Staying Close with Loved Ones Six Feet Apart … Intimacy, Connectedness and Coronavirus

“It’s ironic that as the pandemic forces us into our separate corners, it’s also showing us how intricately we are all connected.”

— David Byrne

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I bring my husband tea in the morning; I put the cup down at the top of the stairs, then sit down on the landing, about 7 feet down from the top. My husband waits ’til I’m seated, then comes to collect his tea, and sits at the top of the stairs to drink it. Thus begins our morning routine, our time to reconnect after he has slept upstairs in our room, while I sleep downstairs in our son’s room. My husband returned from Asia a few days ago, (*Yes he did make it home from the trip I wrote about in my past post) and is now in ‘quarantine’. He uses only one door in the house to go outside, which I do not use, and I bleach the handle after he uses it; I keep his dishes separate, use a bucket and hot water and a bit of bleach to wash them; he does not enter the kitchen at all. He is taking his temperature every morning and evening and paying attention to any possible symptoms, as was recommended by the health clinic here. This is our routine for the two-week quarantine.

We live in New Zealand where our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is doing an incredible job. According to the Washington Post, she and the NZ government aren’t just flattening the curve, they are squashing it. Here in NZ, the vast majority of us are accepting the new norm and respecting the lockdown requirements here. But even during, especially during, this lockdown, staying connected is essential.

David Byrne, singer, songwriter, filmmaker and lead singer and founding member of the Talking Heads, has written a beautiful piece about our connectedness in his online journal: Reasons to Be Cheerful:

The World Is Changing — So Can We

The pandemic is revealing the many ways our lives intersect. Is this an opportunity for us to reimagine what we can be? It’s showing us just how tenuous our existence becomes when we try to abandon those connections and distance from one another.

So with this new forced isolation and distance, how do we maintain our intimacy, and hold on to these feelings of connectedness that are so essential?

Even though my husband and I cannot touch, cannot even be in close physical proximity, we have created new routines, like our stairway talks to maintain our closeness. I have completely come to rely on Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. A simple phone call is not enough for me these days. I have a need to see friend’s faces. I message my sons more often. We ‘Hang Out’ and video chat on a more regular basis. Neighbors are checking in on each other more often – by phone, at the end of their drive or on walks.(keeping their physical distance of course). It is widely accepted that this connection with one another is absolutely necessary for one’s wellbeing.

I am seeing more and more articles about how to stay connected with friends and family during this challenging time.

Radio New Zealand featured an article about staying connected while in isolation with the help of technology; The United Way released guidelines about staying connected during Covid-19; and in The Atlantic recently, there was an article with suggestions on

The Art of Socializing During Quarantine. Writer Joe Pinsker has a few suggestions:

  • KEEP DINING AND DRINKING ‘TOGETHER’
  • REACH OUT TO FRIENDS NEAR AND FAR
  • USE A VARIETY OF MEDIA
  • SUPPORT OTHERS (OR JUST LET THEM KNOW YOU’RE AVAILABLE)
  • CONNECT WITH THE PEOPLE IN YOUR OWN HOME (*even if it is 6 feet apart)

I am definitely prioritizing connection these days. I see this connection as vital to my health and wellbeing. I am using this isolating time as an opportunity to stay connected. Byrne describes it like this:

What is happening now is an opportunity to learn how to change our behavior. For many of us, our belief in the value of the collective good has eroded in recent decades. But in an emergency that can change quickly. In emergencies, citizens can suddenly cooperate and collaborate. Change can happen. Here is an opportunity for us to see things differently — to see that we really are all connected — and adjust our behavior accordingly. 

 

We are connected, no matter the physical distance between us. Let’s all nurture this connectedness and use this extraordinary time to strengthen the bonds between us.

 

“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown

I’ll close with David Byrne discussing Reasons to be Cheerful.

I’d love to hear how you are staying connected in these challenging times. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Doing the work . . moving toward Authentic Self

“Finding your true self is the cure for all suffering.”

― Deepak Chopra

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Deepak Chopra argues that finding and connecting with our true self can end our suffering. Is that true? I’m not sure, but I know I feel a lot more at peace and more grounded when I know I am centred and operating out of a deeper sense of self.

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Recently, I was having coffee and talking to a friend about healing old wounds, about dealing with old, deep trauma and abuse – about doing the deep work – the work to move from being stuck to finding one’s authentic self.  We both agreed that doing one’s personal growth work is essential to one’s well being. I believe that any of us with past emotional scaring, trauma, or abuse need to acknowledge it and do the work.  Staying stuck, staying in denial and pretending that everything is just wonderful is not helpful.   Pasting on a smile and saying I will just be positive when the pain inside is unbearable does not work. Neither does numbing it with drugs and alcohol. And believe me, for years I tried!

But it’s important to note, that when the numbing quit working the pain was still there and I spent many years doing my own work.  I went to one on one counselling, I did psychodrama groups, I did group counselling and I went to more personal growth workshops than I can count.  I did deep, deep work. Most of it was not fun and a lot of the work was very painful, but all of it helped move me forward on my path.  I was and still am committed to growing and not staying stuck.

In order to make changes in the present and not stay stuck, we have to look at our past and understand what led us to our current situation. We need to work through and move through our feelings of pain and loss in order to move on.

Please understand I am absolutely and positively a believer in Positive Psychology and finding happiness.  But it must be Authentic Happiness.  And in my opinion Authentic Happiness can only be obtained when we have done our deep work and touched our Authentic Self. So yes, for me, Deepak Chopra’s words ring true that finding your true self is the cure for all suffering . . . But for many of us, a lot of work has to be done first to get  ready for that trip.

I’ll close with with the video I quoted by Deepak Chopra:

I’d love to hear how you connect with your deepest sense of self.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Social Connection: The Key to Well-Being – Why You Need It and How You Can Get It

“We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”

Brené Brown

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The age old question – What is the Key to Well-Being? What is the Secret to Happiness?

Is it to be rich and famous? To have a successful career? To be admired and respected?

Why are some people happier than others? How can people learn to be happier? Is there a secret to happiness?

Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky has spent her career exploring these concepts.

1) What makes people happy?

2) Is happiness a good thing?

3) How and why can people learn to lead happier and more flourishing lives?

Professor Lyubomirsky runs a Positive Psychology Lab at University of California, Riverside, and studies people who are happy. After hundreds of hours studying what makes people happy, she has compiled a list of the 6 major components leading to happiness:

  1. Be grateful – Gratitude evokes positive feelings
  2. Look on the bright side – optimism maintains a sunnier disposition. Lyubomirsky explains:

“My students and I have found that truly happy individuals construe life events and daily situations in ways that seem to maintain their happiness, while unhappy individuals construe experiences in ways that seem to reinforce unhappiness.”

  1. Savor the moment – Savoring positive moments offsets our negativity bias
  2. Exercise – Exercise releases chemicals that lead to positive feelings
  3. Meditate – Less stress, more happiness
  4. Cultivate Relationships – Positive Social Connections are considered by many as the most important factor in well-being.

First of all, what is positive social connection?

Brené Brown does it beautifully:

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Recent research shows that people with good social connections are not only happier overall, but live longer than those with poor social connections.

The probability of dying early is 20% higher for obese people, 30% higher for excessive drinkers, 50% higher for smokers… but an incredible 70% higher for people with poor social relationships.

The need to connect socially with others is as basic as our need for food, water, and shelter.

So if positive social connection is so important, why is it that so many of us struggle with this?

Sharon Salzberg describes this struggle well:

Throughout our lives we long to love ourselves more deeply and to feel connected with others. Instead, we often contract, fear intimacy, and suffer a bewildering sense of separation. We crave love, and yet we are lonely. Our delusion of being separate from one another, of being apart from all that is around us, gives rise to all of this pain.

This contraction and fear that Salzberg describes can often be linked back to infancy, and even pre-natal trauma. In a wonderful interview, Diane Poole Heller explains how we are designed for connection but how experiences in infancy and childhood can cause disconnection. Heller describes the impact of Attachment Trauma and Developmental Trauma:

In terms of the original blueprint that we’ve received, attachment patterns can be described as an unconscious blueprint that is in our body memory.

The ideal patterning is Secure Attachment:

Secure Attachment would be a positive holding environment. That means that people around you are attuned to you. They get a sense of what your needs are. Really attuned parents can eventually understand a baby’s needs, but it’s hanging in there long enough with somebody to get to the real need. And often, good mothers just naturally do that. They just have a sense about it, or they learn it as they’re having an on-going relationship with their children. And most important, of course, in all of our life and all of our situations, it’s to show up and be present. For a Secure Attachment, there is this consistent responsiveness.

According to Heller, only 40% – 50% of us have Secure Attachment patterning. The rest of us however, must learn to overcome Insecure Attachment patterns: Ambivalent, Avoidant and Disorganized.

Very briefly –

  • Avoidant patterning occurs in an environment that is highly neglectful – this Avoidant patterning can lead to a person disconnecting, dissociating and isolating.
  • Ambivalent patterning occurs in an environment that is characterized by inconsistency – parents who are full-on at times and not available at all other times. It creates a lot of anxiety because there is no predictability. Ambivalent patterning can lead to a person becoming clingy and fearful.
  • Disorganized patterning occurs when a child feels threatened, when a child feels a lot of fear and/or anger in response to the way a parent treats them. This often occurs when there is addiction, violence and chaos in a family. Disorganized patterning can lead to hyper-vigilance and/or immobilization and isolation.

(For a full description of these disorders, check out Diane Poole Heller’s website or read more about them in this article on Daily Good.)

Our lack of positive social connection can quite often be traced back to one of these patterning disorders. But there is hope. Heller describes models of trauma resolution and integrative healing techniques. She has even developed her own training series on adult attachment that she calls DARe, Dynamic Attachment Re-patterning experience which she describes in her new book called The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships.

Heller describes a simple exercise that can help with re-patterning. This practice originated with Patti Elledge’s Beam Gleam, Heller calls it her “Kind Eyes Exercise.”

Imagine that you’re looking out into the world, and there are kind, loving eyes looking back at you. This can be completely imaginary, or maybe you’ve seen a picture of the Dalai Lama looking beautifully compassionate, or even a picture from your history, one of your family members or your dog or a friend or even a stranger, but that has that “beam gleam” in their eyes that says, “I accept you. I care about you.” It’s kind of like in the olden days, when you used to surprise people at their homes, and drop something off, like a… I don’t know… banana nut bread or something. The person would open the door and go, “Oh my gosh! It’s you. Wow, I’m so glad you’re here,” and you just see them light up when they unexpectedly see you at their door. That would be a ‘beam gleam.’ That would be, you’re totally welcome. You feel completely loved by that person. You feel like they’re happy to see you, and that’s what we’re hoping to stimulate, just in eye contact.

That description is an example of a simple exercise to work on excavating old patterning and re-patterning Secure Attachment. Of course re-patterning takes time, commitment, energy, and usually a good therapist.  But if this will lead to positive social connections, and if these connections are one of the main keys to well-being and possibly a longer life, isn’t it worth it?

 

I’ll Close with a wonderful TED Talk entitled the Power and Science of Social Connection.  It’s an informative and interesting talk.

I’d love to hear about how you stay connected to others.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Be gallant, be great, be gracious and be grateful

“Be gallant, be great, be gracious and be grateful’

– Jake Bailey


The video attached at the end of this post is amazing – this young man, Jake Bailey, is beyond remarkable.  Perhaps it affected me as much as it did because I have two sons about Jake’s age. But I think this will impact everyone who watches it. How can it not?

Jake Baliey was due to graduate and give a speech at graduation. One week before his graduation, 18-year-old Jake Bailey was told he had cancer.  He was diagnosed with one of the world’s fastest growing tumours – Burkitt lymphoma.

He had written his speech before his diagnosis and managed to leave his hospital bed to deliver it from a wheelchair. Words made more poignant than he ever could have perceived when he wrote them:

“My challenge to each of you, and to myself, is to continue to grow and to develop for the better . . . Forget about long-term dreams, let’s be passionately dedicated to our short term goals, micro-ambitious. Work with passion and pride on what is in front of us.  We don’t know where we might end up . . .”

For those of you not from New Zealand, may not understand the end of this video – it ends in a spontaneous Haka – an incredible sign of respect.  Kia Kaha Jake. Thank you for your inspiration.

Thank you for taking the time to watch this and read this post. I appreciate it.

Paying Attention to the Coincidences

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133182.html#cRzVZOHjpM8tGpjB.99

Alice Walker


Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous! (God, Goddess, The Source, Higher Power – use whatever word evokes power for you.) It’s my connection to that higher self or higher power that helps me when,  as Alice Walker reminds me,  I start thinking I don’t have any power.
One of  the ways I know I’m connected to that power is when I am paying attention to the coincidences. And one of those lovely coincidences has been happening in the last few days.
On Saturday,  I got together with my friends to do a fun, informal goal setting night where we had a lovely dinner and discussed what we anticipated our lives would be like in 2019.  During the evening, one of the things we talked about was finding new streams of money through Social Entrepreneurship,  or creative fund raising.
On Sunday, I attended an amazing event in Auckland called The Auckland Writers Festival (Thank you Trudi!)  During one of the events, I heard four amazing women speak: Eleanor Catton, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Sandi Toksvig and Jessica Jackley. As Jackley spoke, I got chills as she elaborated on Social Entrepreneurship and what great ‘givers’ New Zealanders are.  I sat up and paid attention.  And then on Monday morning, while reading the NZ Herald online, an article jumped out at me, again about New Zealanders and their generosity, with a link to an incredible website called Give a Little.
Givealittle is the free, safe and easy way to receive online donations for charities of all types and sizes.
In three days I had heard about the amazing generosity of many people in New Zealand and the wonderful giving being done, often anonymously, through various ways of giving, micro-financing, social entrepreneurship, etc. I was paying attention.
So on Tuesday, I went to our office at Figjam Workshops and my business partner and I set up an account at Give a Little.  We published the information on our page on Facebook, and we are getting the information out there.
When I pay attention to the little coincidences around me, and when I remember to act on those little nudges, then I am connected to my power.
Although I enjoyed every aspect of the Auckland Writers Festival, the highlight for me was hearing Alice Walker.  What an amazing woman!
So I’d like to finish with a video clip of Alice Walker speaking at Google.  Please take the time to watch and be inspired!
Please let me know what you thought of the video. And I’d love to hear of any ‘coincidences’ that you’ve experienced lately.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Compassion, Connection and Unity

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis…it is the lack of love and charity; the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbor.”

– Mother Teresa


Bishop Desmond Tutu once said,  “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”  We have to start somewhere to start healing our world. In I AM the Documentary, Tom Shadyac asks the important questions:  What’s wrong with our world? And what can we do about it?

Through wonderful, insightful interviews with Bishop Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Thom Hartmann, Howard Zinn and David Suzuki to name just a few, Shadyac explores what we can do to heal our world. Everyone interviewed agrees:

“This is the most profound discovery in all of physics.”

“The science shows us that we are all connected.”

“What we do at the individual level, really does affect the global environment.”

We really are deeply connected, and with compassion, we will experience unity.  And when we experience that deep sense of unity, I believe we wil begin to heal our world.

Bishop Desmond Tutu asks us to “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”  We can all start today.

The Shift is About to Hit the Fan!  All Aboard!

Have you seen I AM the documentary – if so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.  And as always, thank you for stopping by.  I appreciate it.

Be Kind Now!

”Our lives are not our own.  We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness we birth our future.”

– David Mitchell (Cloud Atas)


I watched an amazing movie last night with my sons, Lukas and Devin.  The movie is called Cloud Atlas – if you get a chance, it is well worth watching.  It’s a long, ambitious film – it has to be – since it’s based on the tome by David Mitchell.  Check out the trailer, even that is pretty epic!  At times it is confusing, but the main point comes through loud and clear – as our lives intersect, karma prevails, and one way or another our kindnesses or our cruelty come back to us. It is a bold and creative book/movie about karma, unity and connection.

I love the concept to Pay it Forward (another wonderful movie if you haven’t already seen it.) Practicing random acts of kindness makes such perfect sense to me. And even if we really don’t reincarnate, and even if karma does not prevail, paying it forward and being kind just feels good.  So how about we all just Be Kind Now! And with that in mind, I want to close with a wonderful video clip about paying it forward.  Enjoy!

I’d love to hear any stories of how you’ve experienced kindness being paid forward.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Keeping things in perspective . . .

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

– Maya Angelou


My son Devin shared this with me today.  Thank you Devin – it took my breath away!

There is nothing I can add to what Carl Sagan explains so eloquently and the video shows us so incredibly beautifully.  As Mr. Sagan puts it:

“To me it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

 

Please take the time to watch this, it is truly inspiring and spectacular.

 

 

Please let me know what you thought of Carl Sagan’s short clip.  And as always, thank you for visiting, I appreciate it.

We really are all connected

“We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson


My son Lukas sent me a video link to an amazing video: The Most Astounding Fact.  He saw it and said that he immediately thought of me and knew it would fit well in my blog.  Thank you once again Lukas!
The video is an excerpt from an interview of Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  He was asked: What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe? And who better to answer this question than this inspirational man. He shares his information in a concise and easy to understand way, that is both inspirational and educational. To me, his explanation is unity explained. We really are all connected.

“The atoms that comprise life on Earth, the atoms that make up the human body are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements . . .  stars collapsed and then exploded scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy, guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us.”

We may look different and sound different, but in fact our make up is the same. To me, this is a call for cooperation, for collaboration, for compassion, for love.

As Dr. DeGrasse Tyson puts it:  After all, what nobler thought can one cherish than that the universe lives within us all?
Please take the time to watch this wonderful video, not only is the message timely, but the pictures of space are incredibly beautiful.

I’d love to hear what you thought of this video. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Happy Aging?

“When grace is joined with wrinkles it is adorable.
There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.”

– Victor Hugo


Happy aging?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?!

I was at a birthday party this weekend, a nice group of people, good food and music. But often I’ve found that at birthday parties for people around 50, conversations start to gravitate toward aging.  Sigh.  People see people at the party that they haven’t seen in awhile, there are hugs and then often those embarrassing moments when one of the folks has to ask for a reminder of name and/or affiliation; after dances, people come off the dance floor complaining about aches and pains in knees and joints, and the consumption of too much alcohol is no longer quite as cute or funny.

When I got home from the party, I wanted to do a bit of homework about happiness and aging.  I’ve read quite a bit about older people being happy – but wanted some empiracle evidence.  The first thing we have to acknowledge is that we are all living longer, across the board.  And this is a good thing, right?  Well I want to think so, but I can’t help wondering what I’ll be like at 80 . . . hopefully wearing purple with a red hat that doesn’t match!

One of the things from the research that made a lot of sense to me was that as we grow older and we realize that we won’t live forever, we change our perspectives on life in positive ways; our goals change and we realize we don’t have all the time in the world, we see our priorities clearer, and we don’t worry as much about what constitutes trivial matters – essentially we don’t sweat the small stuff.

Basically it seems that older people are happier in themselves and with others because they choose to be.

Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, Laura Carstensen has researched this topic extensively.  In the following TED talk, she discusses happy aging, and pretty much empiracally proves that, on the whole, older people are happier!  Yay!  This is good news for those of us that are attending more and more birthday parties for people over 50!

 

I hope you take the time to watch Professor Carstensen, especially for those of you over 50! I found it uplifting and hopeful.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.