Writers Note & Photo Credit: I had finished this blog piece some time ago, but for reasons yet unknown to me, I kept not turning it in to my Positively Positive Editor. Then came the LA Art Show this past weekend, and my reason for holding appeared. Among the many inspired art exhibits, my friend Daniel and I came across a very intriguing installation that drew us both in immediately. We had been talking earlier that day about the subject matter of my latest blog, connectivity, and here was an art gallery with the theme of connection (see my photo above). Of course, I immediately became excited because it was so serendipitous, but it wasn’t until I looked more deeply into the artist and the “why’s” of this exhibit, that I really got it.
Okay, okay, get to the point, Barry. First, my friend and I were greeted by a lovely young woman, Ella Charon, she explained the concept of this interactive art exhibit curated by James Trotta-Bono. She told us that the late photojournalist Dan Eldon, also an artist and activist, who was killed while on assignment in Somalia covering the famine and civil war there for Reuters, believed it was connectivity that would change the world for the better. I’m completely oversimplifying Dan Eldon’s journey, which is incredible, courageous, and though he was only twenty-three when he died, he had seen so much of the world by then and realized that at the core of our ability to survive we required active and empathic connectivity between people.
You can see Dan’s amazing journals, photographs, and art pieces by visiting the Creative Visions Foundation website his mother, Kathy Eldon, and sister Amy Eldon Turteltaub created to further this idea that through connectivity and art we can ignite social change. Visit www.creativevisions.org to learn more. It’s so worth a look.
Now, shifting gears a bit, my blog piece takes us a bit closer to home. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” So, I’ll start over here at my house:
Welcome to 2018, Everyone! It’s a new year, and I’m going to drop fifteen pounds. Okay, twenty. Losing weight is definitely on my list of resolutions for the new year, as is making more money, finding love again, growing my business, optioning my screenplay, having my first book published, changing to a vegetarian diet, and while I’m at all this, releasing the grief from the various losses I experienced in 2017. Bu-bye 2017, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
But here’s the big thing I realized as I sat making all my New Year’s resolutions, none of these intentions, these dreams and visions happen without other people as a part of the equation. None of us do this thing called life alone. None of us.
Here in the United States, at least my generation of folks – Gen X’ers – were trained to grow up, stand on our own two feet and make our way out in the big ol’ world. Basically, leave the nest and make it happen – the “it” being the ideal life we were meant to live. Get a job, your own place, and everything else that goes with that, like a checking account, couch, set of dishes, and draperies. You mean I’m supposed to cover those windows with fabric? Why didn’t we though, get the memo about teamwork? “Teamwork makes the dream work,” is a phrase I just started hearing at a deeper level. And maybe I did get the memo but threw it in the round file. Remember those?
Anyone who’s ever played a group sport probably gets this concept better than most. The essence of team sports is, as I understand it, a group of individuals playing together with a common goal – beat the pants off the other team. I suppose this particular example of connectivity brings with it an edge of competition where one team “wins” and the other “loses.” In our own lives, I think it’s safe to speak for most of us, we want to succeed, and we can, but not alone. Being alone takes us nowhere fast.
Newer studies on aging show folks in the senior category, one I’m edging towards slowly but surely, who live alone, are getting sicker and dying sooner than those people who live with others, be it partners, extended family, or friends. Loneliness has become a disease. Let that one marinate for a minute, or two. In one study conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), 43 percent of senior’s report feeling lonely on a regular basis. This study also found that people 60 years old and older who reported feeling lonely saw a 45 percent increase in their risk for death. Isolated elders also had a 59 percent greater risk of mental and physical decline than their more social counterparts. I found this information on a website called AgingCare.com. I then found similar information on the AARP website. Their own study entitled, “Loneliness Among Older Adults: A National Survey of Adults 45+,” states that “loneliness was a significant predictor of poor health.” Of those who rated their health as “excellent,” 25% were lonely, while those who rated their health as “poor,” 55% of those individuals reported feeling lonely.
Loneliness as a concept isn’t the easiest thing to break down. It doesn’t show up on an x-ray or in a pap smear. I just like that word by the way, and you get my point, you’re not gonna do a blood or stool test that will show you you’re lonely. In many cultures around the world, family structures developed over centuries to support the individual and the family unit. We’ve seen in the past century a drive for independence, which has created a certain level of freedom and growth for our culture, and now the pendulum seems to be swinging back to what I would identify as a more centered place. Take intentional living as an example. It’s similar to the communal living of the sixties and seventies, minus the tie died-shirts and bell bottoms. Now, more and more, groups of friends are coming together in what is legally called a “tenants in common” arrangement. In this scenario, multiple units are bought or built on one property, creating a small community of people living in close proximity with the intention to support one another, and to be a part of a group or collective. This is not unlike, or rather very much like, a family, giving all who participate the advantages of such an arrangement like shared expenses, easily available child or pet care, shared wisdom from the older members, and the ability to borrow a cup of sugar. I don’t ask my current neighbors for sugar. I doubt any of them even use it. This is LA people!
What’s funny about this to me is that thirty years ago I couldn’t wait to get out of my parent’s home and take the world by storm. And I did, sort of. Looking back, it was more of a “me against the world” illusion. Over the years I ended up having quite a few roommates who often became dear friends, people I ended up needing when life wasn’t going just so, and who often needed me. And my Mom and Dad continued to support me through my adult life both emotionally and at times financially, again, often when I really needed it. But what’s wrong with needing it, or one another for that matter? Because here’s the thing, we really, and I mean really do need one another. When I look around at all my independent friends I see the same exact thing – support is all around them from their friends and family. It’s just our individual addresses that can make us seem and then again often feel alone.
So, it’s connectivity that’s at the core of our ability to function. It’s our ability to relate to, care for, and be apart of another human being’s life that’s at the center of our thriving.
Connectivity is the core of our ability to function. It’s our ability to relate to, care for, and be apart of another human being’s life that’s at the center of our thriving. @barryaldenclark (Click to Tweet!)
Think about it. How did you get your last job? Mine was through a friend who connected me with the Human Resources Director. Or maybe your friend is the HR Director? How did you meet your boyfriend? Introduced to him by your friend, cousin, sister or a co-worker? How did you meet your wife? There are so many scenarios of how we all get connected I could write pages, but connected we are, there’s just no way around it. That’s why cleaning up and caring for our planet is so important, especially our water, air, and soil, because these elements are what keep us all alive. And we share them. Whatever I do to the water, air or soil, will most definitely effect those around me, and so on and so forth. We need to treat Mother Earth well, because she needs to continue being vibrant as she’s home base for a few billion people. But you know that already.
The same is true of us people. It’s imperative for us to care for one another. It’s our ability to do so that keeps us healthy. Our ability to love one another is essential. And nothing happens without human interaction and connectivity. Sure, we’ve got technology now bringing us together in a multitude of ways, and technology like Facebook, Instagram, and OK Cupid are all successful because of their one shared ingredient, the driver of which is our need and instinct to connect. We’re literally hardwired for connectivity. Infant brain development occurs when their brain synapses fire and connect which happens when the infant interacts with the mother (primarily). Our brains develop based on connecting with another human being – our mothers. This gives new meaning to Mother’s Day, don’t you think?
So back to the independent state of adulthood. It’s a fallacy. No one is alone, and no one can make it on their own. Oh, there’s a few who do, living out in the wilderness, literally or figuratively, but even they rely on others eventually, or their survival becomes compromised.
We need each other. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Not always. For me, my number one New Year’s Resolution is to connect with friends, family, people I know, and to meet new people and connect with them. And of course, sometimes we need to retreat for a bit, but don’t do it for too long or you’ll start to sour, which tends to look like depression, weight gain, and feelings of hopelessness. That tends to happen when we’re alone too long. Not that I would know from experience. Leave it to a friend to make you laugh at your perceived tragic flaws, or your parents to keep loving you when you’re down on yourself, or for, well, it’s a long list.
Even individuals in troubled relationships experience connectivity. And hopefully, over time, learn that there is also another type of connectivity that is loving, supportive, and which doesn’t hurt, but rather uplifts. I believe there is always hope, and that we can change for our better, whatever that might look like. Oh, yeah, and that usually happens with the assistance of others like a therapist, coach, sponsor, mentor, friend, or family member – another words, other people.
2018 is gonna be my year of connecting more deeply, more lovingly, and my year of building community, personal and professional relationships, and volunteering – all connecting more deeply with others.
My New Year’s resolution is to release my pseudo-independence, and claim my co-creative, co-dependent in a good way, interconnectedness with the world around me. I am not alone. Thank, God. Call me? I’ll call you. Or better yet, let’s get together and actually see one another. We’ll hang out, we’ll talk, we’ll connect, and we’ll do it live, in person. Remember those days? Well, they’re here now, again, still. Connect. Love. See how healing it can be. At the very least it will make 2018 a much friendlier and much kinder year.
Barry Alden Clark has coached thousands of individuals in connecting more deeply with their hearts, their life purpose, and helped create a pathway for these folks to move forward in a direction more aligned with who they truly are. He & his creative partner Eliza Swords are currently delivering uplifting content on social media every Wednesday via “Best Day Ever with Barry and Eliza”, a Facebook and You-Tube phenomenon reaching thousands of people around the world. They are also inspiring love and joy through creating heartfelt and entertaining content via their production company Pure Honey Ink. Currently they have projects in development for social media, film, television and publishing. You can reach Barry at www.barryaldenclark.com.