Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.
I came across the above Brene Brown quote the other day and since then have been thinking about all of the little connections we create throughout our lifetimes that help us make meaning of our days. I realize how grateful I am for each and every one of the connections that make up my life. Some of them are old with deep roots that have only strengthened as the years have passed by. Some of them are newer, and with that comes the excitement and anticipation when something new is on the horizon and we realize we have a chance to build something meaningful.
There's an interesting paradox about connections in practice and how they can occur both sporadically, as well as on a more regular basis. Think about old friends who you don't see for years and years and yet you are able to pick up and start right into a conversation as if no time has passed. You see and are seen. Or think about the person you meet at a party whom you manage to have a deep and meaningful conversation with all evening. You may never see them again, but somehow during that conversation you saw and were seen, and you carry that connection forward. And then of course, there's your partner or circle of close friends you see on a more day-to-day basis whom you derive regular sustenance and strength from.
After Matthew died, my husband and I were amazed at the outpouring of support we received. We felt held and loved at a time when we had been stripped down to our must vulnerable selves. Friends' love and support was essential to helping us walk through those early days, weeks and months and I see now how healing it was. As alone as we felt in our grief, we felt supported from near and far as we made our way through a dark and unwelcome tunnel. People from our past and present came forward to let us know that we weren't alone. People who would soon become a part of our future lives stepped forward with arms outspread. It was humbling and oh so appreciated.
The lesson I hope I've passed on to my own children is to create real friendships and connections that will sustain you throughout both the good and the difficult times. Value those people who, like Brene Brown says, really see and hear you (and make sure you see and hear them too). My dearest friends are those people with whom I have a two-way friendship. It's a mutual sharing, a reciprocal back and forth. We all know people who are takers. They have an inability to go beyond themselves. Sometimes they can be interesting (especially in the beginning), but for the long haul they just aren't there for you. And one of the nice things about being over 50 is the realization that I don't need to spend time with them anymore. Life is too short to be in one-sided relationships.
Building relationships that are life affirming and heart-filled are essential to my very existence. I wouldn't be who I am today without all of the amazing people I've connected with and continue to connect with on my journey. These sparks of connection truly help light my path. I'll end with a favorite Marge Piercy poem that was actually one of the readings at Matthew's bar mitzvah. Four close friends read the four different stanzas and I find its words continue to resonate with me.
The Seven of Pentacles
Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the lady bugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.
Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half a tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.
Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.
Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, deep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.