“Ready to Connect”
The proclamation makes me smile.
As I enter the room, iphone in hand, my new portable Bose speaker greets me by announcing that it is “ready to connect”. It will even remind me a few moments later, without judgement or frustration, that it is still there, open and waiting for the moment that I may want to pair with it and play some music.
I know it is only technology, but the explicitness of the invitation makes me smile and if I am honest, it also makes me ache a little. I wish we were more like this little speaker; Ready to Connect. Sometimes I find the feeling of being lonely amongst people soul crushing. Even in the groups that I meet with there is often so much posturing, judging and role playing that while we are all assembled, we are not actually connected. Our hearts are protected, our thoughts are monitored, our willingness to just “be” with one another is masked behind the objective of “putting our best foot forward” and “making an impression”.
I just got back from 6 weeks in the South of France last night. The light, the colours, the smells of fresh tomatoes and cherries makes Provence a full-on sensual experience. The heady combination allows me to slow down and really engage with the moments, the culture and the people around me.
I rediscovered my own connection-switch, and much to my delight, noticed that it was easy to manoeuvre despite having been in “off” for far too long.
Even though I thrive on the energetic connection that we can have with one another (my friends often wonder, why do so many strangers stop and ask you questions?) lately, I have been caught up in being “busy”, rushing and holding myself back behind a wall of reserve. I convinced myself that I don’t have time and that to just turn to someone and engage with them would be uncomfortable (for me but also for them!), inappropriate (what if they got the wrong idea), forward, awkward and presumptuous.
We live behind this wall of fear; a conviction that connection might lead to disaster. So we continue walking lost down streets without asking for directions, we don’t notice the moments where we could share eye contact and smiles; we walk past one another, faces drawn and looking inwards or more frequently at surrogate connections on our phones.
“Ready to Connect”
But my most wonderful travel moments, heck, my most wonderful life moments - explosions of richness and texture- are because I have turned my connection switch “on”.
Like last week in Bonnieux, I was trying on a dress in a store that sells the most wonderful linen. At the shop owner’s request, I stepped out to show her the fit of the style she picked for me. In that same moment the curtain from the neighbouring change room opened to reveal a woman trying on the same dress. (Hi Christina). I overheard her tentatively ask her patient partner if he thought “the skirt was a little too short and showed too much knee”.
Immediately the voice in my head started as the tentativeness in her voice hit a nerve.
“Girl show those knees. Be proud of that body, walk tall and screw all of them that would age-shame you because you are not 40 (or 50 or 60…) you can rock that beautiful linen dress and accessorize it with a little sass”.
As I punctuated that moment in my head I looked at my own reflection and saw that I had chosen a dress two sizes too large and was impersonating a potato sack. My gypsy eyes darkened as I started to chide myself for doing as this woman had; hide in clothing so that my audacious and bodacious self was not visible.
But France had opened me up, and I was Ready to Connect.
So I did what I do best. I removed the invisible wall that I was holding between us, replaced it with my conviction that we are meant to live collectively and give one another the best of our hearts and spun right around, took a deep breath and shared the truth that my heart was feeling – out loud.
“Get the dress. Celebrate your knees. Flaunt your beauty, girl. Show us how it is done.
I’m tired of hiding and worrying that I don’t measure up and I bet you are too.
You look glorious, so do your knees.”
Her husband smiled, and she beamed and for the next 15 minutes we chatted in the way that people who share a secret do – in a conspiratorial tone and feeling of relief. The sisterhood was alive in that moment. I hope she’s enjoying her dress as much as I am enjoying mine – when I wear it I remember the glow of a moment of defiance shared. I feel the filament of connection, and somehow, a little less lonely.
So much changes when we connect. A smile in the vegetable aisle (these peaches are awesome and yes, life is good), a shared laugh at the antics of a two year old (toddlers are exhausting, but you’ve got this, keep going!), the giving of directions and recommendations for dinner over a delightful espresso in the centre square (merci, oui I will come back and stay longer next time!) all leave me feeling like I have a place in the constellation of stories happening around me.
Most are fleeting moments of humanity, but I experience them as affirmations of belonging. Like my little speaker, I suddenly feel my volume turn up, and my sense of my place in the world deepens. I also believe that each time we connect we create little filaments that over time form some invisible web that keeps us safe. Some of those filaments turn into lifetime friendships, some are simply little moments that prove that we are part of something greater.
I was sitting in the audience, having travelled to another city specifically to listen to this keynote speaker. I knew all his work as I had played his inspirational videos countless times to each of my clients. I was there as a fan, but as I sat in my seat expectantly, I felt this familiar craving to connect with someone from my tribe.
I could already hear the inner critic talking myself out of it… “he is too busy, too famous, too connected to want one more filament in his life”. Luckily for me I completely ignored that voice and dared to open up and share my joy and my vulnerability with Dewitt.
I could have sat there, enraptured but silent.
I could have put him on a pedestal and simply watched and wondered.
Instead I engaged.
I showed up, shared my own perspectives and my vulnerabilities.
I dismantled that terrible space between us by putting away the overwhelming need to impress.
I sat in the middle of his words and his photographs and simply felt the presence of a kindred spirit and tried not to be surprised when I overheard myself say “this could be crazy, but I think we could have fun working together.” What a road that risk has taken me on! After 14 years, we are still finding reasons to play and deliver workshops that continue to be the most passionate, expressive things that I do. Most importantly, he remains a mentor in my life, and the node of so many more filaments that hold me gently, in community and connection.
All because he heard the invitation “ready to connect”.
All because I dared to switch it on.
And you? Are you “ready to connect”?
In Celebration, Tania
Dewitt and I are delighting in our connection even more and are dreaming up a new retreat The Art of Seeing Possibility. February 2-7, 2020 in Molokai Hawaii. If you want to be on the first to know list, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org