I am currently engaged in a project I call “Operation Elevator”. When I enter an elevator, I chose a stranger to make eye contact with, smile at and say a heartfelt “hello”. As a keen observer of human behaviour (my own included), I find the range of responses quite thought provoking. Some people seem surprised, taken off guard, by this unsolicited greeting. Some people look straight ahead and say nothing. Yet, for the majority, a big smile crosses his/her face and a sincere greeting is returned. We are no longer elevator strangers but connected to the bigger scheme of humanity.
Connection. I started this elevator project to educate myself on the art of human connection. During challenging times of loss, grief, sickness, accident, transition, etc, there are some people who gravitate even closer to their loved ones and hold them tightly for support. I, on the other hand, turned severely inward. I bolted up the doors and turned off the lights of my home. Trauma was so painful that I closed down my heart for self protection. Frankly, it was too painful to feel deeply, or for that matter, feel at all. During the darkest night of my soul, the “easiest” thing I could do was hibernate. My own coping mechanism involved shutting out people, places, things that reminded me of my pre-accident existence.
Yet, in the midst of my self-protective hibernation, there was a deep, deep craving for human support and connection. The truth was that I was pushing away the very thing I desired the most.
How is a proud, independent woman who built a life on helping others supposed to break out of isolation and, instead, allow connection to support her? The answer to this question is, say “yes” to the support that is offered. Just start today!
What I am learning is that those who truly honour you for the person you are, will never disconnect, despite the ebb and flow of life circumstances. Others no longer intertwined with your journey will peacefully fade into the distance. That’s okay, though, for it is part of the redefinition process. Yet those people who genuinely care for you will wait patiently at your bolted door, ready and willing to help, at your request.
This past week, I said “yes” to two friends. I moved two steps out of isolation by letting down the protective walls and allowing them to see me, really “see” me, in my present moment. It is true that connecting with them has awakened some memories of my pre-accident life. Grief is, indeed, flowing through my being. Yet, to connect in a heartfelt matter not only honours the beautiful people in my life, but also honours myself and my life in its present form. In this moment, I am enough. No defined roles are required.
Where there is an ending, there is a new beginning.
Where there is pain, there are messages.
Where there is vulnerability, there is beauty.
Where there is isolation, there is potential for connection.
Just for the moment, help me to see that connection is here, just waiting for me to reach out and embrace it. And so it is.
Artwork Credit: Thank you, Lisa Sharpe, for the beautiful header. Your artwork shows a deep connection between art, colour, movement, inspiration and life.