Today’s topic is one that is near and dear to me. It is a topic that we sometimes forget to make room for in our busy day-to-day lives. It is another pillar in the ideology of living mindful and could arguably be one of the most important parts. It is an essential element to healthy living.
It is the human element and our connection to the people around us. They come in many forms and titles; enemies, friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, co-workers, and classmates names most of them. Each of these, for better or worse are important to us as growing human beings and each offers up a piece of us to discover, re-discover, or even invent. Some we are able to choose, others choose us, and some we are “stuck” with.
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”
These words, while originally written by John Donne in the work “Meditation 17, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions” back in 1624 ring true to their very core. What is being expressed here is how mankind is one entity, and we each a part of it.
This time of year being the holidays and myself being blessed enough to have a loving family with whom to spend it with, it really gave me the opportunity to reflect. My family was there in the beginning and put up with my bumbling and fumbling as I made mistake after mistake. This of course, is a summary of child hood. We trip through it, making our mistakes and learning, hopefully the first time. Regardless of how much I pushed, no matter how much I screwed up, my family was there. It was this security and connection that allowed me to explore without fear of being left behind or being told I was wrong. I was allowed to make mistakes.
Fast forward to adult-hood; days go by, weeks, months … years. Suddenly, I have become too busy for those who weren’t too busy to pick me up when I fell, those who allowed me the freedom to become who I am. Even a simple phone call, 5 minutes of a day, seems like an illogical use of time to simply say hello to someone who literally took my crap. So what happened?
This, my friends, is a direct result of forgetting to include the human element on your journey. But that’s not even the worse part. The worst part is, people who never neglected me a day in my life, accepted my negligence of them … and get this … they forgave it. It took me longer than I would have liked to discover this missing element, but the story does have a happy turn. Upon realizing this element was missing, I’ve allowed myself to reconnect. I’ve been fortunate to receive this forgiveness, which again is a testament to my parents who to this day, still allow me to make mistakes. Which is a good thing, because I know I still have many more ahead of me to make. It is still a struggle internally to maintain that connection because frankly, relationships take work, any relationship without exception. So to end this section, if you too were blessed with parents who selflessly put you before themselves and make effort to keep connected to them, kudos to you! If you don’t … I have one piece of advice, there is no time like the present.
Unfortunately, we don’t all have that background to foster a connection with. However, the next strongest category of connections comes from the ones we are allowed ourselves to choose as we venture forward through our adventure. These connections are had with people we call “friends.” As we go through our various transitional phases from one pond to the next (This is an allusion to a topic I’ll discuss in another entry “Pond Theory”) meeting new people and ultimately creating your own “family” filled with people who compliment you in certain ways, share interests or differences that challenge you. They are lost and gained, torn from us and bonded at the hip. They represent other imperfect human beings on our level that we can be completely vulnerable around and in turn we support them as they support us (If we are a good friend that is!) Which brings me to my next point; while we may lose contact and our connection with some of these people over the years for one reason or another (distance, falling out, drifting apart, forks in the road) it is important to remember the effect that connection had on us and the lessons we learned.
I spent many years, angry at myself, angry at “friends,” but really just plain angry. I did not understand this drifting apart. Why did it happen? Did I allow it? Did they not care? I wasted time and energy focused on the whys and what ifs so much so that the anger burned a hole in me and left an empty sort of feeling that was out of place. My first step in recovery from what I branded as betrayal was to treat it as lackadaisical. It made getting over my anger towards lost connections easier, but it also created a rift between my current connections. I kept everyone at an arms-length, turning myself in to an island that would be available for connection, but not to connect. Not before too long, I started to feel the effects of being an island. I had let go of my anger, but now, I felt alone and isolated. It was there in that state of being that I started to realize, past, future, and present relations could not be measured against one another. Each relationship is unique and exists entirely on its own level. The good times, good feelings, and things we learned should be what we hold on to. Not the “what ifs”, “whys”, or what “should have / could have” been. I was finally able to appreciate people who were no longer a pivotal part of my life for what they were, an amazing friend who I journeyed with until our roads diverged. As well, I was able to focus more positive energy in to the people who were here, and now, whom I shared friendship with in the moment. Slowly, it has allowed me to reach out to those lost ones, not for hope of reconnecting, but to simply reminisce on good times and remind them and myself how special our connection was. The past shapes our future, but is not who we are, it is who we were. To my dying day, I will honor those memories, because now that I am at peace with this realization, they bring me joy.
So, after family and friends, where does that leave us? With less notable connections? Absolutely not!
“Enemies” is a word that evokes a certain brand of emotion. As a man of peace and someone who tries to see the good in everyone, I would love to say I don’t have any. But I cannot control how others think, nor is it possible for me to make everyone happy at all times, or force others to forgive the mistakes I have made. So, I am certain that somewhere out there, someone does not have my best interest in mind for their own reasons. Whether or not we wish to accept that we are also connected to our enemies and they have lessons to teach us. They can provide us with examples of how we do not wish to live, character traits we wish to work on in ourselves for we can see how they affect us, and in turn how we could affect others if left un-checked in us. Enemies also teach us how to forgive. If you can forgive someone who does not like you, imagine how easy it would be to forgive someone who does?
Last but not least, we have people who fall in to several different titles, but can be lumped into a group known as acquaintances. We do not share our selves on a level reserved for friends, nor do we expect to be accepted as a friend. But there are things to be learned in these scenarios that you can’t learn from other groups. From acquaintances, we learn how to interact with others who are not our nearest and dearest, but like us, are people who have their own lives and groups. We learn to accept differences and how to work with a diverse population. These are people who are just one step away from being a “friend,” and every friend was an acquaintance first, so always treat them thusly. Or, if you will, follow the golden rule, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
So to wrap this all up in some logical semblance, we must always remember the many human connections that exist in our life. We should cherish the ones that are dearest and accept the ones that are not. A connection is never lost, just sometimes misplaced, or disused.
I challenge you today, to take a look at the connections in your own life. Call up that old friend you’ve been “meaning to make time for.” Make plans with someone for the sake of making plans and allow yourself to share in a fun adventure with another human being. Call up your mom and thank her, after all, she brought you into this world kicking and screaming and probably had ample opportunities to take you out the same way.