Friday, February 13, 2015

Missed Connection and a Valentine's Day Challenge

The season of love is upon us. It's almost Valentine's Day and this year, I want to talk about real love and connection: the messy kind - the human kind.

The other day I took Hope to her favorite little gym class. It’s funny how things shift from your first to your third kid. It has been a good six years since I did this class with my first born. Toward the end, they dump a big basket of toys in the middle and ask the parents to step to the side so that the babies can learn to socialize independent of their parents. This, at least historically, was always the time when the moms (and sometimes a few dads) would chat casually about their little ones. If they were sleeping, or not, new teeth, first steps, first foods.

You see separation time for the babies is actually super important for moms and dads. It gives them precious seconds of adult conversation together. For many parents, they may not see another adult for the rest of the day. I remember that feeling as a first time mother. Clinging to these classes as my outlet, my connection to others who understood how exhausted and amazing all of it was. So today I put Hope down in the circle in front of the toys and I moved to the side with the other parents. I looked to my right and my left. The mother to my right was on her phone. The grandmother to my left was on her phone. The dad three people away? Also on his phone. The grandmother on my right was texting a woman named Carmen and I wondered that if Carmen were sitting and breathing right here next to her, would she still have that phone out? Is the pull of someone or something not in your line of sight always greater than the living breathing human right in front of you?

I am leveling no judgment here. I get it parents and grandma. No, seriously: I GET IT. There is only so many times I can read Mirror Me before emptying a bag of chocolate chips into my mouth and furiously scanning my twitter feed for life beyond Baby MacDonald (who can puff her cheeks full of air – puff and blow!). That said, I can’t shake what I’ve been feeling lately. It’s something I haven’t really felt since I first moved to New York City all those years ago. I roughly describe it as the Times Square phenomenon: the ability to be completely surrounded by people hustling and bustling in every direction, and yet feel totally alone. It felt like a vortex of missed connections. When I was new to the City I was always so struck by this feeling, but it felt more natural in Times Square. It feels less so in a room of 15 in a suburban baby class. I am completely surrounded by people and yet feel sort of alone at the same time. It's all sort of strange and unsettling; baby squeals and the jangling of toys and silence and blue light.

Recently, I started following a podcast on WNYC called New Tech City. The host, Manoush Zomorodi, just launched a project titled “Bored and Brilliant.” The project includes a series of challenges for folks to better understand their baseline use of technology, and ultimately reduce the amount of time we spend entangled with this stuff. The thinking behind “Bored and Brilliant” is that we used to have all of this time, at the baby gym class or on the train, in line at the coffee shop where we would just space out, day dream, or make chit chat with the person next to us. And with the rise of our connectivity, we’ve seen the utter demise of our, well, connectivity or connections to the space in our brains that promotes creative thinking, and to the living breathing world that exists right around us.

And this takes me back to that little gym class again. You were the mom right next to me. I wanted to catch your eye to ask when he started walking. Instead I caught his ball while you looked down. You have holes in your socks. I do too. Why do mothers always wear socks with holes? Indeed this business of parenting is holey business. So I bundled up my pink bear and you bundled up your brown bear. I’ll see you next time even if you don’t see me.

Le sigh. Another missed connection.

So this valentine’s day, would you be my valentine? Dear valentine, let’s connect. Inspired by Manoush and company, let's undertake a little Valentine’s Day challenge of sorts. Pick one space on Saturday, one meal, one bedtime, one ride in the car with your family, one baby gym class, one ridiculously long line in the grocery store and just show up for it. Be in it. Be there. Connect with the people and the sights and the sounds in that real live moment and if you can, let me know what you saw/felt/noticed. Let me know about connections made, not missed.

On a day that is all about love, let’s really try to feel all the feels in all of the best and most messy possible way. Only then will we really get to the heart of it all.


1 comment:

  1. LOVE this piece, because I have noticed this phenomenon quite a bit. Just yesterday, my baby (who turns 13 today) was in a showcase of student-written/directed plays at school yesterday. I bumped into a mom of one of his friends on our way into the theater. I know her only slightly, b/c he's my 3rd kid and I work from home and rarely volunteer during the school day. When/how do you really get to spend time w/ moms when your kids are in middle school? I made a point of sitting with her in the theater & chatting with her during intermission, and NOT taking my phone out once, not even to take pictures. Trying to live in the moment, in connection with the people right there with me.