I heard the legendary community builder Mark Lakeman say recently in a workshop, "We're so connected that we even share our sense of isolation." How poetic. Even as we sit in our boxes tapping at our keyboards and filling our eyes full of entertaining shapes, that same gnawing sense of dissatisfaction is stirring in all of us. Could it be true?
Perhaps not all of us, but many people are afflicted with a sense of loneliness or isolation. I myself know this feeling well. "I just want to connect," it says, and I impulsively open a new tab to check Facebook. Surveys and statistics tell us that people are feeling more lonely now than ever, and whats worse, there are harsh side effects on both mental and physical health. How can we be so connected and so isolated at the same time?
There are two things I've identified that are major contributors for me. First, if I'm not revealing my true thoughts or feelings to those around me, then I don't get to feel connected. Even if I can talk all night about things that other people are interested in, it doesn't count for much if it's not what I actually want to share. In other words, if I leave some part of me unspoken or unexpressed, I'm effectively cutting off some piece of me and saying to it, "you're not welcome." Not only is this pain inducing, it also leaves me fragmented, unseen, and disconnected. It doesn't matter how much I talk to others if I don't get around to saying what's actually up for me.
Second is not being able to meet others. This is directly related to the first point. If I'm preoccupied with keeping my mask in place, I risk missing someone else when they step forward. I start to listen in terms of "what does this mean for me," or, "what can I say that's equally or more engaging," rather than to notice how the other person actually is. Then the conversation turns into two (or more) people in silos, demanding to be heard, and going home empty handed.
The thing I'm hearing over and over right now is that I get to be here. I get to be here umasked, as Robert. The more I embrace this, the more connected I feel. The more free I feel. And if the research is right, the healthier I am. So if you're feeling this, say it with me: I get to be here!
A couple days ago it was National Coming Out Day. I can relate with the struggle of my LGBT loved ones. The torture of living with part of yourself held hostage, voice muffled, and told that it's not welcome. This is something that most people have been through. But I've learned now that unless it's an immediate safety matter (someone may try to inflict physical harm), it's just not worth it! And I'm tired of fighting with myself over who I need to be in order to be loved. I'm just going to be me, now. Because I get to be here.
If any of this resonates with you, I invite you to watch this video. And when the chorus comes around, sing it boldly.