Human connection is an energy exchange between people who are paying attention to one another.
How do we transmit or exchange that energy? Is it through the words we speak? Do our gestures, physical contact such as a hug, handshake or eye contact play a part in the exchange of energy? What about music or sharing memories? Is it all of the above?
Furthermore, what makes human connection authentic?
A Look Within
As we all sit within this bubble of pandemic pause, a myriad of scenarios have come to the surface. Most of which involve an acute awareness of self and our surroundings. In addition, our lack of choice in the matter forces us to look more closely into the mirror devoid of all the usual distractions prior to 2020.
What this has meant for many is a closer more detailed look at who we are now. Subsequently, we are able to contrast that with who we were prior to all the events, fears, disruptions of the last year. So, when you strip away all the extraneous mumbo jumbo and expectations, what you can see and feel are the bones, the foundation of who we are. This becomes our authentic self.
For me, this journey toward authenticity began taking place long before 2020, but has rose to prominence in the past few years and intensified with the pandemic.
The Emergence of Authenticity
Authenticity: the quality of being genuine, real, not false or copied.
When leaving my home state in the mid 1980’s as an adult (at 26), I was moving away from a place that was familiar and strangely unfamiliar at the same time. Since the age of 18, I had been dying to get away from my place of birth (not an unusual feeling at that age). I never fully revealed this intense internal desire. Secretly keeping my dreams of wanting to be in other places was my way of avoiding the slightest hint of rejection.
I took small steps toward experiencing other places by traveling as a young adult to larger US cities outside of the homogeneous northern plains. My intuition taunting me to expand my horizon. However, doing so in a slow and deliberate manner as a means to ease my mindset into other cultural variants. A way to prevent blowing me away and sending me crawling back to the cave of familiarity.
Detroit, MI, Dallas, TX, Miami,Fl, Philadelphia, PA were a few of the cities I experienced in the late 70’s and early 80″s. Each very different in population, economies, cultural norms, political and artistic sensibilities. As a travel companion, I was the quiet one, labeled shy. Ultimately concluding my shyness was a shield to absorb all that I was experiencing. Unconsciously, I was activating all my senses and storing everything internally.
Some might say the sidelines were my preference. Often labeling me a non-participant because my reactions were hesitant and reserved. When in fact, I was simply withholding the joy and amazement of these experiences for purely selfish purposes. It was personal and I was not willing or trusting enough to share.
Embracing Authenticity and Human Connection
So, in order for me to move toward authenticity, I had to cut myself off from most viewpoints or reactions other than my own. This is much of the reason why I did not have a lot of close friends as a young adult. I could not trust my low esteem to keep me from taking on the perspective of those around me.
I wanted desperately to be my own person,. Not fully realizing that person changes over time despite any attempts to control. In addition, taking into consideration the perspectives of others is not a death sentence in the quest for authenticity. Instead, it is an extension of it. Eventually enriching my experiences of self.
This is where human connection and the exchange of energies begins. Opening ourselves up to the environment around us.
For years making connections with my colleagues and students gave me a sense of belonging. But at the same time, that belonging felt hollow. More importantly, my dissatisfaction and disappointment either in the behavior of others and/or my behavior when around them was a constant needle in my side. I often wondered if others felt the same way?
When I left higher education and moved to a whole different part of the country, I knew absolutely no one. Everything was new and learning to exist took on a whole other meaning. Having lived in the same place for many years, my connections were vast, but left me feeling static. Knowing a lot of people, does not make someone whole. Being around groups of people does not really boost a person’s inner awareness.
I am not playing the blame game or complaining about any if it. This is how life proceeds. Especially when you don’t question your existence within the status quo, thus becoming unconsciously complacent.
The allure of the unfamiliar rears its head whenever I feel the need to reconnect. Allowing refreshed connections with people, places and things in a simpler, truer manner of being. This is where human connections began to flourish as our renewed self sees everything from a different angle.
Living with Authenticity
Physical proximity and physical touch is important to our survival. The need to feel needed and that exchange of physical energy. Physical proximity between children and caregivers contains an element of fear. That fear has everything to do with security and safety. These fears seem to have intensified since I was a child.
For example, in 1988 when I lived in Chicago, there was a mentally unstable woman, Laurie Dann, who terrorized the upper class neighborhood where I taught school. As a result, this woman shot and killed a young elementary student before shooting herself. The area schools shut down and everyone was in a state of panic. Their panic fixated on gun control, child and personal safety.
For a time, there was an intense wave of people judging and shaming families for allowing their children to play on their own or walk home from school. All fear based and perpetuated by those who, in the name of personal safety, went to the extreme end of the physical proximity and security spectrum. Life is a risk.
Were these fears based upon a rational view of reality? Is this how we make authentic connections with our family members, neighbors and communities? What kind of energy transfers in these situations? Is this living with authenticity? No. It is living in fear of not having control. The antithesis of authenticity.
Living authentically is living each day to the fullest and letting go of what you cannot control. Easy to say, difficult to practice.
Finding Connections in the Unfamiliar
When moving to an unfamiliar place, there is always the prospect of new surroundings and not knowing a soul. This prompts me to pause and reflect upon my surroundings with a deeper awareness. To appreciate the solitude. Everything new, nothing familiar. With each move, a feeling of being reborn comes over me. At first, that feeling is one of discomfort, but eventually connections form and energies are exchanged naturally.
Placing yourself in unfamiliar places or situation opens up your senses. You become aware of people, places, objects, feelings that may have been overlooked in a previous comfortable and all too familiar setting.
Human connection occurs as energy is constantly being exchanged in and through all forms of communication. Such as nature, art, music, speech, dance, gestures, touch, eye contact, body language, shared memories, even thoughts. If you live with a fear of discomfort and/or unconscious complacency, true human connection is not attainable. Your energy will be obstructed. Setting aside fears and entering into the unknown will yield those authentic connections with humanity.
My Art and Connection to the Unfamiliar
With each painting or monotype, I am entering the unknown. I have no desire to paint what is familiar. My preference is allowing my intuition to take me places I have not been. My subconscious is there to bring up stored memories while my intuition guides me the rest of the way. More often than not, this creative process is uncomfortable, but it is my voice. I have come to trust that voice, that authenticity, that means of connection with myself.
Although I do create work in the privacy of my studio, all the energies I give and receive from the universe come into play. Nature, music, dance, the spoken word, memories, human interaction, all of it gives rise to my work. I have my authentic human connections to thank for that energy.
I am learning to get out of my own way by allowing the energy of the universe freely into my reality.
Image: Matriarchal Dance, 24″ x 18″ mixed media monotype
I chose this piece to accompany the blog because the piece seems like a metaphor for the energy exchange between connections that happen naturally, intuitively and authentically. About midway through this piece, a figurative element appeared. So I allowed that figure to continue forming naturally. My subconscious was bringing forth my desire to visualize, in my own way, those who came before me. The figures and ideas that contributed to my way of being. It has become a dance of the matriarchs and the dance continues.