Sit with your friends.

Thursday evening I went out in the pitch black at 7:30 to visit my friend Colleen. This may not seem like a late time to head out for a visit, but in my seasonally-challenged mind, it felt like midnight. These days, I am ready for bed around 3 pm most afternoons. And a little time with Colleen was exactly what I needed.

Depression, anxiety, grief, illness, trauma, exhaustion…all are often accompanied by a strong tendency to isolate and withdraw.

Yet, isn’t this exactly what we don’t need to do when we are in the midst of these hardest of life’s experiences?

Since it’s nearly impossible in the midst of these emotional and physical crises to plan anything, I organize things I know I can look forward to months in advance. Preferably things I cannot back out of. While it never seems feasible on the actual day, I always return from these times with friends and life-giving activities with more energy and hope.

For example:

  • Yesterday I took a break from work to visit my friend Renée and talk about the Holiday Shopping Boutique. When I arrived at her apartment, it was to a very beautiful setting (sunshine on her patio with her puppy Romeo) and a delicious, decadent high tea (cucumber sandwiches, fresh raspberries and yogurt, scones with clotted cream and jam, cake, pimm’s cocktail and tea.)
  • A Le Donne retreat (tomorrow) was planned in September which is now proving to be perfect timing for a quiet, nurturing, body- and soul-feeding day with loving friends and like minds.
  • An Anna Dvorak women’s retreat in Wisconsin on the weekend of November 6th.
  • A viewing of Babette’s Feast and a discussion on gratitude and abundance, right before Thanksgiving.
  • Church on Sunday mornings.
  • A Mavis Staples concert at the Cedar on November 28th.
  • New Year’s Eve at Kierans with the Sweet Colleens.
  • A trip to see my sister in SC in January.
  • Sometimes it might just be that a friend will come and sit quietly, just sharing a little of his or her kindness with me.

Because the mind plays tricks on me when I am not feeling whole I will, on every single one of these occasions–I guarantee it–think that it’s impossible for me to interact with anyone and/ or for me to actually go anywhere.

But when I get there, it will not be so. And though I will be tired afterward, and the experience may have been difficult in some ways, I will have been plugged into the energy of the people and things I love for a time. And I will have more hope to carry me forward.

Of course the opposite is true if I spend this precious time with people and in places that sap my energy, treat me with disdain or disrespect, or take advantage of my vulnerabilities. So I don’t.

It is interesting that the word courage comes from the Latin root cor, meaning heart. To have courage is to take heart or, one might say, to reclaim the heart. This may sound vague or soft, yet I find the mindfulness practices that I call cultivating a good heart to be among the most powerful, life-giving and courageous acts I know. To live with some measure of acceptance, gratitude, forgiveness, and generosity, to find a level of openness and equanimity in the face of such fearful things–these are acts of great courage. And it is good medicine, too–we feel better when we live with a more open heart.

Simply put, we are not built for lives of separation. In my view, feeling disconnected is the number one reason for a loss of vitality, for living a sort of shadow life. And when I think of connection, I look at it in a very broad sense. Yes, is important to have friends and ties to family and community. But there is also the connection with nature, which can be so life-giving. There is the relationship with ourselves, at all levels–caring enough about our body that we take care of it, accepting ourselves even with all of our past mistakes and present flaws, giving some time and attention to our inner lives. When we do that, we realize that we long for connection to something larger than ourselves–meaning, purpose, a relationship with the Divine.

Opening ourselves to these and other connections transforms the dynamic of self-care. These are the things that not only keep us afloat–they make us bigger than ourselves. Meaningful connection enlarges our lives.

– Dr. Henry Emmons, The Chemistry of Calm

No matter what, stay connected. Sit with your friends. It’s a full moon outside!

p.s. Carrie, thanks for sharing Rumi’s perfect poem with me.