Healing

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We humans are social creatures. We need contact with other people as much as we require food and water to stay healthy. While we vary in just how much interaction with others is ideal, no person does particularly well in total isolation. Hermits are the exception, not the rule for humankind. Without social stimulation we whither away. Our brains starve for contact with people and when there is none, it does not perform well and may even become sick. 

Relationships are an essential element of existence. As far back as history records humans have joined together with others to work together in the common goal of surviving. Unlike most herds or flocks of animals, people also develop complex feelings for those with whom they interact. While people cannot exist without supplying their physiological needs or their sense of safety, having a sense of belonging and love is possibly even more important to them. It is in finding others with whom to develop mutual relationships of caring that people increase their self esteem and find the confidence to become better versions of themselves. 

In the past three years we have all witnessed the devastating effects of isolation caused by the worldwide pandemic that upended our normal routines. Most of us personally knew people who died during the long stretch of time during Covid. Our rituals of celebrating lives together were often limited to the most immediate members of the family. Our traditional gatherings at certain times of the year were smaller and more restricted than they had once been. We simply coped with the realities of our individual situations with even the most introverted souls among us feeling lonely and off kilter. We realized just how much we longed for hugs and seeing smiles instead of having to interpret how people were feeling behind masks that covered their faces.

The recent holiday season brought most of us back together again with great joy and celebration, but for some the rollicking times were reminders of people they had lost. Our outpouring of joy was a double edged sword for the lonely and forgotten souls, those not quite able or ready to join in the crowds. There is still much sadness in our midst that we sometimes forget to address. We seek happiness and often turn away from people or situations that remind us that for some among us all is still not well. it is important that we do not forget them no matter how difficult it may be to see their suffering. 

My friend Shirley had a stroke before Covid was even a word in our lexicon. She had been a delightfully talkative soul who brought smiles wherever she went. She loved to cook and she was quite good at creating delicious recipes and entertaining friends and family. The stroke left her unable to talk or move around on her own. The pandemic only emphasized the loneliness that she must have felt after losing her wonderful abilities to socialize. I suspect that had it not been for her daughter Chrystal’s unending devotion to visiting her on an almost daily basis she might have lost her mind or even or will to live. Instead Chrystal brought her so much joy with milkshakes, stuffed animals, movies, and even goofy hats that created an almost imperceptible glimmer to Shirley’s eyes.

Last weekend I spent over four hours with a group of very special friends who are more like sisters to me than mere acquaintances. We sat around a table under blue skies and balmy weather eating and drinking and telling our stories. We enjoyed a mix of emotions from tears to laughter. We opened our hearts to each other without feeling that we needed any filters to protect us what we might say or hear. We hugged and held hands  exchanging our devotion to each other. It was therapy for the soul, an infusion of emotional antibodies that chased away any doldrums that we might have been feeling. Each of us walked away stronger and more confident then might otherwise have been the case. Such is the power of loving relationships. 

We will get busy in the coming days and weeks. We may think that it’s time to concentrate on work and getting back to normal routines, but in the process we would do well to make connections with the people around us on a daily basis. Talk with the clerk in a store. Take the time to ask how your colleagues at work are feeling and allow them to understand that you really care. Step across the street to visit with your neighbor. Take time to smile at the people you meet. Contact someone who has been silent to make sure that all is well with them. Write or speak the words that tell someone how much you mean to them. Make those connections. Open your heart with gratitude and gladness. 

There is too much anger and war in the world today. It is making us anxious and sick. If we are to heal the way we should it will be in the quiet moments with our friends that peace begins.     

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