Even though my One Word this year is “Connect,” I know full well it’s not possible to be connected to everything all the time. We humans are too weak and frail for that; we need breaks, or else it’s as if we’ve stuck our finger into an electric socket and can’t get it out.
So finding a healthy rhythm of disconnecting, and subsequently reconnecting, is very important in all sorts of ways. It’s embedded in our physiology through our need for sleep. But how many of us get healthy, regular, restorative sleep? For me, certainly, that is an elusive goal, as I’ve suffered from insomnia for more than twenty years. I suspect that this problem is related to my difficulty in disconnecting and letting go in other areas of my life, while trusting that connections can be restored in good time. So that has become my focus this month.
I’ve learned through painful experience the dangers of overwhelm and the need to sometimes pull back from inessential activities, in order to regroup and take time for integration. Much as I love blogging here, sometimes I have to take a break because too much busyness and extroverted activity are not good for me. So I took one of those breaks this month, and that was a good thing.
I did a lot of reflection and writing, finishing up a memoir I’ve been working on, reading it through and getting a sense of the big picture of my life. Disconnecting from outer things can be a chance to reconnect to oneself, in order to better be able to meet challenges from the outside again. Through my memories I see how it took me a long time to give myself permission to do that, and not to feel that the need for private space and time was a failure or evidence of some imbalance in me. Thankfully, I have learned something and now know that retreating can be okay, and doesn’t mean permanent exile or eternal disconnection, as long as we have the will and the courage to reach out again, while wisely protecting our own boundaries.
This is true even though my most painful memories involve relationships that got cut off and could not be restored. I have to believe that this is not the end, that someday, there will be a chance for reconciliation. I do not know when or how, and I have to give up all desire to control and manage such situations, trusting in the wisdom of life to bring me what I need, when I am ready. The growth of that trust has been the greatest blessing of midlife for me.
My very greatest sorrow and regret, as I look back, is that when my son was born, I was in such a state of disconnection from my real self that I could not connect to him at first. I was overwhelmed by his needs, when my own were not being adequately met, and was thrown into a panic that I thought I had to cover up and deny and hide from everybody, even myself. You may call this “postpartum depression”; I call it “Hell.” It was the deepest point of distance from any kind of connection that I can imagine.
But it was also part of that life wisdom that was always reaching out to me, teaching me, leading me on the way back home. My son patiently waited for me to come back to myself and to reconnect to him. What was once my greatest sorrow is now my greatest joy, because this is one relationship that was not broken, but restored and healed. And it gives me hope that other relationships, in ways I cannot now conceive, may also become whole once more.
That hope is what keeps me alive, in a world where our hearts are so threatened by death and destruction on every side. The heart, I recently learned, cuts itself off from the life-giving stream of blood just at the moment when it contracts to send blood to the rest of the body. It disconnects, so that others may receive connection. But then in its turn, the heart receives blood and life again.
When you’re in the moment of disconnection, it can seem eternal, and that is terribly frightening. But I am trying to remember that it is only a beat in the ongoing rhythm, that the attitude to take in this moment is not panic, but trust. An out-breath of loving sacrifice prepares us for the intake of new life. And this is not a one-time event, but an ongoing practice, the heartbeat of eternity.
How has your heart been challenged, or comforted, this month?