usually find something to laugh at about it.

Some of the things that cause us grief occur because of our own decisions. Some of them are the decisions of others. I have certainly made my share of stupid choices that have hurt me and have hurt other people. But ultimately, when a window gets shattered, the best thing to do is pick up the pieces, move them out of the way, and think of ways to keep the new window from getting shattered the same way the last one was. We don't benefit from leaving the glass on the ground and walking over it barefoot.

For me, the window was shattered when I let myself believe that my happiness depended on the decisions of my wonderful friends. That whether or not someone was going to be around me at all times was going to determine whether or not I'm lonely. And for months, I have walked back-and-forth across that broken glass, barefoot, and feeling the unrelenting pain of letting that anxiety and falsehood become my mantra.

I don't know yet, exactly, how to pick up all of those pieces. But I know that I need to. And that is huge step for me. And I can already feel the layers of anxiety peeling away over the past week. Because I'm starting to tell myself in the very moment that I start to feel the hopelessness that comes with my particular anxiety that what I'm feeling is irrational and self-inflicted. And that I don't have to let myself be held captive by it anymore. And slowly but surely, I'm learning to believe myself when I say those things. And that feels nice.

Still quite a lot to figure out here. But I'm happy that I'm moving in the right direction.

I should totally take over for Dr. Phil. Would I have to marry Oprah to do so?

(Click here to locate information on therapeutic resources.)

~It Just Gets Stranger