making meaningful connections

Each morning for over a week now, I have sat down, intending to write, and each day, I get a just few paragraphs down in my journal, before the distractions besiege. I suspect what I am noticing is more than simple distraction, though. Yes, I am having difficulty quieting. Yes, there is worry, obsession, and anxiety. Yes, my mind is racing. Yes, I am being re-minded (of my own cataclysmic, life altering experiences). Yes, I am afraid of missing some vital piece of information or connection. (FOMO overload) Yes, there has even been an overwhelming amount of positive offerings of human connection — poetry, art, reflections, spiritual practices, phone calls. Yes, I am being ‘fed’ with (consumed by?) so many ideas of things I could “do” to fill my alone time that there doesn’t seem to be any room in my bloated belly to just “be”.*

But this morning I had the thought that perhaps the inability to turn inward during this time, to listen for that still small voice within, is that my attention is being drawn outwards from my center for good reason. How can I withdraw from the world at a time such as this?

This has surprised me. I expected my introverted nature to relish the permission to practice isolation, though I prefer the word, solitude– and therein lies the rub, I suppose. It is, in fact, much more difficult to practice solitude, to fall into its grace and gift, during a time when we are being forced into isolation while at the same time being poignantly reminded of our interconnectedness, our shared humanity, and our need for one another. I find myself wanting to see, wanting to hear, wanting to feel, wanting to know, wanting to hold, wanting to care –about my fellow human beings.

So , I also find myself wanting to share my experience, not to inundate an already oversaturated world with more words, but to connect. I pray it is not merely self-centered indulgence to do so. This is after all a ‘shared experience’, unlike perhaps any other. It sometimes feels a bit like the sharing birthing stories. Mothers all have one– each one unique even in its commonality, each one needing to be told over and over — and those stories welcome us into the fold of motherhood/humanity, bringing intimacy and communion.

Something I began imagining a few years ago, after my first granddaughter was born, was that was iwriting to my great-great-granddaughters, and I have sporadically followed that nudging call. Once, that impulse rose in me while walking through a nursery bed of young hemlock, nestled together atop a ridge, which rimmed a valley carved by the poetically named, Love Run. At the time it was feared that all of our hemlock were dying from the pandemic of the day, the wooly adelgid outbreak. I felt such tenderness and hope for those young hemlock, seeded in the death throes of their mothers. In telling the story of them into the future, I realized I also wanted my great granddaughters to return to that place with me, to whisper back to me what the future looked like.

That instinct in me has risen again in response to this pandemic, speaking into the future of what it is like here today, imagining a future that wonders what it was like in those days for their mother’s mothers, when the world was different. How we felt, how we feared, how we were the same as them, how we changed the world through our Love for it.

But that letter will have to wait for tomorrow, because it is already 1 o’clock in the afternoon and the distractions(connections) have squandered(blessed) the morning away.

*I wrote about this feeling of being overwhelmed on a Facebook post. I have copied it below

Ok introverts, how are you doing. Feeling overwhelmed? Emotional and informational overload? Remember, an aspect of solitude is also simplicity. Try to keep from filling even this space with noise.
Information overload is perhaps an even greater concern when you are sheltering in place. And phone calls and texts to friends and family, while they can fill the day with vital connection and support for us, can also drain.
I’ve noticed even the sudden flood of generous connective offerings here on social media has begun to make me feel oversaturated. (I know from my years of watching my diet that gluttony can be a thing even when overconsuming healthy food!) so I’ve decided to wean, knowing I will probably miss some tender wisdoms, profound words of healing, connective offerings, thoughtful essays, elegant museums tours, shared experiences, new learnings, art courses, etc, etc, etc
But I don’t think my human brain is made to process this all, and I am trusting that what I do choose to taste will be nourishing enough, as will that which you find, even it comes from a vastly different food source. You really don’t need me to share the latest tidbit that I have found tasty or satisfying … you also will be led to what your own spirit craves. So, I can slowly savor that poem or newsbit without having to regurgitate its profundity for your benefit.
So, yes, I have decided to wean. I’ve chosen one news source to check in with twice daily for 10 minutes each. And just a few offerings of community. (For me, I’ve realized that if I have a previous connection in the real world with what is now a virtual community, that the offering feels more connective for me, rather than trying to plug myself in to a something new). I am seeking mostly spacious containers that bring quieting and peace.
For introverts like me, it is an intimacy thing, really. We do deeply treasure human-to-human connection but it has to feel authentic, slow, soft, deep, and never too many (at once, or in succession). However, I also believe this is true for all of us… we are not meant to be processing/consuming so much.
Perhaps this phenomena is something like the rush on toilet paper, except it is happening now in virtual space. We really don’t need that much after all, but there is something in us that grasps onto anything in times of uncertainty and becomes obsessed with it. Try not to add just one more, out of despair. The energy will settle here too…and we will be able to see what is truly needed, to choose only what is vital
There is the story of Indra’s net that always brings me home. In it, each of us imagined to be a jewel, called to hold our own place in the net. If we don’t do so, the whole thing comes unraveled. I think of that jewel, holding the threads that spire outward from it, as having maybe 6 strands. My job is to hold onto just those… and you to hold onto yours. That’s the way we hold onto one another. One by one. To try to grasp the entire mind-boggling vastness of that web would be an exercise in futility and exhaustion for me.
So thank you for all that you offer and hold. I trust that each of us, and all of us together, holding one onto the other will hold this fragile web together.
Find one thing you can do. One person you can attend to. One loving word , or prayer you can share. One moment of quiet. Small things. Great love

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