I Need Connection

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It’s so much easier to write the resolution than the journey. But sometimes, in the moment of clarity you can see in retrospect what you needed. We continue forward, with the idea that we know what we’re doing, but often we don’t know what we were looking for until we find it.

This past week was difficult. With multiple final papers due, my schedule is wiped clean so I can sit down and write, research, repeat. I have a mixed relationship with writing essays. On one hand, there are great things to be learned in forming an idea using other people’s ideas. But mostly, this week I have denied myself most of what makes me feel whole in order to meet deadlines. And sometimes, that’s life.

This week, and many others, I forget how incredibly important it is to simply connect with another human. To be able to express the confusion and sorrow that we are feeling, and to hear that someone else feels it too. To my dear friend Anna, thank you for reminding me of what I had forgotten.

I hate loneliness. I hate it because it fills so much of our lives. It’s the reason I’ll have music playing wherever I go. It’s the reason there is always a tv on, a phone in hand, or a computer screen open. We live in a way that praises self-accomplishment, and individuality. We pride ourselves on our uniqueness, but at the same time we are terrified of being different enough that people won’t want us around. I try to find the balance everyday of satisfying the parts of me that want to be expressed fully, while trying to be normal enough so as not to stick out too much. And it’s not because I don’t know who I am. It’s because sometimes I’m not always sure who to be in the world.

But I live within this paradigm as if I understand its purpose. To achieve, to succeed, to compete, to be the best.
Because nothing, absolutely nothing is more satisfying to me than sitting across from someone who says “Yeah. I understand. I’ve been there” Nothing beats revealing the parts of you that are scared, insecure, overwhelmed and exhausted and for someone to recognize that within themselves. To be with someone in the depths of life, not just the surface. I’m so tired of walking around acting like i’ve got my shit together, like I’m on a train of amazingness and there’s no stopping me!
Or, on the other hand, connecting with others only by means of complaining. Of how life isn’t giving me what I wanted, and how I’m annoyed, angry or indifferent. When I am unable to express my real feelings and experiences with others, they get bottled up in my head and I begin not to trust myself. With no affirmation, no outward processing, no connection, I become the enemy of my own mind. I think that I must be doing something to feel this way, or else I blame the only good things in my life that I could place blame (aka my partner). I’m left up to my own devices, and let me tell you they are limited. Because I am just one experience. I am just one perspective. And I can’t fix everything myself.

I want to re-label “anxiety” with “need connection”. Because then I wouldn’t be able to cut myself short by saying “I’m going to stay in because I’m feeling anxious”. What’s really happening is I desperately need connection, but maybe i’m scared to be vulnerable. Maybe I’m convinced that I’ll figure it out on my own.

No. That’s not it Em, stop trying to be your own therapist.

I NEED CONNECTION. I need to joke about the ridiculousness of trying to write about the history of a marginalized group, as if “they” have one, a complete and documented story that can be told within 500 words. I need to talk about how I can’t stand walking into a classroom to sit beside one another to learn about how to show “empathy” when we could be connecting with one another and actually experiencing it. I need to talk about how I’ve been so emotionally overwhelmed that I try to control it by telling my partner he’s being selfish. I need to talk about how I want community, how I want to know people. I need to talk about how I don’t know how to navigate a world of “how are you” “fine” because all I want to say is “I am so freaking overwhelmed right now.”

I need connection. I need people. I need someone to say “Hey, it makes sense that you’re feeling that way, sounds like you have a lot on your plate”. Because yeah, I have a LOT going for me, and life COULD be worse, BUT THAT’S NOT A REASON TO DENY YOUR FEELINGS.

Because I am feeling. I am always, feeling. And I’m tired of just thinking about it. Labeling it “in my head” or “my mind is racing” and trying to push it away. Maybe our erratic minds and constant need to be doing something is because we are terrified to face the fact that we are lonely, and everybody else is busy.

I know people make a lot of empty promises these days. We make plans and cancel, we put that we “might” go to things on Facebook, and we settle for harmless, easy, conversation. But if you feel like talking about what’s really happening in you life, or what you’re feeling, or what you just realized, or what you’re really excited about, and you don’t know who to tell, I would really love to hear it. My email is emily.scott93@gmail.com, and since I am a university student, my computer is open almost all hours of the day. Feel free to email me the real “how are you” and I’d love to chat.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like talking to me because a. you don’t know me b. you don’t want to email your feelings to someone on the internet… then please, if you need connection like I do, find the people in your life that care about you and let them know you need them. I don’t think we are good at needing people these days, but I’ll be the first to say that I do. And every area of my life starts crumbling down when I forget that.

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Letting Go of Bitterness and Facebook Friends

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I never thought clicking ‘unfriend’ could be so liberating. Until I understood why.

Sometimes, when there isn’t much else to do, I will scroll through Facebook, as many of us do. Over the past little while, I began to notice how many unfamiliar faces were popping up, and eventually, I began to recognize an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. Seeing faces of people along my journey, I could feel a ball of negative energy building up inside of me. For a long time I never understood it, nor did I give enough spotlight to deal with it. I had had a few casual conversations about the amount of “friends” I had accumulated on Facebook, and how I wished it wasn’t such an arduous task to whittle it down a little bit.

Nevertheless, one night I took to my Facebook page, and began scrolling through this 900+ list of people that I shared my internet self with. What I thought was going to be a quick clearing of old acquaintances, turned into something remarkably liberating.
As I began scrolling through images of familiar faces, I started to feel that familiar gut energy bursting with negativity. A face from high school, a face from camp, a face from an old job, a face matching a friend of a friend that I met at a party one time. Seeing all these faces at once made me feel one thing: bitterness. But how could I feel bitter toward so many people? What if they knew I felt this way about them? Had they really done anything to harm me, or create this ugly sensation in my mind?

Once I started the train of questions there was no turning back. What was happening?

I was matching faces to my own life experience. When I was in a period of doubt, confusion, and anxiety, anyone with a shred of certainty around me earned the privilege of deserving my emotional weight, all the stuff I never said out loud. When I was insecure, the people I was surrounded by became confident, and I hated them for that. Now hate is a strong word, and often we don’t want to admit to ourselves that we hate someone or something. So I would justify that bitter feeling by putting an easier term to it. Thinking to myself “I hate them for being so certain, they’re so full of it” or “They only THINK they’re happy”. As much as I don’t wish to admit it, the amount of bitterness I could simultaneously hold for various people was astonishing. Even worse, these may be people who see me positively, yet I would never be able to believe that behind my thick wall of blame.

Think about how you can listen to a song that reminds you of a certain time, and before you know it you are met with the same emotions you had once felt.  the same thing happens with people, but we fail to label it as the feeling and instead we label the people as the source for our hurt.

I saw pictures of different people, I also saw pictures of my life where I was lost. Finally, I stopped ignoring the truth that was staring me right in the face.

First, I began to feel an immense amount of guilt. How could I blame all of these people, as if they are the source of my problems? I desperately hoped that my internal resentment had not reached the surface and made its way into anyone else’s consciousness. But I couldn’t be sure. Though I feared the thought of someone feeling rejected by my ‘unfriending’ I put aside my own pride, and took to unfriending like it was the last thing I would ever do.

I will not deny the reality of betrayal, lies, abuse, all of the things that do occur. The times where we need supernatural strength to forgive.

Yet, there is a kind of bitterness we (I) hold on to. It’s the one that makes people raise an eyebrow as we vent about all the ways the world is against us. Its the gossiping and the insulting and the anger that we attribute to all of the people who, as we believe, are causing us pain. It’s the blame we place on authority, institution, religion, systems and people. Not because what they are doing is wrong (though it happens), but because we are convinced that they are hurting us intentionally, and we want them to feel the pain that we feel.

We just don’t want to feel how we do, and so we try to project it onto other people, hoping that they can bear the weight of it. Most of the time we don’t intend to actually communicate this, or else we fail to recognize the problem, and allow a face to bring up all these emotions. Instead of seeing the pain we see a criminal, someone who played a part in life being difficult.

You see, I realized that there are a lot of people who have been in scenes of my life. The good and the bad. And it just so happens that some were there when I needed a hand but couldn’t ask for it. Eventually, it took a Facebook friend purge to help me realize that there was no one to blame for it all. And the more I held onto that blame, the more I would cause old wounds to resurface.

Healing has begun to take root and change the way I see my relationships. The more I can see someone as their own person, trying to find their way through life, the less I need to place on them the extra burden of all the ways that my life hasn’t exceeded my expectations.

Are you holding on to bitterness? Does it surface when you see your old high school friend, your old teammate, your uncle, classmate or co-worker? Do you let yourself shrink back into safety mode every time you see someone who was a bystander in the chaos of your life?

There are enough things in life that we cannot control. There are times when we will get angry, when we will feel betrayed. But if we let our skewed perspective of other people build a mountain of bitterness inside of us, something needs to go.

I get it, we don’t want to carry that weight ourselves, we want it to go away. But it’s not an effective strategy, and you will pay the price that you think someone else is supposed to.

Let go of bitterness, because it’s not doing you any favours.

To anyone that I may have blamed for my own battles, whether you could see it or not, I am sorry. And if you got unfriended, all clichés aside, it truly is not you, it’s me.

We Need Each Other

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I got this. I can do this.

Independence.

When I was a kid I longed for the days where I could be independent. Where I could make my own rules, follow my own way of life, and have my own responsibilities. As a stubborn kid I just wanted to be independent, it seemed so appealing.

Then I grew up – just a little, and started to believe the trend that success meant doing it on your own. That this idea of independence was an endearing trait, something people valued and looked for in a leader. There was something about rising above it all, being the one who can achieve anything that was so appealing.

I came to university, where independence is not encouraged, it’s expected. I started to take on any struggle as strictly my own problem, something I would figure out before I would approach people. It made me secretive, like I had to put on an act and only share with people who genuinely seemed interested in my life – criteria I was very strict on evaluating.

There’s a myth in our culture that associates needing people with weakness. Somewhere along the line achievement and success became self-focused, and the company of others became less enjoyable and real.

I believed that needing people was a negative thing. That people could need me, but I didn’t need them. The constant tension of “They have no idea what is going on with me” was a part of every relationship, because getting outside help or advice would just mean i’d failed.

Recently, this has been the single most important thing that is changing how I see my relationships.

Strength isn’t the ability to be independent, strength is recognizing that you need other people to be strong. My biggest mistake was thinking that I need to do it on my own, thinking that I’d be admired for my ability to need no one.

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help”
Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

I started taking charge, not waiting for someone to approach me, instead believing that someone would listen if I talked, believing that other people can and would help. Not only does this radically change your view of yourself and what you need, but it adds tremendous substance to relationships. Not because you are being open and honest, but because connection with people means you do both. You cry, vent and confide, just as you laugh, play and joke.

When I only allowed myself to do just one, I wasn’t letting myself be fully me around anyone. I would laugh with some people, cry with a select few, or just completely avoid it altogether. You can’t avoid the authenticity and expect the laughter to come effortlessly. When you can be honest and dare I say it – needy, you can be silly as well. And the laughter becomes so much more real, because you aren’t using it to cover the pain, it’s simply a part of the experience of connection.

The more I kept myself from needing other people, the more weight it seemed to carry. The bigger everything seemed to get, and those who didn’t appear to have their own struggles became out of reach. The more I believed that needing others was weakness, the more I relied on others needing me as a temporary confidence boost.

So I’ve been trying to be intentional. To not pick and choose who can safely hold my story because sharing it is a sign of weakness, but instead recognizing how all of it is important. I’m trying to ask for things when I need them, and not feel bad for desiring the company of others. I’m letting myself laugh even when I’m having a tough day, because there’s a time for both. It doesn’t always need to be about the struggle, just as it won’t always be laughter that fills the room.

You can have your independence and still need people. You can be your own person but still need others. Your ability to be independent will weigh heavily on recognizing when other people are a necessary part of your life. You are not better than the person who is asking for your help, just as they aren’t better than you when you need it.

Ask for help, need other people. We all need others just as much as we need to be needed. We just have to get better at saying it.

Community.

ImageThis past weekend I had the chance to spend a couple days with a group of friends at a condo near a ski resort. It was a retreat of sorts, where I could relax and be myself, something that’s easy to not allow of one’s self. You could say it was an escape. An escape from school, obligations and busy-ness. Escape from our culture that says meals are better when speedy and convenient. We cooked together, ate together, and just played. The more I enjoyed it, I couldn’t help but realize how much I am starving for community. For real, prolonged community that I might seek to nourish. Some seasons in my life see more community than others, and the ones where it is lacking convince me that I’m better off doing it on my own. But that is a lie. We can’t do it on our own. Convincing ourselves that we can is a vast overestimate of our own power. Not only can we not do it on our own, we shouldn’t have to. No one should have to. The strength that we have left over after life takes much out of us is what can be spread infinitely far when invested in community. Some are blessed to have community thrust at them, others have the ability to create it anywhere. No matter what, it requires sustaining, work and effort. But I was reminded this weekend of the sheer joy of it.

Community is what we need to stay afloat. It’s what we need when we’re at our wits end, and even before then.

Community is more than company, more than a roommate or partner. It’s more than a familiar face or a collection of conversations. Community goes beyond what we could ever experience on our own. It’s that moment when you let yourself be completely yourself, and others celebrate it. When you release who you are, the vulnerable, real side of you, without fear of rejection. When you authentically lend a part of your heart to another, trusting that it will return unharmed.

Community is rambunctious laughter for no reason, it’s the subtle understanding of another’s needs without any words being spoken. It’s the ability to confidently embrace your place in all of it and know that you are valued.

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Community is “I love you” not just said out loud, but felt. It’s the unique gifts of each person lending a hand to create life. Knowing that one person could never do it all and they don’t have to.

Community is compromise, because seeing another be joyful is more important than your idea of what you need.

Community is believing that you are allowed to be heard, and so are others. It’s taking the time to understand that someone may not understand, and being okay with not understanding at all.

Community is being absolutely ridiculous with no reserve. It’s the unique part of life that shapes who we are and who we’ve always been. It’s being okay with needing others, because they need you too.

We may not always feel blessed by community, and sometimes loneliness can seem like an inevitable part of existence. But if you were to know the importance of anything, I think it should be the desire for, and experience of, community. Real community.

What’s community meant to you? What do we do if we don’t have it?