The Power of Connection

connection

Warning: This may be difficult for some of you to read, since in this post I recall a traumatic experience. I discuss loss, grief and witnessing a horrific accident in which someone lost his life.

 

I really didn’t want to talk or think about what happened and the low point where I found myself. I wanted to move on. The last thing I wanted to do was write about it. So I felt conflicted when someone I trusted asked,

“What if your experience can help someone else?”

I felt the push and pull of this question. On the one hand, I just wanted to run away rather than recount my experience, but on the other hand, I wanted to reach out and share in the hopes that it might be useful to someone else. Perhaps it would make someone else feel less alone.

Connection? When I’m at my lowest, I don’t want to connect. I want to retreat.

I’ve been in a really good place lately, focused, energetic, positive, grateful and consistent with my self care routine. But I recently had a series of emotional sucker punches that brought me down.

A coworker and then a friend passed away, both suddenly, within a short period of time.

I was riding the wave of grief and the uncertainty of life in the best way I could and felt connected to myself, my coworkers, my family and friends. Although I knew the next few days would be sad and difficult, I knew I needed to connect with others in this “collective pain.”

In an excerpt from “Braving The Wilderness,” Brené Brown writes,

“Funerals, in fact, are one of the most powerful examples of collective pain. They feature in a surprising finding from my research on trust. When I asked participants to identify three to five specific behaviors that their friends, family, and colleagues do that raise their level of trust with them, funerals always emerged in the top three responses. Funerals matter. Showing up to them matters. And funerals matter not just to the people grieving, but to everyone who is there. The collective pain (and sometimes joy) we experience when gathering in any way to celebrate the end of a life is perhaps one of the most powerful experiences of inextricable connection. Death, loss, and grief are the great equalizers.”

 

Connection. At times, so difficult yet incredibly healing. Showing up matters.

I felt grateful that I followed Brene’s advice.

I had no idea what would happen in just a few days.

What seemed like an ordinary Tuesday morning drive to work turned out to be an even bigger test of my humanity and willingness to connect regardless of what I was feeling.

I witnessed an extremely violent, one vehicle accident just two cars ahead of me on a steep, hilly road. My husband stopped our car and we both got out to assess the scene while I called for help. It was difficult to take in what we were seeing.

It was as if a bomb went off. There were parts of the vehicle and its contents, a dump truck with a full load of soil, strewn across front yards and down the hill. The sound of the accident must have been incredibly loud, but we didn’t hear a thing. I guess our brains can only take in so much trauma at once.

When I was able to process the scene once again, I heard the sound of rushing liquid. My eyes quickly focused on the diesel fuel pouring of the truck. A fire extinguisher quickly emerged with a homeowner from his house and the 911 operator instructed us to keep it nearby. Help was on the way.

When I focused on the driver, I noticed he was pinned in his truck surrounded by the crushed cab and another bystander was kneeling beside him applying pressure to his injuries.

My emotions changed from sheer panic and fear to compassion the instant I heard the driver’s voice.

He was alive and talking. The humanity of the situation overwhelmed me and I found myself  struggling with how I was going to help, not whether or not I would. It felt like it was taking forever for help to arrive.

I stepped into the mud that surrounded the truck and to where the driver could hear me. I told him that help was on the way, that he was doing a great job of continuing to breathe, and that we were with him.

Connection. It’s what makes us human, gives us hope and makes us feel alive.

The emergency personnel finally arrived. They took our names and asked us to leave.

Although the driver didn’t make it, I hope he felt a sense of hope and connection in that moment. I hope it brought a sense of peace to his sister when I shared with her that her brother did not die alone.

The details of the accident were like a movie replaying in my mind over and over again, even one week later, when my husband and I were going away for a prearranged overnight stay at a local state park. I really didn’t want to go.  I wasn’t in the mood, I just wanted to disconnect, from everyone and everything.

But I chose to connect.

I connected to my husband and shared how I was feeling with him (and warned him that he was in for a “treat” because I wasn’t in a very good mood). It took me by surprise when he later told me that he thought that that was actually considerate of me.

Connection is love.

I connected to the love that my son and his fiancé shared in giving us the overnight accommodations for a very thoughtful Christmas gift. They know we value experiences over things. Of course we weren’t going to stay home!

The weather was dreary and cold, but my husband and I made the best of our overnight visit to the park. We walked around the zoo when we arrived, ate dinner in bed while watching TV and hiked the next morning, since it was the better of the two days, weather wise.

I felt better. The fresh air and exercise were just what I needed! Connecting to nature really reestablishes our place in this world. The trip reminded me that we are all interconnected to something larger than ourselves.

We are all part of a common humanity.

I wonder if my son and his fiancé know just what a special gift that was!

 

Up until posting, I had reservations about sharing. My negative self talk voice was particularly dominant:

“There are many, many people who have gone through way worse losses than me, so why would what I have to say be meaningful?”

“Who do I think I am?”

“People may think I’m being overly dramatic, attention seeking, etc.”

“Reading my post might actually trigger someone into having a negative reaction (the opposite of my intention).”

“My loved ones may worry about me and feel burdened by my sharing.”

 

I decided to share because the louder voice in me, the one that drowns out fear, is one of love, connection and courage!

“There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.”

~Brené Brown

 

Thanks for reading. I know it can be difficult to connect when we want to retreat. Take a break when you need one and connect when you can. There are many opportunities to connect in many different situations.

I think that leaning on each other can make us stronger!

Please feel free to share and comment.

Jeanne

Xox

 

Here are some links to things that I’ve found helpful in the last few weeks, a video, a podcast and all things Brené:

Meditation for Mental Balance and Grounding, Yoga with Adriene

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0nZ1ZLephQ&list=WL

 

Fighting Depression with Social Connection, Johann Hari

Johann talks about the importance of having a tribe and the positive mental health effects of the social connection.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/10-happier-with-dan-harris/id1087147821

 

All things Brené!

She has been my biggest cheerleader. Her research and personal anecdotes are encouraging and will give you the strength and the tools to be courageous. Check out her website below and her new Netflix special!

https://brenebrown.com/

 

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Find Your Passion

What do I want to be when I “grow up?” What’s my passion?

If I only knew, then I could get on with my life. Then I would be happy, my life would have more meaning, I would be more motivated, less depressed, a better wife, mother, sister, friend, I would find the perfect job, I would be ______________________.

The answers to these questions seem to be on most people’s minds across all age groups. The search for them seems to create a sense of lifelong yearning.

What if finding your passion was closer than you thought? Literally. Because I think it is!

I too want to live a meaningful life filled with purpose. I want what I do to be aligned with who I am.

After reading Brene Brown’s book, Dare to Lead, I realized that if we live within our values we will always be living with passion. We will always be living our best life.

WHAT we do is really secondary to WHO we are. We can bring our values to anything we do and therefore we will always be in alignment.

According to Brene, “A value is a way of being or believing that we hold most important. Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk-we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs. Our values are our North Star.”

This sounds like passion to me!

Although finding our passion may be more tangible than we think, it still requires some introspection. Brene goes onto say that, “We can’t live into values that we can’t name.”

In her book she encourages her readers to make a list of their values or choose from her list. She suggests narrowing down the list to one or two values.

“Choose one or two values-the beliefs that are most important and dear to you, that help you find your way in the dark, that fill you with a feeling of purpose.  If you have more than three priorities, you have no priorities. ”

“Our values should be so crystallized in our minds, so infallible, so precise and clear and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice-they are simply a definition of who we are in our lives. In those hard moments, we know that we are going to pick what’s right, right now, over what is easy. Because that is integrity-choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy; and it’s practicing your values, not just professing them. “

LOVE Brene!

So, I made a list of my values-adventure, connection, authenticity, balance, family, ….. and came up with 18! How to decide? After much deliberation and further reading, I learned  that some broader values encompass other specific values (for me, connection includes family), I was able to narrow it down to just two core values, connection and authenticity.

finding your passion

That was the easy part. The next step is aligning our behaviors with our values, or as Brene calls it, “Taking values from BS to behavior.”

I think this is a life long process. We can infuse our core values into everything we do. In doing so, we ARE living our passion. No more searching, just BE who we are.

So next time you’re searching for your passion or trying to figure out what you want to be when you “grow up” just remember:

“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

-Glinda the Good Witch

 

This post is dedicated to someone I know who is at the end of a difficult journey. She has inspired me with her strength and courage and has been questioning what she will do next, what she will do when she, “grows up.” I hope in some small way this creates some light along her journey to finding her passion.

 

S.A.D.

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“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

― Howard Zinn

This is a difficult time of year for many, including myself. Although each year seems to get a little bit easier, I still need some reminders to take it one day at a time, and to have self compassion. I thought you might need a gentle reminder too.

Below are some links to a few posts from past years that might be helpful. I wrote them when I was feeling low during the winter months. I hope that by reading them you feel me reaching out and giving you a nice big hug.

I attended a class today on how to keep mindfulness in our everyday lives.  I was so excited when I signed up months ago, but as this day fast approached, I felt that the timing wasn’t right. In fact, it couldn’t have been worse, since it’s the most hectic time of year with my work schedule. So much to do, how can I afford the time away from my work responsibilities?

It turned out that the class came at exactly the right time and it was just what I needed! The community and connections filled me up. It was in this class that my instructor read this quote:

“The future is an infinite succession of presents.”

Keep it moving in even the smallest of ways and we’ll get “there,” whatever and wherever that is for you. We got this!

Here are those links:

https://beallthere.net/2014/02/22/the-power-of-positive-thinking/

https://beallthere.net/2014/12/06/feeling-gray/

https://beallthere.net/2015/08/22/funkytown-just-passing-through

If you just have time to read one, the last one is one of my favorites!

 

 

Balance

balance

I heard a statement recently that made me reframe my thinking. As I attempted to balance on one knee and one hand during a gentle yoga sequence (audio), the speaker said,

Balance is not static, but consists of tiny, constant movements and adjustments.

My whole body shook from side to side. I tried to shore myself up from my center so I wouldn’t fall over.

This experience made me think about how I view my life when different aspects aren’t, what I consider to be, “optimal.” When I’m feeling defeated at work, one of my relationships is strained, I’m not as kind or positive as I’d like to be or I’m choosing too much screen time over self-care, I feel as if I’m sucking at life.

What I’ve come to realize is that life, by definition, is never balanced, nor is it static.

It consists of tiny, constant movements and adjustments.

We just have to center ourselves as much as possible (and try not to fall over).

I know this can be a difficult time of year for some. The holidays are approaching and the days are getting shorter and colder.

I know I have less energy, my mood is lower and I’m really missing my parents. If you read some of my previous posts, you might even notice that my writing is more introspective this time of year. I’m definitely feeling the feelings.

Although my life isn’t ever static, it’s become much more balanced. If you’re interested, I wrote an essay on what I know works for me. You can read about it here: https://beallthere.net/2015/06/20/be-all-there/

Wishing you balance (and peace) now and always.

Love,

Jeanne xox

 

 

 

Plan B (B is for Better)

pipe to UGL2

The recent rain opened up a new section of our usual kayak route.  Beautiful picture taken by my talented friend, Mary Ann

 

Over the last few years I’ve learned to loosen my grip and let go of preconceived expectations.  This was more out of self-preservation than desire to give up trying to control everything and everyone.

I’ve always felt that if I didn’t orchestrate my life then things would surely begin to unravel. But when I finally realized that I was unraveling, I let go. I was so tired of trying to keep all the balls in the air that I just gave up trying. It wasn’t easy or comfortable, but I was tired and I needed a rest, so I just let go.

And I waited for everything to come crashing down around me.

But it didn’t.

To my surprise, things at work, at home and in my relationships  didn’t deteriorate and, over time (and with practice),  I became much more relaxed and less stressed. Life became more manageable and enjoyable!

I’ve learned a few things about myself in this process, but perhaps more importantly, I’ve learned about my relationships. Not feeling the need to always control things and taking a step back has made space for me to hear and really listen to those around me. I feel as if my relationships are more balanced and authentic and have even been told that I’m more fun to be around! I sure hope so!

Letting go of preconceived expectations has eliminated the trap of paralyzing disappointment when things don’t go as planned. But what’s really exciting for me is that I’m now more open and curious to what I can learn from alternate plans. I feel like I have more of a variety of experiences with people, places and things. My world has expanded.

I recently made reservations at what appeared (online) to be a great restaurant. When I arrived I realized it wasn’t where we wanted to spend the evening with our friends. Not only wasn’t it low-key enough, but I had actually mistakenly made reservations at one of the other locations…..in another state!  We had a good laugh about my online reservation blunder, decided on another restaurant, had a delicious meal, a great time and, since we were so close to our place, were able to extend the evening back there. Plan B worked out better!

Sometimes I can’t find the products I usually use and end up trying other products that I like better, or my preferred hotel is booked and we end up staying at a really great place and make wonderful memories. One time my husband and I even planned an entire trip around a visit to a National Park only to find out once we got there that it was closed due to a government shutdown! This experience turned out to be the subject of one of my first blog posts.

Rather than wallow in disappointment, sadness, fear, and even anger that your plans don’t work out, be curious, adventurous and spontaneous and embrace Plan B!

It could be the Best thing you ever did!

 

Do you have an example of when Plan B worked out better? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Embracing Imperfection

buddhaEmbracing imperfection is easy when you feel like you’re doing a pretty good job of keeping your imperfections at bay and you’re feeling nearly perfect. But this seems counterintuitive. Kind of like when people say they place little value on money when they have never struggled financially or had to cash in their loose change for milk or bread.

But no one’s perfect and we should be acutely (and constantly) aware of that if we truly want to be accepting of who we are, warts and all.

Shame is the birthplace of perfectionism.

~Brene’ Brown

What will people think of me? I wasn’t as kind as I could have been, I didn’t cover my mouth when I sneezed, I used foul language, I didn’t get around to talk to everyone, and on and on and on, the shame storm goes.

I know someone who always uses the quote, “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards.” I think it’s a sports reference. It always irks me when he says it, since I think we’re allowed to take a little break and appreciate how far we’ve come. It doesn’t mean we are backsliding. Sometimes we just need a rest.

Thank goodness I never reacted to him one of the many times he’s used this quote like I was tempted to with, “I completely disagree and here’s why!” I actually see the value in it now and, while we can feel good at how far we’ve come, we can’t rest for too long.

If we know what makes us feel healthy and balanced and we stop doing these things, then we may not feel so healthy and balanced.

I know what makes me feel good. I love to be out in nature, hiking, walking or gardening. I feel more balanced with meditation and yoga. These things make me feel strong and self-confident. Perhaps if I didn’t lose sight of them, if I continued to “move forward,” I wouldn’t worry so much about what someone thought about me when I didn’t cover my mouth when I sneezed.

Don’t lose sight of what you need to give yourself to be your best and keep doing these things. If you fall out of practice, get back into your self-care routine as soon as you can because you never know when you will be knocked off-balance and feel as if you are “moving backwards.”

If you train hard, you’ll not only be hard, you’ll be hard to beat.

~Herschel Walker

The Ebb and Flow of Life

the ebb and flow of life

I couldn’t wait to get home from work. I parked my car, got the mail, unlocked the door, stepped into my cozy living room, turned up the heat and changed into my pajamas.

It’s 3:38 in the afternoon.

It’s been a cold, unpredictable spring, with sudden changes in the weather, at work, and in the lives of the people I care about.

I’ve been struggling to find balance and momentum lately. I feel tired when I wake up in the morning and I’m disappointed in myself that I haven’t been following through in my self-care routine. I haven’t been able to keep up.

Keep up with whom or what?

When I paused to think about my feelings I realized that the standards that I fell short of were self-imposed and could easily be adjusted. Maybe I just needed to simplify my self care routine and focus on one thing right now, like meditation or writing, or even sleep. With warmer days ahead, perhaps I will focus on just getting outside and moving more.

Growth comes in many forms. Life is a process and there will be times that we move forward, times that we take a few steps back and times that we remain still, pause and reflect on how far we’ve come.

Each of these situations is an opportunity for growth.

“Being fully present isn’t something that happens once and then you have achieved it; it’s being awake to the ebb and flow and movement and creation of life, being alive to the process of life itself.”

~Pema Chodron