Entirely New Social Connections
Happy January 2019 – I’m back with you to share my first dawning of something entirely new that I promised I would write about this month. The focus surrounds what it feels like and how it touches us when we are connecting with new people and building a social support in a new place. I walked into this move with my eyes wide open about leaving a rich, supportive, stimulating large group of friends, colleagues, clients, and associates. I knew intellectually that I would need to tend to making new connections in every category. And too, I knew that I would need to grieve the loss of the physical closeness with friends I have loved and valued for decades. The magnitude of that was something I felt and contemplated before leaving, and certainly since arriving in my new town.
It’s fairly well known that not all humans long for connection in the same way. Many, I imagine, would not even consider “a longing for connection” was something they ever felt. And while I have a healthy appreciation for being alone, doing things in solitary, and generally appreciating my own company, I most assuredly enjoy the intimate and cherished company of others. It is a source of energy, vibrancy, and deep meaning for me to share, listen, and connect with others. So, I knew when I made the choice to move, that building new relationships was one of my highest priorities.
John O’Donohue, author of the International best seller, Anam Cara, also wrote Eternal Echoes, the Celtic reflections on our yearning to belong. One day I drove to a nearby Trappist Abby to check out the hiking paths they described on their website. I also took a look at their bookstore and gift shop. I asked about an author I couldn’t find, and the woman attendant, Vivian, walked over to John O’Donohue’s section and handed me a copy of Eternal Echoes stating, “This isn’t what you asked for, but I believe you will find this book very helpful.” She looked at me directly in the face as she spoke, and I knew I was engaged with someone who knew something about me in a way I couldn’t explain. I took the book, and without hesitation, I bought it. I sat in the car before I took my hike and read a few pages of Eternal Echoes and knew it was just what I needed. The hike was breathtakingly beautiful, by the way, full of trees and songbirds whose voices filled the air every step of the way.
Back to making new connections and building a supportive network, I have realized that being open emotionally, physically, and mentally is both a decision and a practice. I am naturally pretty open and animated whether I’m smiling at passers-by, presenting to a group, or getting to know someone for the first time. In this new situation, however, I paused to ‘adjust myself’ to being a little more open whenever I went out in public, even if it was just to the grocery store. “Smile,” I reminded myself often, you’re not in a hurry, and there’s nothing more important than this moment. I admit, I am lucky to have moved to a very friendly place—people at the doctor’s office, in the shops around town, at yoga class, even at the DMV are downright friendly! It was an adjustment, not because my previous home-town/city wasn’t friendly, but rather people were much more focused on what they were “doing” rather than what possibilities might occur along the way. People here look at you in the eye and speak for no other reason than to bond, or at the very least, to relate.
Next step for me was to be natural. In the first moments of an interaction, I don’t have enough information to know if I want to connect, other than in passing, and so, I had to pause a little longer than I was used to so I could see, feel, and listen to what was transpiring—and learn to be natural about it. Frankly, this longer, sweeter, closer level of friendliness took some getting used to. I walked into a sit-down place of gathering one day, and I stepped up to order something, and a couple around my age addressed me with a friendly hello. This was followed by a series of questions about me, if I was a tourist or part of the community, and 30 minutes later, the wife and I had exchanged cards with a promise that she’d be in touch. Slowing down and being natural paid off, and my first “new friendship” potential was given seed.
O’Donohue states, “The hunger to belong is at the heart of our nature. Cut off from others, we atrophy and turn in on ourselves. The sense of belonging is the natural balance of our lives.” Much resonance for me in these sentences, and as the holidays approached, I was acutely aware that I had not yet achieve a true sense of belonging. People were most assuredly responsive to me initiating conversation and setting up time together, which was greatly satisfying. A poignant turning point for me was when I received my first invitation! I was so touched to be included for Christmas day dinner and company. I felt thankful for this invitation, and I let my feelings show in words and actions. Being grateful and expressing it enhances the experience of the moment and offers fond sweetness to others.
I’ve got some distance yet to travel in terms of nourishing these early friendships into long lasting ones, as well as building a sense of true belonging, but I’ve begun something that makes me feel more ‘at home here’ and I am grateful for the budding potential. Being new is hard. Taking the first steps repeatedly is a discipline. Believing in the value of caring connections brings the possibility of loving and being loved once again.
It is with admiration that I work with capable women who come face to face with injury, surgery or a difficult diagnosis. I guide them holistically to navigate the medical trauma and maneuver through the emotional mayhem so they can return to a vibrant, independent life. If you or someone you know has such a challenge, I would deeply appreciate you sending them to AuthentiCore.com to contact me to see if we are a good fit to work together.