In a recent post I talked about how important it is for me to choose to Live this life I’ve been given, not just to exist. Foundational to the ability to Live is our ability to connect. Life is relational by its very nature. We do not live our lives in a vacuum, but in communities, in spheres of influence.
The danger in our day is that of filling ourselves with pseudo-connections, surface relationships that never penetrate to our core. This post is an attempt to provide several points of contact, with which to begin to forge genuine connections with the world around us.
Only as we connect are we able to influence.
1. Take time.
Contrary to the world around us, there are no quick fixes. To appropriately Live, to connect to who and what matters, is a process. Processes take time. Time is in short supply in our culture. Taking time won’t just “happen” but is something we must consciously choose to allocate in a way that is life-giving, life-infusing. Only when we carve out time for Life will we learn to Be people who are capable of responding to what is truly valuable.
2. Learn to Be.
The challenge is to consciously allocate time for being. We live in a world focused on doing. When all the world around us is clamoring for us to do – do more, finish faster, work harder, work smarter – our primary responsibility is to learn to Be.
This responsibility is ours alone. Nobody else can do this for us. We can’t farm it out; we can’t delegate this responsibility to anyone else. This is a classic example of “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” It’s from this learning to Be that I find who I am and store up rich wisdom with which to connect with and gift the world around me.
3. Learn to be Me.
So often we are distracted from this work of being ourselves by the practical insistence that we fit ourselves into one mold or another demanded of us by our social culture, our work culture, even our religious culture. Just the need to make ends meet can lead us to stifle parts of ourselves.
However, If I don’t learn to Be this Me that I was given on Day One, I will never have any way to give “of myself.” Without a Me that has a Life inside, anything I give others will just be the regurgitated parroting of the culture I’ve absorbed. There won’t be a clearly defined “Self” from which to connect with other selves around me.
4. Learn what is “Not Me.”
We live in an age when it is considered essential to “be all you can be” and where weakness is often viewed as a source of shame. We are trapped in a split existence that expects perfection and idolizes supermen, while inside we all know we can never measure up to our ideal. But back to the “not me.”
When you are learning about something new, it is as essential to learn what it is not, as it is important to learn what it is. When it comes to Being, the same is true. I am learning that while I am not a super-sensitive empath, I am a bulldog for the Right and True and a softy for the Beautiful. None of us can be all of everything; that would make us God, and knowing our native Egos, we would also be insufferably boorish know-it-alls, to boot! Thank God for limitations!
5. Embrace your limits.
Revel in them! They give you a need to actually connect with other people. When we all acknowledge what we can’t do, it opens us up to the blessing of receiving from others. Yes, they say it is more blessed to give than receive, but this implies that there is indeed blessing in the receiving. Receiving is an act of humility. It is a practical way to participate in our mutual humanity.
6. Accept the messiness.
Control freaks want everything to be “just so.” Neatniks want everything arranged in order by size or color. Vulcans want everything to be logical. But life is rarely so clean-cut. There’s a certain healthiness in accepting that life is messy and it is okay for some things to tend to disorder. That’s just their way. Friends accept “sloppiness” in areas where you are neat, and vice versa. It’s okay to dislike what you see and yet be content to let their chaos be their chaos. You already have your hands full with what is your chaos. Let that be enough.