Connection

I like how I've become more adaptive

I wrote the following post a little while ago, but I thought I'd share it today because it's a lot about awareness and many of my thoughts here echo my last post. I'm talking here about adapting to situations and feeling relaxed and free as a result. I bet I also felt a greater sense of connection with my kids that day too. 

 

There are so many things that I wish I knew as a much younger mother. You know, like that it's impossible to have a tidy house with toddlers, and to release that unrealistic expectation. And how to *really* *actually* let things go, as opposed to saying it and knowing logically that you should, but remaining emotionally attached to it all the same.

 

Sometimes it feels like I only really learn something as I'm moving out of that phase and into the next the one, but I guess that's what life and learning is all about. When you really get something, really learn something, then that learning is the thing that opens the door up to the next thing. The lesson, the getting it, is the thing that moves you on and if you haven't learnt it, then you can't move on, it'll be the same problem until you do.

 

Letting go, as in really letting go and being able to enjoy the freedom of being pretty adaptable is probably a characteristic of the older mother, wouldn't you say? Of course there are some very special young mothers who, by dint of their personality and their own character, are very adaptable and 'flowy', but usually it's more common in mothers with a few more years' experience.

 

Part of that experience and also the ability to let go, I think, comes from being able to appreciate your own growth. I know I am hardly a Buddhist Lama, but I also know how far I've come. I can recognise that the way I deal with many situations and incidents these days is a far cry from how I would have reacted once upon a time and that, in itself, feels good.

 

My son discovered he has nits this morning before school. It is his year level's assembly this morning and I was on the canteen roster, but none of my kids are going today. And I'm so fine with that, in fact, even a little happy. A surprise break from the morning rush of breakfast and lunches and a day in the sun because no one's actually sick! I don't feel great about letting the canteen manager down, but I don't feel bad either. I'll help out another day; stuff happens when you have kids.

 

Anyway, I felt good this morning for the simple fact that, 1. this wasn't an issue for me, the nits and the kids staying home, and 2. that I had the presence of mind and the self-awareness ,in practice, not just words, to appreciate that I've grown enough for it to not be an issue and to actually feel good about me.

 

It's a small thing, no earth-shattering achievement here - boring in fact, you may say, but it's funny how being aware of the little things can make, and do make a huge difference. I'm convinced that it's these little, tiny, seemingly insignificant things in life, where we actively practise a positive mindset with awareness, that are actually the big stuff. This is what life is really about. This is part of what's meant by living well. I reckon anyway and I'm sure I'm right because I feel good, aligned and relaxed. If you can find things that make you feel like that with zero negative side-effects, then do it again and again. We are what we repeatedly do.

 

I like how I've become more adaptable and I appreciate the feeling of happiness and freedom it gives me. It feels close to how I felt as a child; when we would adapt without thinking about it - kids are really good at that. And right there is another very good reason why getting back to the child within us is another way of finding our true essence and a very good idea! But that's another fascinating story for another day..... Now off to the pharmacy to buy some nit killer!!! :-D

Photo credit: From Tony Alter via Flickr 

Seeking connection as a perspective changing strategy

It never, ever ceases to amaze me how critical it is to be well connected and how much of a difference it makes to outlook on life, everyday experiences and happiness in general. No, I'm not talking about 'connected' to the Internet and its various tools of connectivity at all. What I'm talking about is that deep connection we have with the people we love, primarily our partners, or spouses, and children.

 

You know when things start to feel overwhelming, when life seems too busy and too noisy, and pretty much just plain hard work? When little things bother you way more than than you know they should, when negatives are magnified and positives seem almost non-existent? Well I wonder, in those times, if you stopped for a moment and honestly assessed how connected you are to your spouse, partner, significant others, kids, friends etc what you'd find. I wonder because I think there is a distinct and definite connection between how connected we are to our key people and how happy, resilient and positive we feel.

 

My husband and I had drifted and our 'connection', our tuning in to each other and giving to each other had ebbed away. It happens in a busy life, doesn't it? The tide's going out and things just don't feel as good as they should. You lose your zing. But then we talked, we got back on the same page and we reinvigorated ourselves with the motivation to GIVE to each other again and what a difference!

 

It’s amazing how much of a difference being aware of and taking notice of this can make. I think that often all those annoying things, all that feeling of overwhelm and of things being just a bit too hard are not the things themselves, right? We know this; it depends on our state of mind, our perspective. But consider how much being deeply connected to our number 1 people can totally change that perspective - it's MASSIVE. It's like having a team, that we're not alone, and being reminded of that, somehow, can suddenly make things seem exciting again.

 

And the best bit about it is that we can instantly turn that connectivity up a notch by giving. Do something beautiful for your partner, listen to your kids, give of yourself, and your connectivity instantly increases and so does your perspective. It is not out of our control - we get to create our level of connectivity and our perspective. Next time I'm feeling low, or overwhelmed, or unmotivated with life in general and it all feels a bit too hard, I’m really going to try to remember simply reconnecting as a strategy. Give of myself, be of service to those I love, show them I love them, open up, invite them in, reconnect. When I nurture my deep connections with the people I love, my perspective and my life changes. I love that because not only is it truly win-win, but completely within my control at any point in time and in any situation.

 

This is new for me, but I see it’s a habit worth cultivating. I know that when I’m feeling cranky, frustrated and negative, the last thing I want to do is connect with anyone. My internal rage is telling me it’s all their fault, whoever ‘they’ are, and that if they could only see all they owe me for causing me to feel so upset, then I might start to feel better. How unrealistic! Like scratching a mozzie bite; if I just scratch a bit longer, it’ll just stop itching. Wrong! If you scratch a bit longer, it’ll get itchier and you’ll end up with a sore and later a scar. You need to go in a totally different direction, put your mind to something different.

 

It’s time to re-wire and make new brain pathways, for me anyway. Imagine understanding that feeling frustrated and negative and cranky were symptoms of not having my desires met. My desire to feel understood, like I matter, that I’m appreciated, that I bring value to the world and to the people I love, and that I am loved and accepted. What if I knew that at the heart of all the superficial goings on and ups and downs of life, that I feel good when these desires are met and crappy when they’re not. And what if when I knew that when they are not being met, that I could simply reach out and seek connection to change my perspective and realign my outlook, and therefore the way I felt. I imagine that’d be a pretty worthwhile thing to practise.

 

So I tell you what; I’ll try this for one whole day tomorrow and then report back to let you know how I went. That is, I’ll practise two things tomorrow; 1, the awareness of my negative feelings and my inner desires not being met, and 2, taking the action of seeking connection as the antidote instead on focusing on the negative. In other words, I’ll try to find ways to fulfil the desires that aren’t being met. That is, I’ll not scratch, but seek connection through giving that which I wish to receive instead. 

Photo credit: Felipe Bastos via Flickr

Connecting on Facebook isn't real connection

Ok so we've all heard it a million times, connecting with people via social media isn't 'real' connection, right? Well, yes that is right, we probably have all heard that before, but is it right? Are social media connections false connections? I would say yes, of course they’re false if they’re false. Unless the connection is ... real. 

 

Whether it's via Facebook, or in a supermarket, over dinner, via email, a game of golf, a telephone call, or text messages, whether the connection between people is real or not has less to do with the medium through which it's conducted and more to do with authentic engagement.

 

For a start, you can't connect with Facebook because Facebook's not a person. We connect with other people. It's a big part of what makes us human. Nothing new. And we 've always needed avenues to facilitate connection, which before technology even existed were all physical, face-to-face interactions, then encompassed written interactions, and eventually telephone interactions. 

 

So without technology you could pretty much talk directly to someone, or write to them, but does that mean that all interactions were 'real'? Real in the sense that they were genuine, authentic and honest engagement between two or more people. Not necessarily. I mean you can be as fake in real life as you can be over the phone, or in a letter, or email, or on Facebook, can't you? You can be dismissive, pompous, guarded, rude and pretentious on the phone, or over a meal, or a game of golf, and you don't even need a selfie to back it up. It's just that sometimes that's the way we are. We're human.

 

But the truth is that since technology has advanced to the point of endowing us with a plethora of tools and vehicles for connection, we're spoilt for choice. Connection is everywhere, on everything, available always and never switches off if you let it. We've got all the stuff we had before; there's still golf and phones (for talking), and letters and supermarkets and dinners and emails and all that, it's just that there's a whole lot more on top.

 

So you see, it's not that social media, or any other conduit for that matter, is not conducive to 'real' connection, it's just that we're still adapting to so many opportunities for connection being available. What this does is makes us 'connect', or be engaged in some form of social conduit constantly, because remember all the old ones still exist, but we've just got technology on top.

 

Always 'on' means we're not always engaging genuinely and authentically and when that happens, you don't have a 'real' connection. 'Real' connection doesn't have to be face to face, it doesn't have to be voice to voice or even one to one, it just has to achieve connection where two or more people are authentically engaged. You can achieve that on Facebook, just like you can achieve it over the phone or at the supermarket or by writing a book.

 

Social media is just another tool for human connection. Whether that connection is real or not depends on the humans participating in that engagement, not the conduit. Sure, we've never before been more overwhelmed and possibly overburdened by the opportunities for connection, but the quality of the connection itself still comes down to how human beings engage and communicate with one another.

 

You can make real and genuine connections on social media. It's all in the way you use it. For some people it's one of the only way they can make connections with people. Take people who are geographically isolated. Situationally isolated by illness or disability, either their own or otherwise. People who are shy or introverted. Who feel overwhelmed by physical interactions with others. So because they connect with others via social media, their connections aren't real? Ridiculous. I'm sure the the same was said about telephone conversations when they were first invented too, and you know what? Some people still believe it. And that's because your preference for connection is a matter of opinion, but the quality or the 'realness' of that connection depends on you and who you're connecting with, not the medium. Always has, always will. 

Connection requires empathy

Does it? Really? 

 

Absolutely it does and if, when you read that initially, you’re feeling a bit of resistance to the idea, I think it’s probably because most of the time we’re unaware of our empathy for others. Most of the time, it goes unnoticed because it’s pretty natural. Most of the time. But not all of the time. We notice the problem though when there’s a lack of empathy and the primary reason we notice it is because it inhibits connection. Connection feels good, lack of connection or disconnection feels yucky.

 

When we really connect with another person, or even when a group is really connected, there’s a feeling of shared understanding. I feel understood and I feel like I understand you. This makes us feel comfortable, accepted and like we belong. We humans love to feel this way, it’s nice and it’s healthy, and it’s essential to growth and getting through traumatic things that happen to us. It’s why we have friends and want to find more, why we join clubs, play sport, volunteer and share our experiences through writing etc.

 

Sometimes though, you get that feeling that you just can’t connect with someone. You just don’t ‘get’ them and they apparently don’t ‘get’ you either. That’s fine, that’s life. It happens and it doesn’t matter, it’s all part of the greater scheme of things. But sometimes it does matter. It matters whether you connect with certain people or not. It matters because you care about them and therefore you want to connect with them, but perhaps you just don’t understand them. This can be especially confusing when you don’t like, or agree with their behaviour, or decisions.

 

Sometimes what’s going on is that you’re trying to understand them, what they’re saying, what they’re going through, the way they think, before you empathise with them. It’s like using understanding as a filter. Like saying, “If I could just make sense and understand you, then maybe I could empathise with you …”. But the problem is that mostly we use understanding as a logical tool, and empathy, which is critical to connection, is a feeling, and that means making empathy dependent on logic is going to fail.

 

Using logical understanding as a qualifier for empathy means that we essentially want the other person to explain their own thoughts and feelings in a way that ticks the boxes and meets our criteria. It assumes that understanding is essential for empathy, but it’s not. And the thing is that if you block empathy, or apply ‘qualification rules’ to empathy, you miss out on connection.

 

The reason this is true is that logic is limitless and subjective. You can make endless logical arguments for a endless amounts of things in the world. You can explain and explain and explain, and still you’d never get everyone on the same page about this or that. But empathy is based on human emotion and there aren’t too many of those. Yes, of course there are extremes of the same emotion and emotions get tangled up with one another, I know, but at the end of the day, humans feel the same things. No one is inventing new emotions. No one feels something that no one else in the world has never before felt. This is why we can empathise. It’s part of what makes us human. But we shouldn’t make our friends and the ones we love qualify for that empathy through logical understanding.

 

There are times when our desire for logic impedes our human intuition to love and connect with one another. I don’t know what it’s like to care for a mentally disabled child day in, day out. I don’t know what it’s like to balance a high-powered career with being a mother. I don’t know what it’s like to be an 8-year-old boy struggling with bullying. But I do know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and depressed. I do know what it’s like to feel intense anger and fear so strong it can’t be repressed. I know what it’s like to feel like no one could ever possibly understand. I know what it’s like to wish that someone did, but more than that, that even if they couldn’t understand, that they’d love me anyway.

 

This is the point of empathy, this is the beauty of empathy and this is why connection requires empathy. Don’t miss out that connection because somehow it seems that you have to qualify empathy - you don’t. Give it freely. Forget the circumstances, none of those are ever quite the same, but the underlying emotions usually, if not, always are the same. We all need someone to care for us and love us whether they understand us completely or not.

 

Empathy is something to be given freely. It’s what it was designed for. 

 

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mythoto/7573314434/">Leonard John Matthews</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Connection, and how some is better than none

I'm pretty fascinated by connection. Connection as in people-to-people connections with one another, ... and I should apologise in advance because I'm not sure how well I can organise my thoughts, let alone articulate them well enough for you to make sense of them, but I really want to try. The idea has been on my mind for about a year now and it's not going away! I see its effects, its magic, everywhere and I'm super-conscious of my own feelings and experiences with it. I notice its power in different ways, surprisingly small, yet powerful ways and I'm fascinated with how people, including myself, resist it while others crave it, and yet that as humans, we all need it like water and oxygen.

 

I am an introvert. What that means to me is that I need more time on my own than I need to be with other people. I don't think anyone is either an introvert or an extrovert, but rather that we all tend to prefer life somewhere on the introvert/extravert continuum and for most that place is more skewed one way or the other. Because I am more skewed toward introversion, I am more inclined to spend time on my own and sometimes feel a reasonable amount of resistance to social invitations. Admittedly, there are times when invitations feel more like obligations for me and I do struggle with guilt about feeling that way, especially when I really genuinely like the person or people. I'd just rather be on my own most of the time.

 

So hopefully I've framed that well enough to now point out the really fascinating thing; yep, you might have guessed it ... that regardless of the resistance I may feel in approaching or committing to some sort of social event, meeting or use of my time, I mostly always feel better for having done it. In the end, it's good to connect with people and it seems that for all of my feelings of resistance, it's something that stimulates, enlivens and even inspires me.

 

I wonder how much of this resistance has to do with having introverted preferences and whether that introversion has any relationship to the 'lone wolf' mentality? For me, I think the 'lone wolf' mentality is a product of not understanding myself and my introverted preferences enough. Not understanding that I need more time alone than with other people meant it was very hard to understand what that resistance was. Not understanding meant I would feel things like obligation and then resentment, and also overwhelm at the thought of managing these relationships and friendships. These negative associations with friendships and socialising encouraged the 'lone wolf' thinking to set in because it helped me, erroneously, to understand why I was feeling this way. The lone wolf can be a bit stroppy and starts thinking it doesn't actually need all these friends ... why would you with all this negative energy surrounding the inputs to those friendships?

 

But you know that whenever there's negativity around something, it usually means something's wrong. There's resistance to something that identified clearly and worked out properly will be much better and well worth the discomfort. It took a long time, but I began to realise that being a lone wolf wasn't for me and that actually I did like connecting with people and being social so what was the problem? It was simply understanding that I needed more time by myself than I did with fiends and that in order to enjoy friends and all the benefits of being connected to people, I had to make sure I had enough time on my own as well, and often first.

 

It was no longer black and white - I am not a lone wolf and I am not a complete introvert, I just needed to acknowledge and accept that I like lots of time on my own. Not that I didn't want to connect, not that I didn't need to connect, not that I didn't want or like friends even, and not that having them was an overwhelming responsibility ... just that I needed to stop, understand and accept the amount of time I needed to balance that with being on my own.

 

Since coming to that understanding and acceptance, I have felt so much more relaxed around people and have been able to enjoy their company much more by being fully present. And do you know what that means? Do you know what that facilitates? .... Deeper, more meaningful and fulfilling connections that make me feel alive, inspired and like I belong. Isn't that just the most beautiful and fascinating thing?