Authentic connection. It’s part of a healing process and what I am most passionate about in life. I feel it when it happens, deep in my chest, in long conversations with relationships in my life, or casual encounters at Starbucks. The magic is found when we have the presence of mind to connect to the moment that lays out in front of us. If we are on our phone or thinking about what we need to do next, half in on one conversation elsewhere or in our head, and half in on the physical encounter in front of us, we miss the magic of connecting to either moment, and what was offered to make our life richer is lost. The more of those moments we lose, the greater the chance we will wind up asking ourselves one day
“What did it all mean?”
and man, if there is one thing I want to know, it’s the answer to that question.
Eye contact, our tone of voice, and the meaning behind the simplest words have value that etch wisdom deep into our consciousness if we allow them too. Do we mean it when we say “have a great day” to someone? Do we really want to hear the answer when we ask “how was your day?” They seem like generic questions, but when I ask them, my intention is there, I actually am dying to hear your long answer if you want to slow down enough to tell me. I have figured out that this is one of the greatest points of beauty in my life, and day by day I learn not to take it for granted, feel guilty about taking the time, or rush on to the next thing. To be in a place in life where I can move consciously with intention, care for myself and my kids, and be there for someone who needs an ear or a hand to hold is a gift.
As an optimist, I believe that the there are always good things coming, and optimism is the fuel that turns these beliefs into reality. I know that my long term well being will be taken care of through the stories that I create, the connections I make, and the things I learn that come with the gift of staying present. As I write and connect with people in this world, I feel my flow through the stories of how we learn about ourselves through the lens of our honest experiences and they are beautiful. These conversations have power because they give us a chance to speak our minds, solidify what we believe, know that we are not alone, learn new things to increase our awareness and perspective, and bridge the gap between generations. It’s a bold move to let someone see you and your struggle, but it is the key to choosing connected freedom over isolation. Every time I have one of these conversations, I am reminded that not one of us was meant to take this road alone and that the real perfect story is laced with triumph and joy, and fear, rejection, and struggle. It’s never the ‘thing’ that life hands us, but what we turn it into by feeling our way through it.
When I started the Optimists Journal, I knew I was on a quest to tell stories to the generations that come after me. Although learning happens when we decide we are ready, my greatest hope is to inspire self awareness so that young people learn the power of their story, and how to honor it and share it with the world. In the last few weeks, I have been blessed with the most inspiring conversations with young minds on the path. It has given me hope and proven my theory that when you put your intentions and words out, the universe hears you and speaks back. Their stories have reinforced my belief that pain comes to us with a purpose, no one escapes this life without periods of deep personal struggle, but they have also reassured me that joy is a catalyst for life’s greatest moments. Whether it’s staying up until 3am talking philosophy with your new roommates, learning the happiness that is created in making a meal and sharing it with your people, or appreciating the opportunities and moments of glory that sports give us after the hard work is put forth, these are the high points from people half my age that both take me back and tell me that life ahead is not as dismal as the nightly news or the latest debate may make it seem. These conversations are live drills, they are the proof that what I feel deep within my own experience, and read about in books is going on in other human life. What are you doing to connect with life this week? What struggle can you make peace with? Let’s talk. The beauty of connection is waiting in every moment.