Lately I’ve been contemplating connection. I seem to have lost it somewhere along the way. Oh, I have the usual suspects, the Facebook friends, the online groups, family, pets and the odd college friend who pops up on the radar from time to time.
But real eye-to-eye, hand-to-hand contact? That’s been hard to come by with my advanced avoidance techniques. Too many broken hearts along the way and what was supposed to be a momentary retreat has turned into a whole life. One where I have deeply resented the fact that I could not do everything on my own.
Life is not built to be conquered on our own. We’re not meant to do it alone. We’re meant to trust each other. We’re meant to work together to accomplish goals. A fact that seems impossibly cruel given the betrayals, the tension between what we want and what others ask from us, the sacrifices we make and the people we end up leaving behind.
And, in the end, not one of us has clean hands or an unbroken heart it seems.
How do we even begin to make it work?
It started, this contemplation, in the streets of Paris. I was avoiding meeting people’s eyes. It wasn’t timidity, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to see what was in them. It all felt a little too real. It was easier in the moment just to avoid them. Do my own thing.
People were complicated, messy, — they ruined more than they ever fixed, and they had a funny way of promising more than they could ever deliver without saying a word. Was it even worth the bother?
Inexplicably… somehow… the answer was yes. So I started meeting eyes in the streets of Paris, fleeting, brief, and full of promise, — or pain, or stress. There was detachment in these eyes, stillness in those, and curiosity in yet another. A whole world I had lost touch with.
In cafés and coffee shops I was always lost in my own head, stuck in my story. Now I began to sit and watch others, eavesdropping on their stories. People were fascinating, often mysterious, and rarely boring.
And I had forgotten how powerful touch could be. I can’t remember the last time I was touched on American soil, but I remember with exquisite detail every touch in Paris. Every innocent touch. Each one surprising, delicious, both meaningful and meaningless.
A mans hands on my shoulders, just to get my attention. A hand to hold onto while stepping out of a car. Fingers gently moving a tendril of hair off my neck. It begged the question, when did we stop touching? When did we start to lose touch with each other?
So I’ve started seeing people as people, again. Not just nuisances and hindrances. Not just a means to my ends. And not just as judgmental “others.” I can suddenly see what it was so easy to miss in my daily life of avoidance. That most people are in some kind of pain — they are lost in their stories.
The rough and tumble world takes it’s toll on all of us living, every species, every flower. Nothing and no one is exempt. We don’t have to save the world, but we if we want to live in it, we do need, on occasion, to look up, and acknowledge it. Complicated, messy, and stunningly beautiful.