We as human beings rely and thrive on intimate bonds. No matter how we’ve felt about belonging or not belonging in the past, it appears that the yearning du jour—from men and women, young and old, urbanite and suburbanite—is for more community and authentic social connection. This current feeling of what’s missing seems a little strange, counterintuitive even, given the explosion of social media and cyber-networking that has taken the world by storm. One might indeed argue that we, as a planet, have never been more connected.
Still, I am convinced that when it comes down to it, we are all striving for a much more hard-copy, nut-and-bolt sensation of community, one where we can actually reach for another’s empathic hand, give hugs freely, or spend an extra hour talking and breathing beside someone with whom we never seem to run out of things to say.
It took years for me to understand and appreciate this kind of deep interest in connection, as my entire teenaged life was a swim upstream against community, a fight against belonging or being identified with any one group. I was in my bones leery of tight knit circles, and chose instead to stand on the outskirts, to never quite fit in.
This all goes back to my coming from a family for which I was desperate not to be a part, and from which I had actual fantasies of being kidnapped. But, blessedly, one summer Sunday, before my freshman year in college, I walked into a Zen Buddhist center North of San Francisco, to learn meditation, hear a talk, have some tea, and take a walk down to the beach. For the first time, I was profoundly struck with wanting to be part of this particular whole. For the first time, I wanted to be let in to this energetic community by the sea.
That was 20 years ago. Today, I have a series of intersecting, chosen communities to which I am comfortable belonging—in my own quiet way—some more immediate, like my husband and kids, and some less. Threading through all of these various groups is a sense of grassroots connection and allegiance, feelings I had never really experienced until I’d found Zen center so long ago, and ultimately re-found me. In other words, my first taste of outer community enabled the experience and acknowledgement of my own interior community.
For those of you feeling a scarcity of closeness and commonality, I so totally encourage you to get out there and join that meditation or music circle, that town board or campaign committee, that regular yoga class or tango troupe. But I also encourage you to go in there, and get to know what it is inside you that has sparked your craving for more external ties. When you begin to excavate that discomfort at not being related outwardly, it may well reflect a deeper lack of relation within. Make sense?
The great news is: you can do and have both. Just remember that the more you lean out, the more you tweet and seek and stretch to find another like you, there is a very deserving beautiful creature waiting and calling for your friendship too, and that creature is you.
In communal sweetness,