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Defining Love: Exploring Connections In My World

Once upon a time I had another blog. It was my first attempt at blogging. Fear and life kept me from exploring it further.

One post on that blog had to do with this topic. Trying to define this undefinable word. Love.

At the time I was deeply involved in a Unity church and I found so much in those teachings. A new way of looking at the world. And a community that helped me through a very difficult time in my life.

One way my world view changed was in how I defined love. I began to see love not as a feeling so much as an action. The outcome of decisions made in relation to things in my world. Not just people but ideas, objects...everything.

Love became a way of explaining how things connect and come together in the Universe.

An image featuring a white wall with the words 'Come Together.' Explore the power of connections in life #cometogether

Reflecting on that definition I can see how woefully I was able to put it into practice, which is good. You can't change direction if you don't see you are going the wrong way.

My challenge this year is to more fully live from that definition of love and share with you the specific ways I'm going to be sure I'm embodying that in my life.

What is LOVE - really? The explanations are limitless, which makes sense since everyone will have a different experience of it. Love can be expressed many ways; friendship, passion, emotional attachment, commitment, sacrifice, selflessness, get the idea.

I'm not here to say anyone of these are wrong. In fact I think in specific situations and people they are all right. The one thing I see as unifying in all of it though is how it brings things together. I love the idea of this because it makes it more than just the hormone cocktail we are hit with when we met someone that we have connection with. Lovely, but maybe not the best way to judge love. This definition helps explain why I'm drawn to hobbies and ideas. Why I LOVE personal development, growth, learning. Those things are connected to me. They have impact in my life.

So too does work, what food I enjoy most. All of this is just me connecting to other things. That - that to me is Love.

It brings atoms together, gravity. The network of fungi and plant roots. All of it. This helps me make sense of the phrase "God is love" and other spiritual statements that imply that everything in our world is really Love.

It also helps me push the Disney myth from my mind. It helps me reconnect to something much larger then just a single romantic relationship.

How then do I live this? How do I best embody it?

Connecting with Me

Based on the definition above I am also something in the Universe to connect to. My body, my thoughts, my preferences. It's interesting how automatically we read through lists like; friendship, passion, emotional attachment, commitment, sacrifice, selflessness, empathy and think of it in relationship to others. I mean it's to be expected. You just read that I believe connection is the purpose of life...and I do believe that. But I also now see how important it is for me to share all that with myself for connections with others to be satisfying and sustainable.

I have never really done this well in the past. I am happy to report I am doing it better now.

I think the key to self love really might come down to a single idea. Treat yourself as a friend. It helps me to imagine two people inside of me. I don't resonate with the wording of "inner child" but that is essentially what I'm talking about here. There's the little me, Jennie...Jennifer really needs to treat Jennie like a friend. Sometimes as a loving parent. Jennifer's job is to make sure that Jennie is protected. Safe. And deeply cared her.

Do you do this? Do you remember that you need to connect with yourself first for other connections to be their best? How does that look for you?

The biggest way this shows up for me is how I speak to myself.

I had an eye opening experience this summer laying in bed saying to my sadness that it didn't matter. In that moment I remembered my daughter saying to me how hurtful it was to her that I would tell her that how she felt about something was irrelevant.

Here I was thinking I was pumping her up and encouraging her around a situation she didn't have control over and I really completely failed at showing her empathy and care.

I did the same to myself every single day.

I cried in bed that morning. It was healing.

I am much more careful about how I speak with my feelings. I treat them with more respect and care. I treat my daughter's better too.

Indeed one of the ways this single act of self-love has improved me is that I believe I do that better for everyone I speak with. Which is just one way how loving yourself first is important for connections outside of yourself. It paves the way for showing up for others better.

Connecting with Others - Wide

I want community almost more than I want air.

When I go to places where community is and I feel I am not a part of it I feel a longing so deep it almost takes my breath away.

Yet for much of my life I have limited how I have had connections with others. I've defined what connection means in very limited ways. I never really considered how large my potential was for making connections. And that limited way of seeing how I could connect has an impact on the quality of my life.

I'm all about mindset shifting so I have begun the slow process of opening up that definition of connection to be more helpful, supportive and true.

The truth is I connect with all kinds of people every day in all kinds of ways. The challenge I hold for myself is engaging in ways that makes that connection feel meaningful and ultimately fulfilling. An easy example is when I'm engaged with a stranger. The server at a restaurant, the cashier in the checkout I taking the opportunity to create connection there?

When I do I feel better. Have you noticed that?

When I don't do this I feel neutral at best. I'm obviously not talking about a deep dive about the nature of life in line at Target. But using their name, saying hello while I make eye contact...that makes me feel like something special is happening. Like I'm engaged in some secret once in a lifetime encounter with this person.

And in truth I am...that interaction won't likely happen again with them. It's similar to the profound connection we can find chatting with a stranger on the plane. For a brief moment I shared something with them that no one else did. It's actually very intimate when thought of that way.

And hopefully I'm bringing this person a little joy in what might be a really shitty day. That's awesome.

Another big way I have limited myself is with friendships. I have had an extremely black and white way of viewing people in my life. You are either in the circle or you aren't. I don't wish harm on anyone outside, but my focus is solely on the people inside.

This makes sense, and allows for healthy, deep connections, yet when I can remember that the colleague at work can still positively impact my life I feel better. I remember that I am rich in connection and that I have opportunity every where to try and deepen those connections if I think they would be positive for me. When I don't remember this I have a tendency to get tunnel vision and feel like I am alone.

Like BIG capital letters alone. Like I've been cast out and no one thinks I'm a good person kind of alone.

You can understand how shifting this mindset is helpful for me. It keeps me from loops of depression. And in doing this I have created a larger social circle. One I'm excited to be a part of and where I see the value in all the members. Not just the ones I feel like I can get really close with.

Connecting with Others - Deep

All that widening is great yet it's deep connections where our life blood is. Those two or three people who I can really say anything to. The sacred people in my life who I would entrust with my deep shame and have the courage to be truly vulnerable with.

I once heard Brene Brown say in an interview that not everyone has earned the right to hear our stories.

I want to find people who have the right.

I'm searching here a little bit. I'm extremely grateful to have one person in my life that provides this to me (and I believe I do the same for her). She is my lifeline right now as I remind myself that others will be invited in as I am ready at various levels.

And through this exploration I am also learning who these people aren't and why they aren't invited in. Boundaries life here. Who to share with, how much to share...and most importantly - why I'm making those decisions.

It's an area I've never considered deeply before...and certainly not a place I was making deliberate decisions. I'm glad that is changing. It is also helping me to reinforce that a connected moment with a stranger doesn't automatically invite them in. I'm adding more circles and I believe as I get comfortable with these new areas I'll find more satisfaction in my life.

What does that mean? It means I engage with people in emotionally safe ways when I'm getting to know them. It means I know myself well enough to know when someone is going to work well with me and when their might be problems. If you aren't sure about these things for yourself I would encourage you to tread lightly with people you engage with. Give yourself time to consider how you feel after you have hung out with someone. Explore with yourself what their behavior says and how you might anticipate they would show up for you.

I used to believe this was judgmental.

I'm learning the different between judging someone and making decisions based on my preferences.

Keeping these two ways of connecting with others in mind and reinforcing the different ways I can have and experience connection has gone a long way in helping me feel more positive and fulfilled through my day. And it moves me a little closer to excitement when I think of what might come from it. Maybe the connections I'm hoping for really can happen?

Connecting with Life

There are a few other ways I think we can feel a sense of connection and it isn't just with people.

For example, connecting with the energy of nature by walking or sitting on the beach.

Or connecting with the energy of creativity by painting a room in my house or crocheting a pillow.

While not everyone will see these activities as creating connection, I believe embracing them has unified and brought cohesion to my definition of Love. What do you think?

I love making my home beautiful. I love sculpture and dance. I love delicious food and powerful music. I love reading and learning.

When I make decisions to connect with those things and the energy in them I feel more content and fulfilled. The trick of course is to slow down enough to be mindful and present with that connection.

When I'm in a rush to just feed the kids I've lost an opportunity to connect. When I work with music playing but don't take moments to enjoy the music I've missed an opportunity to connect. When I'm in my head while I'm walking my dog....yep, another missed opportunity.

I use every mindfulness trick in the book because every time I remember to make that connection, to be mindful and present to the things I love, my life is made better.

I feel better.

I encourage you to use anything that helps you remember to be present. Set reminders on your phone. Put time on your calendar to reflect on the moments in your day. Talk about it with people. Keep it top of mind. I am confident you will notice a shift.

What about you? How do you define love? What unique connections have you discovered? Please share them below!

I hope we continue to connect. Follow me on social or subscribe to my blog. I'm excited to learn and grow in connection with you.



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