“We get to stay in a hotel tonight” A young girl, maybe around 5 or 6, announced to me excitedly, her small suitcase and bear in hand as her parents unloaded the car in the parking lot of the Marriott where I was also staying.
“Oh really?” I replied excitedly, as I paused in my mission to grab something from my car, happy to engage and totally caught up in her enthusiasm. “Have you been in a hotel before?”
“Yeah!” She said, as her smile got impossibly and contagiously big. “We are staying on the second floor!”
“Really?” I asked, noticing her brother running around the car to engage too. “Do you get to go to the pool too?”
“We are staying for two days!” He chimed in as she nodded her head joyfully, perhaps in response to the pool question.
What a couple of cuties! Kids are so great at engaging and connecting authentically when they are excited. I felt a rush of love and joy and I kept talking to them, seeing my hotel stay through new eyes of excitement and possibility.
“Leave the nice lady alone.” The mom chimed in suddenly, a tired warning in her voice as she yawned and looked at me sympathetically, perhaps apologetically, as if her kids were being naughty and I was more than considerate to put up with their chatter.
“Oh no, this is great!” I said, even as I realized maybe that was her transition to get them moving out of the parking lot towards the room itself. I felt the energy in me change from happiness to sadness almost instantly.
Are we so isolated these days we are teaching our kids not to engage or interact? That their excitement shouldn’t be shared? That talking to others is “bothering them” and it’s best to stay silent an in your own lane?
I know I’ve been hypersensitive to the awkwardness presenting itself as people try to engage with strangers these days. As if anything we say can and will be attacked or scorned, debated or opposed.
But what if I don’t want to be left alone? What if I am desperate for engagement, for excitement, for someone to remind me there is passion and joy out there in the simple things? What if I want to be looked at and smiled at and acknowledged, even if only for a moment in a grocery store?
Have we become so used to isolation, hiding, being socially distanced (for real, not just in physicality) that we have lost our desire and ability to just greet another person with a nod or a smile or even, God Forbid, a bit of laughter or a touch?
I thought I was going to the store to buy chocolate. Instead, my mission was to help another person.
Have you ever had a moment where you realized something higher was guiding you? Maybe you called it coincidence, or “right place, right time.” Maybe you heard one phrase that changed you or everything you believed about life.
I had a lovely dinner with my friend in Iowa tonight. Even though I ate light, I ate a ton and was really full. Therefore I was surprised by the strong urge to go to the grocery store. I checked in with my body. Nope, not craving anything.
I decided I had just sat too much and what my body needed was a walk as the clouds reflected the sunset in a deep red hue. Yet, I still navigated to the grocery store.
I stood staring at the chocolate, realizing nothing really sounded good (I know- what happened to me!!!)
Suddenly, a woman started sobbing halfway down the isle. Heart-breaking, life-ending kinds of sobs. You know, like the ones in the movies where patrons get brought to tears too? Where your heart hurts just hearing the sound?
I turned towards her, and watched as people pointedly ignored her. In fact, some walked past pretending they were SUPER interested in things on the shelf opposite her. She lowered her phone from her ear and her head followed, finding a resting spot on the handle of her cart. I’m sure she didn’t even notice the lack of curiosity, compassion, empathy, or humanity around her.
She didn’t notice my approach, so I asked, “Are you okay?” She kept sobbing, and I placed a gentle hand on her shoulder for whatever level of comfort and connection I could offer. Finally, she brought her head up and shared that she just found out her best friend had died. In broken English she told me that once, a long time ago, they were engaged. She didn’t know the details yet as she couldn’t reach the family.
I did what I do best- offered a hug. She fell into my arms and sobbed for a while as I just supported and gave her all the love and healing I could channel through me.
When we parted, she thanked me profusely a few times. I am the one who should thank her. I learned a lot from that interaction. Remembering a time when a stranger comforted me when I was sad in an airport in Ireland, I thought about the power of reaching out to a fellow human (whether we know them or not). Why don’t we?
Are we afraid they will get angry or that we will get caught listening to their ‘sob story’ for hours? Can we not be bothered to show a minute’s compassion for someone in pain? For our friends, do we just say, “Hey, call if you need anything. I’m here for you.” and walk away feeling as if we’ve done our part as we leave them the responsibility of reaching out when they are in the midst of emotional upheaval?
Perhaps instead we give them a short, “I’m sorry” on their facebook page and scroll on as if we’ve really made any difference.
I was reassured that the book I wrote recently about how polarized and scared our society has become to communicate and interact was divinely inspired. Chocolate wasn’t the reason of my journey tonight. Most importantly, I was sent to the store to help a fellow human who needed a moment of understanding, of acceptance, and of unconditional love. Above all, I think we’ve lost our capacity to approach each other with curiosity and openness. Like this SNL skit, we are reactive instead of compassionate.
Have you ever been pushed out of or separated from a group that you really felt part of? Maybe you have experienced this in sports, in school, in religious community, in friendships, in your neighborhood, or over this pandemic. I’ve worked with people who have had this painful experience, but only recently has it happened to me in a way that broke my heart.
Break-up x 100 = Devastation
I’m surprisingly devastated, and it’s like 100 friends have broken up with me at the same time. To be honest, this group that I perceived and experienced as loving and spiritual has its own agenda. They schedule things and then move them with little to no notice (which is what happened.)
I Paid to Be Part of Something
I planned my travel and my whole work schedule around this spiritual journey; the time it is offered has been moved with only five days notice. Instead of participating in the 25 classes in-person where I can ask questions and build relationships, I now will have to watch the replays.
It feels disrespectful and personal, even though it has nothing to do with me. The odd thing is, many of the communities I have been part of have pushed me away, attacked me, or shamed me recently. Enough that I got very ill and depressed and was unable to function for days. I sat on the earth one day and observed myself and how I was feeling and thought, “Is this how people feel when they decide to commit suicide?” Although I wasn’t suicidal, I had never felt the depth of hopelessness I did in that moment. I questioned everything I was doing in the world as well as my purpose in it.
What’s the Lesson?
I’m trying to figure that out. As a person who really loves people, who is writing a book on the importance of community and connection and communication and empathy and love, it almost feels like a test. Do I believe what I say? Or am I the painter who never paints her house? Perhaps I talk so much about love and connection because I am trying to create it for myself.
Is It Safe To Love?
Is it worth the heartbreak? Am I expecting too much of my fellow humans? I don’t think so. I do think at the core everyone wants to be loved. Individuals are loveable. But so many messages from our infancy on teach us that love is conditional. We are not enough. Love isn’t to be trusted. Community is a place you go to find others, but must ‘Do’ to be ‘part of’.
Creating a Powerful Story
After writing this, I am considering the possibility that I am experiencing these losses over and over so I can channel the isolation energy as I write this book. I was fairly sheltered during the pandemic, but this mirrors many of the experiences of those I have talked to.
Doing My Work
I’ve already done some EFT Tapping around it and prayerful meditation. That’s when I decided to write this blog. Now, I’m off to do yoga and move the rest of this energy out before I continue to write my book.
Do You Resonate?
I’d love to hear your stories about connection and disconnection, loneliness and isolation. It is something we all experience sometimes, so why don’t we talk about it more? How do you find ways to connect when you feel like no one cares? Drop me a line. Let’s chat.
I went to my parents’ house out in the country and took a hike into the back hills where I used to frolic as a child. Memories came flooding back as I wandered through the open, snowy woods.
I remembered the neighbor, Ms. Mueller, who I had been told was a survivor from World War II and the Nazi camps. She lived up the hill behind our house on her own, windows covered with black garbage bags. I was always told not to bother her, yet if I saw her outside of her house curiosity would win over and I’d talk to her. She was very kind, if not a little strange. My dad would tell me that was part of her PTSD, but I didn’t really know what that meant.
For the Love of A Child
In elementary school one year we made paper May Day baskets, decorated them with crayon, and filled them with candy. I decided I wanted to give a basket to her; perhaps she was lonely and need some drawings for her refrigerator. I hung it on her doorknob and knocked on her door and ran into the woods to watch, terrified and excited. Would she be angry for being disturbed? I didn’t even know which of her two doors she used. I waited for a while, then ran up again and knocked on the other door even harder, confused at the lack of response. She never answered the door, and I left a bit disappointed, but hopeful she would find it later.
Home Has Changed
The structure of the forest has changed. I searched for the tree where I used to hide out and read books in my dad’s deer stand. (Around the age of 8 I “ran away” and was determined I’d live there to show my mom how much I didn’t need her rules.) The sacred meadow where I used to sit on the rock and overlook the cow pasture is now full of bushes and trees and thorns. A temporary deer stand exists elsewhere, ladder propped against a young vital tree that can hold the weight.
Can You Go Home Again?
When I come here and go into the woods, I remember the simple innocence; the comfort of wanting to be away but knowing I had a place to return to where I was loved. I think about all those who don’t have that right now and feel trapped in houses with people who don’t love them.
The water is off. I know 20 years ago I could have walked to any neighbor’s house to refill the water jugs. I’m sure I still could, but it feels different doing it now, since I don’t know the neighbors, than it did when I could bike to the neighboring farm to ask for a cup of sugar for my mom. Why is that? Has living in the city and owning my own house and seeing the separation of the world taken away my ability to knock on someone’s door? Maybe I should tap on that.
Have Neighborly Ways Changed?
I’m not scared and I know I won’t get hurt. It’s almost as if there’s an unwritten social rule. I guess I could go knock and introduce myself. I don’t know why asking for water seems like a harder step. If I were in a foreign country, I probably would, as if being a foreigner excuses my need. But I’m home, aren’t I?
I’ve Changed More Than Home Has
As I followed the deer paths, the landscape no longer looked familiar to me. I remember coming here when I was 24. I think it’s the last time I was out here. My cat had died unexpectedly in front of me the same day I broke up with a boyfriend.
I had returned to bury my cat next to my childhood dog, and took to the woods to heal my broken heart. I sat on a fallen tree, laid down and promptly fell asleep. The sun was in a different space when I awoke, and a deer was calmly grazing nearby. She looked at me as I rolled my head to look at her more clearly, and we shared a moment together. She kept eating, and slowly ambled away. It connected me to what’s real.
What’s My Point?
It was a reminder connection and love is eternal, no matter how painful it can be. Peace can be found in gentle moments, no matter where home is or isn’t. Even in the grief of a death, even when all feels lost, there is still the part of self that grew from that connection.
That’s what I choose to take back with me to the city. Stillness. Hope. Knowledge that beauty is unfolding and will expose itself when this part of the journey is done.
What is Home for You?
If you are struggling with connection in your family relationships, whether in or out of your current home, I can help. EFT tapping is amazing at helping move through feelings of disconnection, anger, loneliness, betrayal, stress, and feelings of lack of intimacy. Reach out for a free health and healing strategy session and let’s figure out how to make you find that feeling that home is safe and calm for you.
I am having WAY too much fun connecting and collaborating these days–even without touch.
When the first round of stay-at-home orders hit, I was thrilled to use my “free time” to be on zoom about twelve hours a day. I was co-writing another book, networking with my two favorite networking groups, as well as having online connects personally with those I kept intending to build relationships with.
Computers drain my energy. They make me irritable and restless if I’m not also doing regular exercise. At the time, I was busy pouting over a sprained ankle and a shoulder injury, so wasn’t working out. The only things that kept me sane were hugs from my roommate + a newfound coffee and chocolate compulsion. It was not the best choice for my physical health. Emotionally they helped, as coffee reminded me of friends in Europe.
Can you ask for what you need in this time? Can you let go of any fear and understand that healthy touch actually boosts the immune system? Seriously-they did a study exposing people to the flu and found the more hugs and better social support, the less likely people were to get sick.
When you see friends ask, “Would you like a handshake? Hug? Or for me to say six feet away?” It shows respect + you get to only throw in the options that suit you. You can also make it playful, “Are you receiving hugs today?” Instead of having an awkward moment, take charge and choose to connect.
If you need a hug or some healthy human contact, you know where to find me.
Two weeks of self-imposed peaceful isolation to write my book on community bonding and touch has created a bit of loneliness in my heart. This morning, I made the choice to open Facebook and catch up on my dear friends and family. As I scrolled down the feed, my heart sank and tears came to my eyes as I saw how people were choosing to communicate.
How on earth am I supposed to help us connect with each other when we cannot even use civil tones with each other on social media? I sighed, as I scanned faster to avoid the barrage of hatred laid out in front of me.
People cheat, people lie, people do bad things—not liberals, not conservatives, not whites, not gays, not the immigrants, not the millennials, not the elderly. There are hate groups, of course, but in general communities of all styles, individuals make these choices, the same way my individual friends make the choice to use tones of hatred.
goal seeming suddenly hopeless, I stepped away from my computer and wandered
aimlessly around the small house in the Norwegian valley. The windows offered the same view to the
beautiful mountains, and the sound of the waters rushing down them hadn’t
changed, but it all seemed suddenly worthless.
My mind drifted back to an exercise at my Blandin Community Leadership training. If only people understood how much our beliefs are actually part of our brain function.
“I am going to put you into groups based upon your Meyers Briggs results and have each group figure a way to solve this problem.” One of the Blandin Foundation program leaders said, standing in the middle of the U-shaped table formation near the front of the room.
rural community leaders, a variety of ages, backgrounds, gender and race had
been chosen after a lengthy application process to learn to build and sustain a
healthy community. We were learning
about ourselves, where individual and organizational blind spots may be, how we
interact with others, how to see problems from a higher perspective, how to build positive social structures, and
how to resolve conflict. Quite an undertaking for a five-day retreat.
should be interesting, I thought, as she divided us into three groups. The last
few exercises taught us all a lot about individual roles and reactions, but
this is the first big group problem-solving exercise. I smiled as everyone
stood up and a cheerful buzz filled the room, as people grabbed their materials
and re-organized themselves.
the situation,” she interrupted the chatter as people organized into smaller
circles, “You are on the board of
directors of a nonprofit organization.
Your bookkeeper, a volunteer who has been loyal, accurate, and timely
for 15 years, suddenly starts making mistakes in the financials. The mistakes seem to be growing slowly, and
one day it is brought to your attention that someone smelled alcohol on her
breath while she was at the office. What
do you do?”
stepped back and smiled knowingly. “Does
anyone need me to read that again?”
not quite as challenging as I anticipated, I thought as I turned back to my group
with a thoughtful look on my face, I already know what my plan of action
of course we need to have a conversation with her,” one member piped up right
away. “We don’t know what’s going on or
if it’s true she really had been drinking.”
“She is a volunteer,” another person chimed in. “But we do have a duty to our organization, especially when it comes to finances.”
we definitely cannot sacrifice our organization if she isn’t able to continue
here duties well, but if she needs a bit of time away from the job to deal with
a personal issue, we could find another person to help temporarily,” the next
this is easy, I
sat up straighter and looked around the rest of the conference room to see how
the other two groups seemed to be getting on. Looks like there’s a lot of
agreement in the other two groups as well, I noted, people are smiling and nodding and
seem enthusiastic with their hand gestures—-at least the extroverts.
giggled to myself. Blandin had broken
our 16 types down into sub-types, giving us further insight to each category,
and I could see that playing out in the room. Our group is much smaller than
each of the other two, I noted. We only have about ten, and the other
two are around twenty people each. That
must make it a bit more difficult to come to a resolution.
have three minutes left. Please pick
someone from your group to present your decision to the group.” The leader interrupted loudly over the
hastily picked a leader, had her summarize our final decision to us quickly,
and turned to the front of the room, waiting.
“Group one, please present your results.”
A prominent businesswoman stood up and projected the decision easily and clearly over the group. “As the board of directors, we have no choice but to terminate her volunteer position immediately and find a replacement. We cannot tolerate any financial impropriety in the organization, as it could cause a negative impact on our nonprofit status, our revenue, and the community trust in our organization.”
that is super harsh, I
thought, stunned. No communication?
No making sure that there wasn’t some other error in the system or an
update that wasn’t her fault that was creating the errors? Wow. So much for years of loyalty. I know how much time that stuff can take.
three, go ahead,” the leader interrupted my thoughts as I shook my head and
turned my body the other direction to hear the verdict from the other side of
the executive director of a nonprofit stood and faced the group. “She has had 15 years of loyal service. We thought it was in our best interest to sit
down and have a conversation with her, offer her help, see if the matter was
one in which she wanted to leave the position temporarily or permanently. We will give her support in finding help with
her drinking if that is necessary, and do what we can to get her back on track. She is a volunteer after all, and we don’t
need to jump to harsh conclusions or actions until we understand the totality
of the problem.” She sat back down.
that doesn’t seem to protect the organization fast, and is completely opposite
of the first group’s answer.
2?” The leader prompted.
Our spokeswoman, who worked for a large corporation, stood up and announced our decision, an exact blend of the other two. Starting with compassion and curiosity, and if the issue wasn’t fixed, to take strong disciplinary action.
brain wiring determines how we make these kinds of decisions. Holy crap. And my group’s brain wiring has a blend of
both sides, which is why we are smaller and have a blend of both answers.
understanding hit me as ways to increase communication and synergy to pull two
conflicting sides together became clear.
How Do You Choose to Communicate?
Nature and nurture both influence how we see and interact with the world as individuals. The drama in the media of all sides now shapes the tone and grace, or lack thereof, in which individuals choose to share their opinions and the stories they hear.
mom told me that if I can’t say anything nice—-don’t say anything at all. I don’t believe that is true. Communication is necessary for a vibrant
community. We need to be able to
disagree, to have respectful conflict, to speak our minds, to share what is
disturbing us and why. However, it can
be done in a curious, educational, and amicable way. Are there people spouting melodrama and
hatred out there? Of course. Does that mean you need to match their
tone? Absolutely not.
If something someone says triggers you and makes you extremely angry, is there a way to pause, take a breath, and reply in a manner or tone that conveys your disagreement in a way that opens communication? What kind of attitude and tone opens you to listening to an opposing point of view? Try using that.
My Question/ Challenge for You
my challenge for you this week. Whether
it’s a disagreement with your child, your coworker, your friend, or on social
media, take a breath. Realize that
everyone has a right to their own opinion, no matter what information or lack
thereof informs it. You may not be able
to change someone’s mind, but you won’t for sure if you attack them. Ignore those who haven’t learned these lessons
yet, except to prompt them to please use a different tone.
give ourselves a chance to heal our communities and our relationships. Let’s
say what we need to, nicely.