Helping myself when my heart is shutting down

Right at this moment, as I sit here writing, I am finding it challenging to connect. I realize that I haven’t really been open to my loved ones. I feel like I am going through the motions, engaged enough to look good, disconnected enough to feel a bit numb. My passion subdued. I need to fight this habit of mine. I know that it is a slippery slope into depression and lack of meaning.  What I want and what I know is that my tour in this lifetime, with this body and with this mind, has a purpose. This lifetime is my opportunity to observe, contemplate, ask, listen, reach out, ponder, wonder, exclaim, and find meaning.  Where I have found meaning is in connection – being in the present moment when I am on a walk, talking with a loved one, paying for groceries in the checkout line, listening to the promptings of God when I say my prayers. I know that feeling unconnected is at the root of the depression, addiction, and loneliness I’ve experienced at times in my life. I am fine and, at the same time, I know that I need to fight for my soul.

Many things in my life have the potential to pull me away from connection. One big one is spending too many hours thinking about my business. While I like to think about my business, it can get me out of balance.  I might rationalize that I need to make money – so that I get out from underneath debt – so that I can relax and spend more time with loved ones – but that puts me on an unhealthy “brain hamster wheel.” Like most people, I need to make sure that my work life does not get in the way of relationships. Even though working takes up most of my day, I need to set time aside to express my caring for loved ones in words and with actions. Juggling work, family and self-care is a challenge that requires discipline, self-awareness, and a fair amount of letting go.

Another issue that can keep me from connection is not feeling well, physically or emotionally, and therefore becoming self-absorbed. Ill feelings can last a moment, an hour, or days at a time, but they can add up to keeping me in a bubble of isolation. Over time, I have learned that my lifestyle choices of exercise and eating well are really important in keeping these “connection distracters” from taking over. 

There have been some really, really hard times in my life, when I was with people I cared about but still felt disconnected. Sometimes, I have felt disconnected from my loved ones because of anger or disagreements between us. I find that it’s vital to clear up issues that arise in relationships as soon as possible, even if that takes some therapy, rather than just hoping that they’ll go away. Other times, I’ve felt disconnected in a group because I’m trying to keep myself safe from some of the other participants. Those other participants might be over-controlling, or hypercritical, or perhaps their behavior dredges up a trauma from my past. Again, these issues might be something that I need to get professional help sorting out.

Sometimes I have felt shy (unworthy) when I really want to speak or be a part of a group. I have actually had to learn conversation starters and how to keep a conversation going. It has really helped. I am almost embarrassed to say that I didn’t do this until I was in my 50s. Yikes – but better late than never. In the past I might not have said anything or over-talked.

Sometimes we feel really connected when the big issues strike. After challenges like being in a natural disaster or dealing with the illness of a loved one, we may discover that our best and truest self has been called forth. I have found that suffering can make it easier to connect. We may even look back and see tragedy as a gift. But Whoa! Do we really want to wait for tragedy to find connection?

So here is my list of simple things that we can do to feel connected to the world, our loved ones, the present moment, and God:

  • Take quiet time
  • Learning something new
  • Doing an art or craft project
  • Meditating on love
  • Walking in the woods with a camera
  • Reading something that is spiritually uplifting
  • Hanging out with an animal friend
  • Cooking
  • Setting up a phone call or meet-up with a friend.
  • Taking time away from social media

UPDATE: I did practice being more present and today was a great day of connecting with loved ones. I am so grateful for the skills that I have been able to add into my life to enrich my experience in this world.  What is on your “get connected” list?