The world can be repaired only when we connect meaningfully

Thought leader Brene Brown has long delivered the message that humans are hardwired for connection. She calls connection the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued and says it gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Connection means different things to different people in different contexts. Does it mean the establishment of a bond or is it interaction? What’s the opposite of connection? Is it isolation? Loneliness? Broken-ness? Why do we crave it?

In 2022, I joined a yearlong workshop with 12 amazing women, created and facilitated by two outstanding therapists who happen to be lifelong friends. Dr. Cecilia Dintino and psychotherapist Hannah Murray Starobin created the workshop as part of their Twisting the Plot program. The premise of Twisting the Plot is that it’s possible, even (or especially) after 50, to reconnect with your creativity, take charge of your own life script and manage your way through the plot twists that will take you to the future you envision.

Each of the women in my workshop had to choose one creative project to work on throughout the year. My project was called Gatherings for Meaningful Connection. The workshop itself was an important means of connection for me during the pandemic era when I started working from home, where I live alone, and falling deep into the abyss of isolation. My gatherings would be monthly themed dinner parties with 6-12 women (because Priya Parker in the Art of Gathering taught me this is the range of guests that could sustain a single, meaningful conversation), each of whom would have a role to play. I planned menus and the themes to be covered over twelve months.

I held my first Gathering for Meaningful Connection in May 2022. The evening’s theme was “connection”. There were 7 of us: a doctor, a lawyer, a rabbi, a banker, an executive coach, a marketing expert, and me. I was the chef and host. One person was responsible for introductions. One brought conversation prompts. One made sure everyone’s drinking glasses were filled. One took the lead with music. One helped serve and one helped clear.

Everyone was asked to think about what connection meant to them ahead of time and email a blurb to me. When we sat down to dinner, I read the blurbs aloud and the conversation took off from there. It was magical. People were honest, vulnerable, deep, intelligent, thoughtful, and respectful. We talked about the way COVID had made connecting challenging and, at the same time, how it caused so many of us to narrow our inner social circles in a healthy way. We talked about the different levels of connection and how it’s important to connect with different people in different ways. We talked about the value of close friendships and feeling connected to loved ones. We also talked about connecting with ourselves and what that meant to us. The group gelled beautifully and the conversation was lively. We got serious and we laughed a lot. What a great and meaningful way to spend an evening! 

My plans to hold monthly gatherings were upended by an avalanche of life crises but I continue to believe in their power and, a year and a half later, I’m ready to get them going for real. If you live in NYC and you’re interested in joining a gathering like this, meeting fabulous women, and connecting over food, please email me at Robin.Adelson@gmail.com and let me know you’d like to be included on the Gatherings for Meaningful Connection invitation list.

The COVID years challenged us to connect in different ways without  jeopardizing the meaningfulness of the connections. They also gave us the time and space to consider what kind of connections mattered most to us and were worthy of protecting and nurturing. We shrunk our circles and many of us worked extra hard to strengthen the ties we chose to keep. We don’t need to feel connected to all humans but we do need meaningful connection. Connection helps keep loneliness at bay and provides the opportunity to give and receive kindness, compassion, respect, and a dose of reality. It’s what makes us whole. Meaningful connection with others makes the world work (when it works) and gives the world the hope for repair when it’s broken.

Something to think about: Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they receive sustenance and strength from the relationship (Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection).

Something to try: Consider what meaningful connection means to you. In the next week, consider reconnecting with one person. Maybe you’ll choose to text, email, or call someone you once knew with whom you’d lost touch or someone still close that you just haven’t connected with in a while. Why not reach out and see how they’re doing?

If you’re having trouble leaving your shell of isolation and reconnecting in person, you might want to try coaching.

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