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Staying Connected

On some days, the world seems so complicated to me that all I want to do is stay home, read a book, and disengage from everything else. I think we all feel that way from time to time. There is just so much we can’t control—so many huge conflicts and so much human suffering that seems hopeless. I’ve come to believe that taking a break from perseverating about it makes me more able to face it all, and actually more able to help where I can.

I donate money, work on staying informed, try to follow all of the rules about recycling and water use, and I check my own privilege regularly. But my biggest discovery has been giving myself credit for what I can do on the smallest level. I don’t think I’m changing the world, but I am learning that making an intentional effort to connect with other people helps all of us. When the issues of the world feel bigger than anything we can come up with to solve them, knowing that we have a team, a tribe, a community, a neighbor, or a friend helps. At least it helps me to not feel quite so alone.

Mostly these days I feel so grateful for the chances that I get to connect with my people and even with people I barely know.

On National Coming Out Day last week, I felt what I always feel on that day. Coming out was one of the hardest things I ever did, but when I could finally tell the truth about who I was and how I wanted to live my life, I felt an indescribable relief. The world opened for me. Coming out gave me the courage to connect with people like me, and it helped them be brave enough to connect with me. Since then, with some regularity, I have had people tell me they want to come out, too. They come to me for that connection, because it makes them feel less alone with their fears.

I watched a TED Talk recently given by a meditation guy named Dan Harris. He used to be a television anchorman and had a panic attack on the air because he was so filled with anxiety and stress. That’s what led him to meditation and now he leads classes and workshops and writes books about ways that we can find peace within ourselves. In his TED presentation, he talked about our responsibility as humans to “care, cooperate, and communicate.” I love that because I see those things as the core of how we can become bigger than the craziness of war, racism, global warming, and hatred. And really, it’s not just what we can do on a daily basis. It’s what we should do.

When I think about my own life and what works and what doesn’t, it’s connecting that always shines through. When I have an honest conversation, when I let myself be vulnerable with another human, and when I intentionally listen to their story—those are the times I feel the best. I can’t necessarily do anything to help, but I can express empathy and love. I can sit with them, and I can share my own story. For me, these are some of the most power moments of being human.

It's easy to get caught up in the insanity around us. The pandemic separated us all for so long, and it instilled fear in us about what might happen and what could happen. And who knows? But what we do know is that we have each other. Mostly these days I feel so grateful for the chances that I get to connect with my people, and even with people I barely know. Whether it’s saying hello on the walking trail in the morning, or talking about a problem that someone might be experiencing in their family, we can be here with each other. It’s kind of all we’ve got—but it changes everything.

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