Not An Island: On Building Meaningful Connections

Last week I wrote about the one thing that has saved my marriage multiple times. This week I’ve been thinking more and more about my connections to those around me, and how the modern era has made us more connected in a million ways, but also threatens the very fiber of what real relationships are made from. As I think about all the people I’m related to, my friends, my professional contacts and my casual acquaintances, I can recall fondly all the things these relationships have brought me. I’m relatively introverted and this has made me very cautious on “putting myself out there”, but it’s also caused me to treasure and respect those relationships I have kindled.

I have a friend that I consider a friend because we have mutual friends, we’ve been introduced and have chatted in person on multiple occasions as well as conversed virtually- but when I introduced myself on a new online forum, of which this person was also a member, she introduced herself as if I were a total stranger. On another occasion, I attempted to make friends with a fellow army wife here at Fort Hood who was looking for friends, happened to be my age, was also a new and “crunchy” mama, vegan and also from a small town in California like me! We exchanged several long emails over the course of several weeks, but when it came time to actually meet up, she dodged my invitations. This surprised me as she was a very outspoken blogger with multiple thousand friends and followers. She frequently wrote about the problem of having dozens of internet friends but only a few “real” friends in her life, and about how she was lonely and longed for a real community.

These are two rare and outstanding women with whom I definitely could have and would have loved to have made that real genuine friendship connection with, but it their attention was just too scattered across various social media platforms for them to have the time or the energy to reciprocate that effort. This is a real problem that is plaguing our modern society. It’s a virus of being “overly connected” and “overly accessible” to the point that you are no longer available or you neglect to take that final step to form real connections with others in the form of meeting up for coffee, having them over for dinner or letting one another lament about current life dramas on the phone- person to person. This is kinda what I mean:

Of course, sometimes you’ll meet people that you just don’t jive with. Maybe they just can’t get past the fact that you don’t subscribe to their religious views or maybe you figured out over time that they caused you more problems than they were worth. That is OK. In those cases it’s best to just gracefully let them go without holding on to any grudges for your own peace. If you do meet a person that makes you laugh or that you can have a meaningful conversation with, or just find someone that you like for no particular reason, I beg you to please hold on to them! Don’t “throw people away” over a minor disagreement or because they flaked out on you once. Come to grips with the fact that they are who they are and you’ve gotta love them for the exact person they are without hoping that they’ll change or only sticking around for them when they are at their best.

Remember that it’s always a two way street. As much as you’ve got to say “yes” to hanging out once in awhile it’s important to reach out and make some plans with them as well. A call on a birthday or a special text of a picture of you that you don’t share with everyone on facebook can mean a lot to those friends that are maybe just too far away to hang out with regularly. It may seem obvious but your friendships, and also your romantic and familial relationships are the most valuable thing you have. *CLICHE WARNING* At the end of your life, when you’re taking your final breaths, are you going to think of your ten thousand followers on twitter? No. You’ll think of your daughter looking up at you saying “I love you, Mommy.” You’ll think of the Christmas you spent around the fire with your parents and siblings. You’ll think of all the people that grew old with you, the ones that showed up to your birthday party, the ones that were there to take your call when you needed to cry it out and made you feel hope again. The ones you shared moments of real connection with.

In today’s world it’s become a bit more uncommon to march over to your new neighbor’s house and introduce yourself, or to throw out an open invitation in a public forum to ride along with you to a concert or event.. It’s freakin’ SCARY to be that stranger to start talking to another mom at the park or try out to be in a band from a post on craigslist, to march up to your professor and ask for a different mentor than the one assigned you or email a total stranger to ask them about their careers. Sure as hell it takes a great deal of trust to put yourself out there. But you HAVE to do these things. These days it takes effort to find your “people” in life. Unless you live in a tiny town where you and your parents and their parents were raised, you have to build your community brick by brick. Remember that all these things I’ve mentioned are merely just ways to meet people- people that have the potential to become True Friends in your life, for life, if you let them.

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