In the current climate I've been doing a lot of reflecting. Connection is a big challenge right now. Here is a blog I wrote in 2018 living in England and having not seen my loved ones for a year a half.
Everyone knows human connection is powerful. It is one of the only experiences where all your ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters fire. Other experiences like eating cake or going for a run might release one or two comparatively speaking. One of the longest running human studies on happiness spanning about 80 years proved that the major factor in longterm health/happiness is good quality relationships.
So what happens when your travelling around the world solo? You can’t get that big hug from your loved ones after a stressful day. Hell sometimes you can’t even call them to have a cry or a laugh because they’re asleep on a different time zone. It’s why over the last three years I’ve really come to value the intimacy of strangers.
It's a fleeting moment of emotional resonance and meaning. It’s the smile from a cute stranger giving you a bounce in your step or a welcomed interruption to an otherwise monotonous day. It is also the freedom to speak freely without fear of judgement because think of how bold you are when you know you probably ain’t gonna see them again.
I met someone recently who reminded me of a common tragedy in modern society. I learned this lesson at 13years old following the loss of two loved ones within 6 months, one of whom I had a complex relationship with to say the least. I vividly remember sitting at her funeral and realising there was so much I didn’t know about her life both simple facts and beautiful qualities a like. Two things struck me…
For these reasons I’ve always been the one who compliments strangers on their perfume or a cool outfit that makes them look the bomb diggity or simply smile and acknowledge someone on my run. I think this has made me approachable to strangers which whilst an enormous positive also gets me into interesting conversations.
For example the young man with tourette’s I met at a bus stop who kept shouting comments about my boobs and then felt comfortable enough to ask why I had cleavage showing if I didn’t want men to comment on it? But… that’s a story for a different day.
Even having had the above realisation intimacy and vulnerability are terrifying for me and so some of my most beautiful moments in life have occurred from the safety net of strangers.
Sometimes the sheer power behind a simple interaction with a stranger is unimaginable. Like the guy I worked with at 15 who said I saved him from committing suicide just because I was nice enough to enquire about his life. Or the woman who sat next to me at the airport who I gabbed to about positive psychology not knowing she was running out of avenues for her chronic condition. Or the guys who let me work out with them at the park unknowing I needed to exercise away the loss of a friend.
There was a sailing captain I met on a plane who offered me some nuts after hearing my tummy grumbling. We got to talking. His whole life had been dedicated to travelling to the most beautiful places in the nicest boats. To a man married to the sea his travel memories were personal and profound. He revealed an intimate moment with another stranger who gave him a generous gift and I found myself revealing my most secret desire (the one that makes you feel so open and vulnerable it’s almost painful). Instead of rolling his eyes and making me feel like an idiot he gave me examples of just how attainable it is. I think of him sometimes when I’m losing faith that my dream will become a reality.
Not to mention the stranger I met who changed the course of my life. I told him everything, the parts of life and myself that scared me. For someone who had become an expert at putting up walls and keeping people at arms length because this bad ass independent woman was never letting anyone hurt her again revealed the most real, raw and ugly parts of herself. Without the safety net of ‘I’m never going to see that person ever again’ he never would have seen my raw beauty, that which is found in our faults and I would have missed out on an incredible adventure.
I’m told, “You don’t sit still enough to let the right person find you/hold onto you,” Now whilst there is most definitely truth to this I also believe everything happens in the perfect way no matter if it doesn’t seem that way. Maybe I’m meant to have this fleeting intimacy with strangers to flex my vulnerability muscle? Perhaps this is how I’ll continue to collect my tribe and convert strangers into loved ones?
Going home the chances of not seeing someone ever again is certainly less certain but like a stranger I met once said, “It doesn’t matter what location you’re in you can’t not take your new attitude and the lessons learned with you”.
So stranger or not always tell someone how great they are and above all things be kind…
In this crazy time use your exercise hour to smile and greet strangers from the 1.5m distance, share an expression of yourself on social media and flex your vulnerability muscle. When we come out on the other side remember what you missed most about the freedom to connect however you liked with your community and spend everyday making sure you value the F**K out of it! <3
Take this moment to care for yourself. All of us need a little help sometimes! Together we will get through this.
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