Connections make life worth living

I’ve been thinking about connections in my life, and have come to the realization that there is truly nothing more important than the feelings of belonging, friendship, and love for a healthy and happy life.

If you think about the most cruel and severe punishments in history, banishment, exile, and solitary confinement are definitely up there. We need people. We need to be heard, understood, and feel like we aren’t alone.

That said, just because we have people, doesn’t mean we have a connection. We can be surrounded by people and find ourselves at our loneliest. Similarly, just because we are lying in bed beside someone doesn’t mean that we are close to them.

Connectedness is key to happiness. We need a place we can go to to not feel like the only human on the planet; a place where our flaws are accepted as part of a beautiful whole, a place where the truths we believe in are shared; a place where we can shine and be appreciated; a place where laughter reigns, hope and faith always triumph, and love lives; a place where we are always given the benefit of the doubt. Most of us call that home.

Maya Angelou wrote: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” While I may differ with her slightly in that I think home is the best place to be questioned once in a while, I believe the sentiment is still clear. We need a home.

We need a people – but those people don’t have to be in our lives for long, necessarily.

The rewards of riding a motorcycle, for me, extend far beyond the exhilaration of the freedom, fresh air, danger, and speed. When another rider gives me “the wave,” I beam inside. “You belong” is what I hear in my head, and I am nearly giddy. I never need to talk to them, and yet they’ve given me something profound.

Such a connection without speech is a blessing. I have also experienced the bond of catching my friend or lover’s eye at an event and just with the raise of an eyebrow we know that we’re ready to leave as well. That’s powerful.

Connections don’t even have to be with people. Some connect with God, or nature (including pets). Listen to some people talk about their cars and you’ll also see how connected man can be to inanimate objects. But the most profound connections are those with people that we bring into our lives as friends and life partners.

Think of when you meet a new friend or potential soul mate. We’re thrilled when we find common ground. It’s a foundation for something amazing taking shape. “You like vanilla ice cream too?” We can get so excited about sharing a communality, even if it isn’t an important one.

Emerson said, “Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth?” We dive in to find more similarities, and we want to hear “Me too!” We start feeling dizzy with hope when we realize we might not be the only one. But more often than not we soon recoil hastily when we hit a disagreement on a real core value.

We yearn to find friends and lovers with enough shared “truth” to build a solid foundation for a life together. When we find someone who seems to be that kind of person, we are truly blessed, and it can be both exhilarating and frightening. It reminds me of the quote from the movie When Harry met Sally “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

It’s funny though, I see so many people around me more intent on buying stuff to make them happy, instead of forging life-changing connections. Life is not in collection, but in connection.

I like the way Jane Howard puts it: “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” Perhaps the most succinct way to capture the importance of connectedness is the Kenyan proverb: “Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.”

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