“Throughout our lives we long to love ourselves more deeply and to feel connected with others. Instead, we often contract, fear intimacy, and suffer a bewildering sense of separation. We crave love, and yet we are lonely. Our delusion of being separate from one another, of being apart from all that is around us, gives rise to all of this pain.”Sharon Salzberg
Hello, friends. It has been awhile, but it is so nice to see you here.
I have been thinking quite a bit about connections lately. More specifically human connections. I think I have wandered through much of my life taking for granted human connection and how important it is to a healthy and happy state of mind.
Do not get me wrong, some of the connections I have made over the years have definitely NOT been in my best interest (exes, needy “friends,” toxic bosses, etc.…). For this discussion I am talking about those connections that replenish us, that create safe spaces for us to let our hair down. I am speaking of relationships that allow us to be who we truly are rather than the masks we wear or the boxes we squeeze ourselves into…our true selves so quirky, messy and neurotic in all of our glory.
I grew up in a little town outside of Rochester, NY, and I could not get out of my hometown fast enough. It felt like everyone was always in my business or had an opinion of me and of how I should live my life -and they were not afraid to share their thoughts with me. It was unbearable and I just wanted OUT. So, in 2001 I started travel nursing. I did not travel too far at first, only the next city over for a while. Then, when I got a little braver I accepted an assignment in a big city 7 hours away. That led to a bigger move to a few states south of where I grew up. Each assignment was 13 weeks long, so I did not have to stick around for too long in any one place if I did not want. I met loads of people and had so much fun. Every new place I went I reinvented myself. I shed the labels and expectations of all those I left behind. It was AWESOME. I felt free from all of the judgement finally. It was incredible to experience and learn all that I did. And it was – if I am being completely honest – at times excruciatingly lonely. Like “huddle-up-in-a-ball-on-the-floor-and-cry-at-night” kind of lonely. This did not happen often, but it happened enough to leave a mark. But at that time in my life the good times decidedly outweighed the bad.
Eventually, after 6 years of traveling, I got homesick and an opportunity to be on a cardiac surgery team in my hometown. I had always wanted to learn cardiac surgery, so back home I went. It felt funny to be home, everything seemed just a little smaller. It was familiar yet alien to me all at the same time. I worked A LOT, ended up in an awful relationship, and fought with my mother pretty much the entire time. Despite my growth, she and so many others still saw me as the anchorless screwup I had been my whole life. I had changed but many people still saw me with the same labels they had previously slapped on me. It lasted 3 and a half years before I felt that if I did not get the hell out, I was going to die. That was an actual thought in my head, “I would rather be dead than be here.” I packed up my dog, my clothes and shoes and moved 3,500 miles away. That was 11 years ago. That move quite literally may have saved my life, but was the biggest ripping away of all I knew and was.
I rewrote my life. I learned to survive on my own. I focused on my career, paid my bills, I made lots of incredible friends, I went on amazing vacations and eventually met the love of my life. My life was complete…but was it?
Back in 2019 (which after 2020 feels like it was 100 years ago), we were living in the Bay Area and I found out my father had passed away. We were not close, but it still felt strange to have a piece of my past cease to exist. We also found out my father-in-law and mother-in-law had some health challenges back on the east coast. My brother and his family, who live in New York, were sending my niece off to school. I missed my best friend, who also lives in New York and whom I only saw once every year or two. I started to become consciously aware of this feeling of missing out on things…a feeling of dis-CONNECTION.
The final straw for me was last December. My husband and I had great jobs, jobs of a lifetime really. We were successful and had a beautiful apartment only 20 miles outside of downtown San Francisco. We had a good life.
Then, one morning, I went into work only to find out that one of my staff had been tragically killed the night before by a drunk driver on the way home from his evening shift. His wife worked for me and was in my office trying to find out where he was and why he hadn’t come home. When her phone rang, I watched while she was told the news. I watched her drop the phone and crumple to the floor as her whole life and everything she had known shattered around her. I picked up the phone and spoke to the man from the coroner’s office, getting contact information so someone could identify the body and make arrangements for the funeral home. It was one of the most heartbreakingly impactful things I have experienced in my life. I went home that night and spoke to my husband, Mike. He was nearly as shook as I was. The questions started to roll through our minds…what if this was either one of us? What would the other one do? We are so far from our family and friends…we would have no one close to us to help us pick up the pieces. We started talking in earnest about our priorities and what changes we needed to make in our lives. It was time to re-CONNECT.
Since my husband and I are both from the northeast and had absolutely zero interest in living anywhere that would ever have snow in the forecast, we decided to move near my in-laws in Tampa. I took some time off from work after the move so we could just focus on friends and family. Despite COVID-19, we have gotten to spend more time with our friends and family in the past 8 months than we had in the past couple of years. Our hearts are full, and life feels complete. I feel the connections I had unknowingly been missing for some time. Just being in the same time zone has been a game changer for phone calls and text messages.
I do not want to try to sell you some fairy tale ending here, that is not what this is about. Families are not perfect because people are not perfect. But I will tell you this, I am 100% certain that if Mike or I had something tragic befall us our family and friends would be there in a heartbeat – as we would for them. I missed them, they missed us, life is good.
I hope you enjoyed my post! Please let me know in the comments. I would love to hear from you!! Light and love to you and yours.
What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.Mother Theresa