Love and Loneliness: The Importance of Connection

 

Photo Credit: Ashley Bliss

Photo Credit: Ashley Bliss

A friend of mine sent me this link a while ago: When Loneliness During Parenting Feels Like Too Much. I’ve been struggling with loneliness for the past 6 years, since the birth of my first child. The life of a stay-at-home-parent of a high-needs/special-needs kid is intense. Add to that the lack of a strong in-person support network and no extra cash for things like hiring a babysitter and the intensity of the isolation skyrockets. It wasn’t until this past year that I realized how astoundingly lonely I’ve been all these years, and it wasn’t until I began writing this that I realized that I’ve been struggling with loneliness for most of my life.

I recently read an article entitled The Lethality of Loneliness, by Judith Shulevitz, and it really moved me. Yes, there were parts I didn’t entirely agree with — I have some issues with how the author handled part of the section about motherhood, and her comment on autism was flippant and misplaced. But the core of the article is sound.

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Learning how to scare people in one simple but not easy lesson

Sitting on the patio, the sun has warmed my hair. It has been far too cold this Canadian June and I yearn to head south for the warmth of climate, family and friends I’ve been missing for far too long.

I’ve been reading Love 2.0 and am learning that, on a biological level, face time with people we care about is as important as we believe it to be. I’ve been working on synthesizing some of the material in this book along with several articles that all seem to play off each other, but it’s been slow-going because I keep finding more information in this book that I want to share with everyone. I feel like it’s totally ground-breaking, as far as how we need to shift our perspective on the L-word.

Incorporating this new information into my own life, I’m learning that we hold ourselves back so frequently. Between what I’m learning in this book and really taking to heart the quote from Don Miguel Ruiz: “There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally,” I’m learning to throw caution to the wind and be direct and forward with what I want out of life.

It scares the shit out of people.

Me Phobia

 

 

I’m learning not to be afraid of myself and the effects I have on people. In my journey of becoming more of who I am, as well as in my journey of learning how to heal (both myself and others), not being afraid of my innate power is vital.

We ALL deal with Me Phobia… haha, I should clarify that by saying we’re all afraid of ourselves, not that all y’all are afraid of ME. (though maybe you should be! *steeples fingers* Muahahahahahahaaa!!!)

And not only are we afraid of ourselves but many times, we can be afraid of others who are actively overcoming their own fear of self. Like I mentioned up screen, it scares people. A friend of mine told me a story a few weeks ago about how an acquaintance of hers told her she just couldn’t hang out with her anymore because her light was so bright. For real. I barely knew what to say because it was the first time I’d heard of anyone actually owning up to being afraid and subsequently letting that stop them from continuing to be around a particular person because the person was too comfortable with themselves and therefore too blindingly awesome. Astounding. Truly. I am shocked at all the ways we let fear limit our too-short experience of life on this planet.

The graphic above really reminds me of the Marianne Williamson quote:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Playing small does not serve the world, neither does it serve me or you. I used to be so much more neurotic and anxious than I am now and I find I like myself better now than I did then. I don’t fret nearly as much as I used to, which is not to say I don’t still make mountains out of molehills, just that I do it far less frequently.

We are liberated when we allow ourselves the freedom of taking nothing personally. When we realize that it’s them, not us (for the most part, within reason — if you’re being a racist asshole or a victim-blaming, rape culture sympathizer, etc., then it’s you, not them) — but if you’re being a generally stand-up person sticking to your integrity and life-affirming, accepting ethics, and someone is put off by you, then that’s them, not you. We can all learn to respect one another, even if we’re not in accordance with each other. We all dance to the beat of a different drum and one of the most amazing things about life here is that we can sync up with each other occasionally and have amazing times together. And other times, the syncopation of another’s beat to our own provides us opportunities to stretch ourselves and grow.

When I realize that my directness, even if tactful, heartfelt and honest, can be seriously off-putting for some, that means not that I need to stop being that way, but that I need to be patient. I can soften the harsher edges of my communication style if I want, but I don’t need to bend over backwards just to get them to like me or not be put off by me. If they’re able to meet me where I am, then we can have a hell of a lot of fun together. If they’re not ready for me, then that’s the path they need to walk. It does not mean I need to play small to suit their needs. If I spend my life conforming to others, I lose the beauty of who I am.

This is partly where face time can come into play. All too often, I’ve had the experience of trying to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in a very very long time (thanks, Facebook!) and while I’m very similar to who I used to be, in many ways, I’m very different. And without all of the benefits that live, visual interaction can give, with vocal nuances, facial expressions, and eye contact, when it’s just text on screen, it’s really damned difficult to show all those things that help animate that text and situate it more appropriately. Soften it, in my case, or give it an edge or emphasis it otherwise lacks without face time.

That said, people are either going to gel with me or they’re not. And sometimes face time isn’t really necessary to feel like you get where the person is coming from. This is how authors can create characters we fall in love with or despise. This is how we make friends online. Life is so full of ways we can connect with each other and I’m learning that what that connection is is love. Love is connection. This is what Fredrickson has discovered and has written about in Love 2.0. Love is connection.

And this is an ongoing exploration of why we are so threatened by connecting with who we are and connecting with other people in real, honest, and direct ways.

We are always evolving and life is a journey of learning who we are. When we are able to be at peace with the journey of ourselves, so many opportunities for real connections with others open up and life becomes a series of joyful moments strung together by a sense of security in who we are.

Few of us are really there, but it’s a place I catch glimpses of every now and again. It feels real and fulfilling, and so I keep striving to learn how to stay longer. To learn how to quiet the ego’s incessant and droning chant of inadequacy.

This is not to say that life will never be hard or troubling or upsetting. No. What it means in learning to connect with ourselves and really love ourselves — love who we are — is that we are more able to take things as they come with the added perspective of being comfortable in our own skin, in the relationship we each have with ourselves, and a detachment from taking things personally. We’re more able to understand that others are on their own path and there is far less judgment of others in understanding that simple fact. And with less judgment, there is automatically more compassion.

Becoming comfortable with who you are allows for greater compassion for others.

Connecting with who you are allows for more potent connections with others.

Loving who you are allows you to love others more freely and honestly.

 

Why does this scare us?

 

It scares us because we conflate love with commitment. It scares us because we listen to our ego-based intellect more than we listen to our body-based heart. It scares us because we let ourselves be limited and let fear diminish our perspective in this world.

 

So how do we scare people in one simple but not easy lesson? Get over our fear of ourselves. When you let your light shine, you will nourish many and blind some who are not yet ready to bask in the awesomeness of you. Ain’t your fault, so don’t take it on.

You gorgeous thing, go love yourself up, now, k?

Love vs Trust

Firstly, a comment: y’know that feeling when you’re writing a thing with other people in mind and then, a couple of days after posting it, you realize you unknowingly wrote it for you? Yeah. That. So I’ve been mulling some things over.

Also! Yay! I picked up Barbara Fredrickson’s Love 2.0 from the library today.

I. Am. Riveted.

I’m so excited about it! I want everyone everyone everyone all over the world to read it! Yay! Yaaaaaaay!

So the first chapter led me to have the following conversation with myself:

Me: If you love someone, there’s an innate trust. If you love someone, you trust them. Right?
Me: What? NO! Let’s back this up. You have kids, right? Do you trust them? Do you trust a tiny baby?
Me: Trust them to do what?!
Me: Exactly. What about if your mother is senile or you have a kindly but only quasi-functional alcoholic father? Do you trust them?
Me: No. Ok, it depends. But generally, no.
Me: Can you still love them?
Me: Of course!

[time passes]

Me: What about the other way around? Do you automatically love someone if you trust them?
Me: No, not necessarily.
Me: *eyes narrow* Oh, really?
Me: Ok, alright. I’m still working this out.

And I am. There’s a lot to unpack about our societal expectations surrounding the interplay of love and all those other emotions that get folded in.

What is trust? Trust is expectation. Or, rather, the anticipation of your expectation(s) being met. I trust that the sun will rise tomorrow. I trust that that red light will change to green. I trust that my mail will get delivered each weekday. Is there love inherent in these things? I can definitely say that I love that the sun comes up each morning, that I love all the sun does for life here on Earth. I love that we have ways of mitigating traffic confusion and that traffic lights exist and, generally speaking, function pretty reliably. I love, on a poetic level, that stop is only temporary, that go is only temporary, that there are periods of rest and periods of activity and forward momentum and plenty of caution, yielding, and slowing down in the process. I love that there is communication between people, even if it’s a bill for services rendered. I love that there are people who assist in delivering these communications from one place to another. I consider them part of my tribe. They are messengers; my name means messenger, and I identify very strongly with my name.

So there is definitely love intertwined within that trust, but is there a direct correlation?

What happens when trust is broken in a relationship? Does that completely destroy it? It really depends on the people involved, the severity, and the habituation of the infraction. It can destroy a relationship but it doesn’t have to. There have been several articles written about this very thing. This one is about infidelity, which is typically considered the biggest breach of trust in a romantic relationship. When trust is broken in any relationship, the only way to bring it back is through introspection and honest communication.

I want to return to whether there is a direct correlation trust and love, whether trust begets love or whether we can’t trust without love, and whether we’re talking about our standard socio-cultural definition or whether we’re talking about the upgraded Love 2.0 version. That’s another post for another day, though. Consider this a stub. 😉

Redefining Love

10 things you might not know about love
By Barbara Fredrickson

This article from CNN is just a teaser for Fredrickson’s new book, “Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become”. She couches these 10 things as lessons she has learned while writing the book.

Full disclosure: I agree 100% with what she states here in these lessons. I first read this article back in January or February and then again a couple of days ago when a friend posted it on the Book of Faces. I agreed with it the first time and nothing has changed in the past few months to alter that. I haven’t read Fredrickson’s book, but I’ve got it on hold at the library, so, soon.

There are two things that strike me most about these lessons. The first is that I’m completely enamoured of people who are able to find physical, biological evidence of something we generally perceive as intangible. It brings me joy. What? It really does! And no, I haven’t read Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert, yet, but it’s on the list. I have read The Heart’s Code by Dr. Paul Pearsall, which I really enjoyed, despite the leaps of logic in several places. He could have used a more knowledgeable editor to point out some flaws in his arguments (or should have listened better if they were pointed out), but there’s a core element in his research that supports some of what Fredrickson lists in these 10 lessons, namely the link between love and eye-contact and the synchrony of biological functions when love is shared between individuals. I’ll be interested to learn whether she cites any of his work in her book.

The other thing that I really appreciate about Fredrickson’s 10 Lessons is that in presenting her findings, she makes love completely and utterly accessible:

“Love, as your body experiences it, is a micro-moment of connection shared with another.”

“In reality, you can experience micro-moments of connection with anyone — whether your soul mate or a stranger.”

“Love is a biological wave of good feeling and mutual care that rolls through two or more brains and bodies at once.”

This reminds me of a few things Amanda Palmer said in her TED Talk. When she worked as an 8-foot bride, and people dropped in money into her hat or her jar, she would offer a flower and “some intense eye contact.” She then says that she had

“the most profound encounters with people, especially lonely people who looked like they hadn’t talked to anyone in weeks, and we would get this beautiful moment of prolonged eye contact being allowed in a city street, and we would sort of fall in love a little bit. And my eyes would say, ‘Thank you. I see you.’ And their eyes would say, ‘Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.'”

Here we have anecdotal evidence outside of the research of both Pearsall and Fredrickson of eye contact and the emotion of love. Here we have that “micro-moment of connection shared with another”.

When I first heard Palmer’s talk, this part really stood out for me. Anything that makes love more accessible and more universal and not something über special and SCARCE hits me where I live. It speaks to me in a way that resonates so thoroughly as to be unable to deny its inherent truthfulness. Love is a micro-moment of shared connection with someone, no matter who they are. That person on the subway you’ve never seen before and will possibly never see again: your eyes meet theirs for a couple of heartbeats, you both smile, and you both feel brighter, lighter for that moment and a bit thereafter. And it’s an experience you can think of forever after and it can bolster you, lift your spirits. That’s love, plain and simple.

On a personal note, I find it curious that there are certain friendships I have where I feel comfortable telling the other person that I care about them, even care deeply for them, but I don’t want to say that I love them, even though I know that’s exactly what it is. It’s as though that word holds too much baggage and expectation, when it’s just honest truth.

There. Is. So. Much. Cultural. Baggage. Surrounding. Love.

What I find interesting is that the blog post that has, far and away, gotten more hits than any other I have ever posted anywhere is the one entitled, The BS We Believe About Love. It’s still getting looked at over a month later. People are ready for a shift in perspective with respect to how we think about love, and the brilliant article by Justine Musk that I link to in that post really addresses a lot of the baggage we have associated with Love, up to and including the idea of a Soul Mate.

In Fredrickson’s 10 Things article, she writes, “In reality, you can experience micro-moments of connection with anyone — whether your soul mate or a stranger.” Here, Fredrickson is referring to our cultural definition of what a soul mate is — that special person you connect with so well as to believe this person completes you, is your other half, etc.

In her article, Musk references Caroline Myss’s definition of soul mate:

A soulmate is the person who makes your soul grow the most.

A soulmate, she added, could be anyone. Anyone. A lover, a spouse, a friend, a family member…or even an adversary.

I love that she includes adversary here because it’s important that we consider this with respect to people who’ve helped us grow. I would add to Myss’s definition by stating that if love can manifest in a shared micro-moment of connection, then a soul mate can be someone who makes your soul grow the most in that moment, or at that particular time in your life. Someone who provides some sort of insight that really launches you forward on whatever path you’re on. If love can be shared between anyone you can connect with, even so briefly as a shared micro-moment of connectivity, I believe that, as a corollary, a soul mate is anyone who helps further your growth in a profound way but not necessarily “the most” overall. It could be a single positive or negative comment from a teacher, a squeeze of your hand from a nurse during a moment of need that sends you on a cascade of realizations about how connected we all are, a friend who finally accepts your help thus releasing all the pent up assistive energy you’d been holding onto for far too long… It could be all three of these things and so much more.

We have this notion that soul mates are one in a million. They are golden needles in The Grand Haystack of Interpersonal Relationships, the holy grail of quests for each of us. And I won’t buy into it. I can’t. This cultural concept we have about soul mates creates an emotional environment of scarcity and lack, deprivation, depression, profound loneliness, ill-placed expectation. And it makes me believe that we’ve got it all wrong. I really love what Myss has to say about soul mates, but I’m taking it a step further.

If we can have one-night stands and accept those as reality, if we now know that that moment of shared eye contact and mutual smile with a stranger on the street truly is a micro-moment of love — if we can “fall in love a little bit” with an absolute stranger, then I believe we also have the capacity to accept the notion that someone can be our soul mate In That Moment. A shared micro-moment of growth through connectivity.

What this means is that we can have multiple soul mates across the span of a single lifetime. Myss’s definition already removes soul mate from romantic love, but it’s still limited to whomever makes your soul grow “the most”. What about, “the most” that year? Or that week? Or that day? Or that era in your life? Or on that matter that’s been a sticking point for you for the past 3 decades that you’ve finally been able to work through? Challenging our socio-cultural definition of soul mate creates an opportunity for us to expand our definition of both love and connection to the world around us. Both are made more accessible and universal.

Does this, then, cheapen and diminish the concept of soul mate? No. Not inherently. Let’s return to one of the 10 Things from Fredrickson’s article:

8. Don’t take a loving marriage for granted.

Writing this book has profoundly changed my personal view of love. I used to uphold love as that constant, steady force that all but defines my marriage. While that constant, steady force still exists, I now see our bond as a product of the many micro-moments of positivity resonance that my husband and I have shared over the years. This shakes me out of any complacency that tempts me to take our love for granted. Love is something we should re-cultivate every single day.

If love needs to be re-cultivated each and every day, at every opportunity, then this dismisses the idea that if we fall in love with someone then that love will last forever. Divorce statistics and breakups prove this already, but there’s a part of us, generally speaking, that really REALLY wants to believe that love lasts forever between two people, that, if once, then happily ever after. The marketing geniuses at jewelry stores really exploit this romantic ideal and to our collective psycho-emotional detriment. Never mind song writers. And Don’t even get me started on fairy tales and Disney. Not here, not yet. I’m saving that because WOW. I want to be able to do it justice and I haven’t done nearly enough research there.

Love is not a thing that automatically lasts forever between two people. “Love is a biological wave of good feeling and mutual care that rolls through two or more brains and bodies at once.” It is something we can fall into, the way we fall into step with one another. The way we can be on the same wavelength. The way we can work harmoniously with each other, finding resonance in what the other person thinks and how they express themselves.

It does not serve us to believe that having multiple soul mates throughout our lifetime cheapens and diminishes the idea of what a soul mate is. What it does, instead, if we really look at it, is lend itself to an aura of absolute gratitude for all those people and, yes, even animals, who have helped us grow, expand our perspective, help us advance on our path, and become more ourselves. Conscious awareness of all those micro-moments, all those moments of tenderness and trial, all those opportunities for growth bring us closer to Love.

Love is so much more than we believe it to be and so different in many ways from how we think of it. It is what helps us grow emotionally and spiritually. It is what helps us live longer, through boosting our immunity and health. It is what makes us feel safe. It provides innumerable positive feedback loops that echo throughout our lives and radiate outwards towards others.

The biggest cumulative lesson in all of this is becoming consciously aware of all the ways love touches our lives, all the different guises it comes in, and all the ways that we confuse it for what it isn’t.

Fredrickson is spot on when she chose the title for her book: Love 2.0. We’re ready for a newly expanded and updated version of Love. A new definition. What’s actually happening here, though, is not that love is changing — we are. Love isn’t getting updated, we are collectively evolving toward a more expansive vision. Love will always be what love has always been. We’re moving towards understanding that much of what we called love isn’t love at all. We’re moving towards understanding that love doesn’t have nearly as many limitations as we’ve placed upon it. It’s far simpler and far more pervasive and expansive than we still have yet to imagine. Slowly but surely, we’ll get there. Together. With shared micro-moments of love nudging us onward.