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On Being Connected

Updated: Feb 6

I've been looking for ways to scroll less. Not as a new year's resolution, no, I gave up making those quite a while back. Spending less time on my phone has been a desire of mine for quite some time now. And yet, even with that intention, I continue to give away my life to the numbness that is my phone.

This is especially true in the evenings. I'm not much of a TV watcher, but I've observed my phone slowly becoming my entertainment center over the years. After dinner and when other tasks have been accomplished it's so easy to see what the rest of my friends and the world have been up to. And even though I tell myself I'm grabbing that little rectangle just to post something, or send an email, or check the weather (or astrology) for the day, how often does it lead to that mindless soul-sucking where-did-the-time-go, dopamine-feeding checkout? This is of course a rhetorical question. I'm too afraid of the actual answer. Sigh. What in the world did I use to do in the evenings before my smart phone?

For that I have to stretch my brain back to before I became a parent. It feels like smart phones and reclaiming my evenings (meaning as my child got a little older and was no longer needing me 24/7) happened around the same time. But before motherhood, I seem to remember reading a lot. And making art and crafting. And hanging out with friends. Surely I can do those things more and be on my phone less? Or find new things?

I'm excited to report that one way I've found to curtail the addiction that is my phone is that I've started to listen to podcasts. Yes, yes, I know, that still involves my phone. But wait! What I do is start the podcast and then leave my phone on the other side of the room far from me, and while listening, I either pick up one of my dozen coloring books and markers and color away. Or I sit down at my art table. Or doodle in my art journal. All while listening to podcasts. I should be doing this all the time, every time I'm tempted to get lost in my phone. But what do we know about "should's?" Right, also trying not to beat myself up here for being less than perfect. It's a start!

So. To the point. Finally! One of the podcasts I found is called Wiser Than Me, by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Here's the synopsis:

"Julia-Louis Dreyfus wants to know why the hell we don’t hear more from older women, so she’s sitting down with Jane Fonda, Carol Burnett, Amy Tan, Diane von Furstenberg, Isabel Allende and Fran Lebowitz (and more!) to get schooled in how to live a full and meaningful life. Join the Emmy award winning-est actress of all time on her first-ever podcast, where each week she has funny, touching, personal conversations with unforgettable women who are always Wiser Than Me."

I love this podcast for many reasons. First, she's celebrating women at an age when so often in our society they have become invisible. Second, she's funny as heck and a brilliant person. And, also, she's a great interviewer and asks really thoughtful questions. Most are specific to the woman she's speaking with, but some questions she asks of each one of them. One question that has stood out for me, that she's asked each of them, is about what they - an older, wiser woman - would tell their 21 year old self.

As I listen to each of her guests ponder this question, I find myself wondering what I would tell my 21 year old self. There's so much I could say! But also, listening to and reflecting on the other women's responses, some have felt that perhaps their younger self wouldn't listen to an older person's advice. Or that it's because of the struggles they've had as younger adults that makes them who they are today, and that they wouldn't change a thing.

I can't say if my younger person would heed my older, wiser perspective, but thinking about what I'd tell 21 year old me helps me reflect on all the ways I have grown and learned and overcome challenges through the years. THAT is the real gift of this question. Not to convince my younger self to live life any differently, but to give me pause to appreciate the woman I have become, now, at this point in my life.

But what I would say to my younger self, given the chance, what I have learned, is something that only in the past six or seven years have I even really come to understand about myself. Loneliness, the feeling of being so utterly alone, even when surrounded by people, has been an all too familiar and crushing presence in my adult life. It's something I struggled with for years. And so I would tell her ~ do not be afraid of intimacy and connection.

I would encourage her to lean in, to open up to others more often, let down her barriers, to trust, to let them in. But I know my younger self wouldn't have had any idea HOW to do that. So perhaps my older self could give her some guidance at least: share who you are, what you're scared of, what your dreams are (the silly ones and the grand), open up about your insecurities, reveal the ways that you're different from others knowing that those are your gifts, not something to be ashamed of. Ask juicy questions of others. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions. Go deep. I've found that doing this is - though not guaranteed, because it takes two - usually develops amazing connection with others. And it also makes one feel much, much less alone in the world.

True connection with others takes work. And courage. But knowing what I do now, about how rewarding it is, well, I wish that my younger self had been able to experience this much, much sooner.

So what about you? What would you tell your 21 year old self? What nuggets of wisdom have you learned about yourself as you've progressed through life? How have you changed and grown?

And if you're near the age of 21 and reading this (bless your soul for doing so!!), do you think you're open to listening to - and connecting with - those that are older, and hopefully, wiser than you?

Deep, intimate, soul-level connection is such an beautiful thing to have with others. Here's to more of it in all our lives, more often.

Thank you for connecting with me, and thank you for reading!



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