Thinking over connecting a lot lately. With grieving and depression the last few years it’s something that has been lost, to some degree, in my life. It’s something that, when I reflect on the last year or so, it has started to creep back in, almost unnoticed to me.

We all impact each others lives, mostly in non-physical ways. We use expressions like “that touches my heart” or “I see you” when what is happening has nothing at all to do with physical connection but rather, it is different. Everyone can see me or hear me or touch me with the senses that we associate with those words. So very few persons though actually see me or hear me or touch me though in the ways that I have walled off and closed off these past few years. Connecting. Whether it has been for a few moments or seconds or for longer, I have started to connect again. A little reach out or a tentative reach back to a hand or a shoulder offered. A dance of me wanting to connect but wanting to push away and run at the same time.

There have been little connections here and there though, and I’ve started to see that lately. So small that to the other persons involved, they may be inconsequential and not even remembered. Yet they are, to me. Part of me seeing and celebrating the simple fact that I can still connect – and I am – is recognizing it. This musing is my way of honouring that I need to bring awareness to the little things that are actually massive things when living with grief and trying to slog out depression (which I am still trying to deny is even a fact for me 😉 ).

I meet someone and spend time with them and have a great evening talking and laughing and I walk away feeling lighter and with a smile on my face. I tell them I had a great evening. What I don’t say is how much that means to me.

My partner and I spend a few days in a strange city and we are welcomed and made
to feel like family almost by a couple of people that I barely know but who are
friends of hers already. We leave, hugging and telling them how appreciative we
are and I tell them how happy I am to have met them. I cry later thinking how
long it’s been since I’ve felt so open and comfortable with people. But I never
tell them that.

That is repeated in another city a couple of days later. Time spent in the private
spaces or persons lives and spaces. A card game leaving us crying with laughter. Easy and fun and simple…and good. More left unsaid but definitely felt.

We go out to a friend’s home for dinner with them and their children. We are invited in
and welcomed and fed and brought into the folds of their lives for a couple of
hours. It is open and genuine and beautiful and … good. We leave and hug and I
feel like there aren’t words to say how good it feels.

A crazy and amazing few days in the desert and little connections abound.

A shared moment laughing over an identical dress with someone who shares my introverted
stress and need to hide.

A quiet few minutes with a person I’ve seen around for years but barely know as she draws a design for me in a hotel room.

Sitting under a tree in the heat and just enjoying company with a friend.

Ridiculous sexy parodies of burlesque in a room that feels like a sauna shared with a friend.

Summer hours in sunshine and dust around campfires and lakes. Sharing camp stove lighters and laughing over outdoor cooking foibles.

Tears or giggles or both. Shared and felt.

Seeing and feeling friendships glimmer into being as walls start to be lowered. Sharing space and energies, however brief. They all have an impact and leaves ripples in their wake.

Experiences that show me that even the small steps are still progress.

Being able to give words to this awareness and to reach out and say thank you to the people in my life who are part of my life… this is the best small step so far.

Taking one of those silly internet quizzes today and the questions came up “My friends would describe me as…” with a list of the usual options.

Now this is a bit of a trick question because it rides the edge of us picking what we think our friends think of us *or* we pick how we see ourselves under the guise of what we would want our friends to say.

This used to be a pretty simple thing for me to pick. I knew who and how and what I was and I was pretty much “what you see is what you get” and transparent to everyone so I knew what my friends would say *and* that matched how I saw myself. A no brainer really. Not now.

Now, I saw that question today in a silly online quiz and I got stuck. Stuck because of a couple of things. First and foremost came the voice in my head that stated that I have no friends that pop to mind that know me well enough to be able to answer that question. Not to mention the larger issue that I don’t even know the answer to it anymore. What qualities would my friends say most accurately describe me? What or who am I? I read over the list… loyal? great sense of humour? adventurous? caring and loving? daredevil? generous? What would “they” pick, what would I pick to describe myself?

All of the above, none of the above, things not mentioned? What’s more upsetting to me… that I don’t know me anymore or that I have so isolated and withdrawn myself that I don’t think anyone else does either? That’s the hardest question that came up from that silly little internet time waster.

And by the way, I’m most like a Pit Bull, just in case you were wondering… not too far off the mark probably.

Introvert. Out-going.

Two words that seem to contradict each other yet I consider myself to be both.
An introvert is generally seen as someone who is shy and tends to keep to themselves; someone who prefers solitude or just their own company over being around others; someone who is usually overwhelmed easily in crowds and large gatherings of people, even people who they would consider friends or family. A pretty standard description and one that fits me perfectly.
Being described as out-going generally means that you are someone who reaches out and connects with others socially, whether it be one on one or in a group setting; someone who’s comfortable in a setting involving many people; someone who seeks out companionship and enjoys interactions with others and even craves it seemingly.

Both very different, but both me…and I think not that uncommon.

Growing up, I was almost debilitatingly shy. Switching schools almost every year did nothing to get me over the fear of being in unfamiliar places and having to meet new people. I remember being physically sick every year for many years on the first day of school. Stopping to throw up as I walked to school because I couldn’t stop my body from reacting to the stress. Racing heart, tunnel vision and frantically trying not to cry (because that would just draw more attention to me when I already felt I stuck out as the new kid). Being afraid to speak up when asked direct questions… never volunteering answers in class because then people would turn attention to me and people would look and listen. Terrified at the dreaded book report time of the school year. I would do anything to get out of it.
I was called a snob, told I was stuck up because I didn’t talk or try to make friends. It wasn’t that I thought I was “better than” like they said… I was scared and shy and had no idea how to join in or to connect.

I went on this way for years. Then something happened. The start of grade 7, I decided that I was going to try to fake it. I reached out one day and found that it was easier than I thought it would be. A comment and a laugh and I had a new friend. And I liked it. I had someone to spend time with and talk and share and laugh. I still coveted my alone time and wanted it – a lot – but I also wanted to be around people. My circle of friends grew slowly. I ended up staying in that school the longest I ever did – 3 years – and I found a comfortable thing develop. I made friends easily. All sorts of friends. This was when the schools were made of very defined “cliques” and found I didn’t really fit in any one in particular. I had friends who I hung out with in science and others in shop class, others that I went for lunch with and smoked in the alley with after school. My closest friends that I spent weekends with roller-skating or going to the mall… I loved it, but I was still shy.

I was always the quiet one in the bunch when new people came in or we met up with others. I would then revert back to “me”. Quiet and shy and timid. But it got easier as time went on to start to open up.
Carrying through as I left that school and life marched on. I found that in new places, jobs, schools, I would take a deep breath and fake it on day one. Try to hide the discomfort and the unease that was clawing at my insides… and it worked.

I even specifically chose a career based on how much it terrified me. When I was 20 years old I decided that public speaking would never be ok with me; so I decided to become a fitness instructor. Not only public speaking but doing it in spandex! Not bad for an introvert with severe body image issues and an eating disorder to match ;). But I did it. Sure I threw up three times before my first practicum class, but I did it… and that set the path for me to keep going.

I’m still usually the quietest one in a group. Although people are usually surprised if I describe myself as shy because that’s not how I tend to present as now. Yet underneath, the constant desire to just sit and be quiet and unobserved is always there. That’s my default. That’s who I am. Not what I am, but who.

Which means… While I have grown to love that closeness and connection with those I call “mine” in my life; my chosen family, my friends, my loves… I still am the happiest sitting and watching and being part of it all but alone and separate and just “me”. I may burst out with a joke or be the giggly centre of attention for a moment but then I retreat again… eventually making a full retreat to solitude and an aloneness that will give me what my introvert spirit needs to restore and recharge. Quiet, solitary time with just me, my Self and I.

I was at a conference this past weekend and re-connected with many people that I haven’t seen in a couple of years. Old work colleagues and friends. Many of them had been in my life for 10 years and more and it was a chance to touch base and catch up.

I moved from the area just over 2 years ago after the sudden death of my son and lost contact with most people in the space that followed. Grief and depression took a hard toll and I isolated very effectively; even easier since I was geographically removed.

In chatting with someone this weekend, she was very open that a lot of my friends had been worried about how I was doing and if I was getting along ok. She made a point of referencing one friend in particular who, she explained, had voiced a strong concern over my well-being. She relayed that this friend had been very vocal over a number of months in a very public way at my previous work location about how worried she was about me and how concerned she was about how I was dealing with the loss and the change and if I was ok.

So, here’s the interesting thing… Not once, ever, did this friend connect with me. Not once, since the day I left town – even to this day – have I had any messages or calls or any contact. Now this is not me saying “oh, she let me down”… quite the contrary. I never contacted her either and communication goes both ways. I accept full responsibility for many many relationships going silent and growing apart. That’s something I understand. But to be so openly vocal about caring and concern all the while never once doing anything about said concern… not exactly my take on sincerity.

If you really care and want to know how someone is… talk to them, not to everyone else.

I’ve been in a place in my life lately where I have been seeking and feeling very unsettled. It seems to be going around. I have a few friends who have been struggling with some significant decisions as well. Lots of questioning and soul searching has been happening.

With some, it’s a matter of choices. There are clear and laid out options. This or that, or maybe a few this and thats but essentially, the options are known. The talks and texts…the coffee dates and the walks… all connecting and trying to come to some sort of place of knowing, really knowing what is the “right” decision to make. Weighing all the pros and cons and talking it over for hours. Calculating out and projecting and trying to make rational and logical decisions over matters of the heart and spirit. What it inevitably comes down to is what “feels” right. What does your gut say? What sits right in your heart?

At the end of it all, when you take the chatter and the lists and the scales of option a or b away… you’re left with the truth. The scary truth that we avoid with a vengeance.

The truth is, we each know the answers we are searching for. We know the answer even before we’ve let ourselves pose the question; because, by the time we start to question, the answer has been found inside already. The question is our mind and hearts way of bringing us to that answer. Sometimes it takes a little longer and sometimes we have false starts and we pick the other option that we know, deep down, isn’t “right”. But the fact is that even then, it is right. For that time. Because it wasn’t the right time yet to make the choice we need to make. But we find our way eventually. We always will, if we look inside and listen. That’s where the answer is. Always has been, always will be.

The place I have found myself in is a bit different. There’s no way to listen to the answer because I’m stuck with my Self not being able to bring through the question yet. Just unsettled and knowing that there’s a maelstrom brewing underneath. A change needed, a time of growth is here and a direction needs to be seen. Some answers have already been discovered and they feel right. But there’s more. Not sure exactly what or how or where but a calmness is inside, knowing that the answers I look for are waiting for me to find them. And I will.

I came across a term today that struck me and inspired me to put to words something that has been on my mind for the last year or so.
“The asking animal”, a term used to describe the human animal. What it is that makes us different from the other animals that we share nature with. Got me thinking though… are we all “asking”, or as I phrase it, seeking?

There are those of us who are seekers. Those who hunger and thirst for the “why” and for so much more that the status quo in life. Those who aren’t content with just accepting. Those who see where they are, not as the destination, but as just part of the journey. Not to say that this is the same as being always looking for the next best thing or the greener grass just on the other side of the fence. I’m talking about seeking and journeying towards more intangible gains. The striving to understand, to grow and become “more”. To desire to expand and experience rather than to be complacent. The wanting to be a better Self, a more aware Self, a more realized and actualized Self.

There are those who simply exist and bumble along in their lives. Like someone who simply drifts in the canoe down the river while the oars rest in the bottom of the boat. Maybe enjoying the ride and even looking around and appreciating the view. Happy with the direction of travel but not in control of where they go or how they get there even. They never wonder if there is a different stream to travel; one that might offer an alternate environment. They never think to take time to rest in a nook, to get out of the current for a bit. They never pick up the oars. They never even think to, never mind act on the thought. They never think of the even more radical idea of getting out of the boat altogether and striking out on foot for the mountain in the distance. The live aimlessly and complacently with whatever comes their way.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the option of simply drifting isn’t for me. Seeking and growing is who I am and how I live my life. It goes beyond just acknowledging that I am in control of my reactions to what comes my way. It’s an awareness that , in most ways, I can orchestrate how my life is lived and experienced. I may not always have control over what comes my way, but the reality is that I, we, have more input than we think we do.

To seek, to yearn and be in a constant state of growth. This is who I am. Life took a bit of a veer off for me in my twenties as I stumbled through a bad marriage and trying to live as I “should” but about 15 years ago, I made a choice to change the way I was living. I embraced who and how I am. Embraced that the striving and constant yearning to seek is me…and that it’s how I need the people who I keep close to me to be as well.

This past couple of years, living with grief and pain and finally seeing that I am the builder of my life, again. Putting it back together again after it had been torn apart by loss. Part of that entailed rediscovering that my Self craves holding the rudder and oars of my vessel. That it’s who I am. That I am happiest when the people I hold dear to me not only accept but share this embodiment of living. Choosing to cultivate relationships with the people in my life as purposely as I need to craft the rest of my environment for my Self to live. Making choices in drawing closer to those who grow and feed my spirit through friendship, chosen family and loves. Persons who support me and nurture me and accept me, as I do for them. The joy of being with those who lift me up and who I delight in seeing thrive in their travels through life. Hard choices also being made to release from my life those who merely drift and whose path encumbers mine in an unhealthy and suffocating manner. Understanding that for some, the oars will never be used and it’s time to wish them well and watch them drift away.

It means being happy and content with what and where I am but knowing that to stagnate here and to stop yearning and growing and opening my mind and my heart is to die.

A weekend of introspection and, more importantly,being out of my comfort zone.

I’m quite simply an introvert. I am happiest most often with my own company and with solitude. I covet my alone time and guard it fiercely. It’s a treasure and sorely needed for my own sanity.

Hand in hand with that is a firm hold on self-reliance, independence and an aversion to even a hint of needing someone else in my life.

Having been on my own since young and a single parent for most of my life, I have always counted only on myself for my needs being met. It’s how I like it and it’s what feels best for me. Safest. I know I won’t let myself down or “fail”. I just won’t.

It’s an interesting slant considering that I also very strongly identify and am someone who is compassionate and empathic… someone who puts those that I love and care for firmly in the forefront of my life. I crave and love connection and have a strong sense of energy and sharing and feeling others. Yet I have built walls lately.

Walls that have always been there in one way or another but that have been fortified the last couple of years. Losing my son 2 and a half years ago affected me in ways I wasn’t really aware of until this past weekend. Seeing that I have carefully crafted an ability to connect but remain slightly closed was an eye opener for me.

During this weekend I was able to stop and see that I was blocked; unable to share … even in a safe and open environment… even when I so desperately needed and wanted to start to take down walls.

Accepting that it’s easier with others and that a helping hand is sometimes needed is not something that comes easy for me, but this past weekend was a start. Asking for help is not something I can do yet … even accepting help when offered is something that I run from.

An offer of healing hands for a sore neck … so hard for me to simply say “yes, thank you”; something seemingly small but such a huge leap for me… not easy, but I did , and it’s a step forward.

It took awareness and the combined energy of those there – those that I spoke to or not… those that I interacted with, or not… those that I knew, or not… it took that to shake the foundation that I had crafted. Shake it enough to loosen the mortar so that it’s easier now for me to start pulling down the bricks.

To accept and say “thank you” and receive. To be open and to share my Self through accepting others energy. Lessons embraced and walls being brought down. I built the walls and I want to, and will, tear them down. Now able to because of the help given to get it started.

Thank you.

Smiles and happiness today because I am blessed enough to have people in my life that I care deeply enough to call my chosen family… and doubly blessed that they have chosen me as well to be part of theirs!

The saying “blood is thicker than water” doesn’t do justice to the truth that the people we chose to bring close to our hearts have special meaning. Whether right or wrong, there is a certain sense of obligation to love and care for the people that we are born into as family…if we’re lucky, then we like them too… but that’s not a certainty – the odds of actually liking and wanting to spend time with the family you are born to aren’t great. You have genetics or nurturing in common but that’s about it. All too often, families are groups of people who tolerate each other because they “have to”.

Yet with chosen family…we’re able to connect with a person or people that we share so much with… and build that connection and nurture a bond… and chose to invite them into our lives and our hearts and call them “ours”.

As I close today I smile because of that blessing.