This post is going to get a little personal. I often feel vulnerable sharing personal things in a blog, out there in the world for everyone to read (and judge) but my learning happens through experience and I really want to share my observation with you. In our efforts to build The Barn School, my husband and I have stretched all of the resources we have access to. It has been the hardest year and three months our relationship has had to endure. Of all the stresses, I think the hardest one is that to make this happen, my husband has been working a fulltime job and acting as project manager and laborer in building The Barn School. The kids and I spend most of our time during the week and on weekends and in the evenings living our lives without him. For a long time I have been feeling lonely in our relationship, disconnected. It is really sad. The times we do spend together, just the five of us, are rare and the built up resentment between us leaks out in passive aggressive comments. Luckily, we are pretty good about “owning our shit”, even if it is after the fact, and we always find a way to say the words to each other to muddle through. We know this period of stress and separate lives won’t last and we are committed to our relationship, our family, and our wish to create an environment for families to explore Self-Directed Education in ways that fit with their lives and values. However, right now we are feeling disconnected.
A lot of my stories are convoluted and this blog post is no exception. So here we go!
Yesterday, while working onsite at The Barn School, my husband found this tiny infant mouse in the bed of his truck. It wasn’t there moments before when he returned from hauling material, so he figured it must have been dropped from a prey bird and landed in the truck bed. He thought it was dead, but when he picked it up, it moved and nuzzled into his hand. Not knowing what to do, he built it a nest and left it in the shade and brought it home to the kids and I at the end of the day. I found a wildlife refuge that was willing to take it in (actually I found two!) but we would need to drop it off ourselves. That would be a two hour trip to give that little mouse the care it needed to survive, and my husband did it.
Before leaving, he was skepitcal. He wondered who would possibly want to take in a baby mouse and dedicate resources to rehabilitating it and releasing it back into the wild. I felt frustrated by his skeptism in humanity. I see beautiful human moments daily and value life, even tiny mouse lives, so when he cannot understand my perspective, I feel lonely. It is an ongoing argument that we’ve bumped into over the past year. Back to the story. I assured him the people running Hobitstee, the wildlife refuge, were legit. He planned to drop off the baby mouse and return home. He called me after being gone for several hours to say that he had the most amazing conversation with the owners of the refuge and that it was so refreshing to talk to people who were such good people. He said that while he knows there are good people in the world, usually the good people he encounters are “good” in the sense that they are working hard to provide for their families in careers and jobs that they tend to dislike. The Hobitstee owners were good in the sense that they were authentic and open. Their work was connected to their values, their community, and their environment. Steve felt their sense of connection and felt more whole after talking to them. Their openness and authenticity provided him with some beautiful human connection. I felt more connected to him, even though I was not part of the experience.
That insight on his part, about “good” but disconnected people, revealed several layers of disconnection I felt between us but could never articulate. Not only was Steve doing work that kept him away from his family and oftern his interests, but he was spending time with people who were also feeling disconnected from their families and their values. I, on the other hand, get to do work that is in line with my values and spend time with others who feel this nourishment. When I have tried to connect with Steve over the past year, he struggled to understand my world and I struggled to understand his.
How does this disconnection happen?
I thought about all of the families that spend their time away from their loved ones for most of their lives; first daycare, then school, then work and retirement is sometimes not much better because everyone younger than you is working or tucked away in school! When do we get to connect to our passions, our thoughts, our friends and family? On special occasions and vacations? Is that enough to fill us up or are we simply taking the edge off of our thirst for connection?
Now, I understand that our interests do not always align, so spending time pursuing our interests outside of our friends and family is important, but what happens when we pursue these interests and grow and learn but cannot celebrate that with the ones we love? Not being able to connect with the ones we love through celebration and heart ache weakens the relationship if it happens repeatedly. We look for these pockets of time to connect with the ones we love because they nourish us. If we are not experiencing together or sharing our experiences together, well, that is just so lonely. Our minds and bodies reflect this loneliness.
To add to my convoluted story, I saw this video. It made me think about the loneliness and disconnection that exists on all levels within power systems. We all suffer when some of us are disconnected. The hierarchy of the system, by nature, encourages disconnection. Some disconnected members of our society, often those higher up in the hierarchy, express their pain by hurting themselves or inflict their pain on those that seem more connected.
I believe that connection happens when we share experiences with one another and reflect on experiences together. Inner peace, calmness, and ease happen through connection to oneself, the people around us, and our natural environment. Reflection of those experiences helps us to process, heal, learn, and develop our value systems. When we are spending our time in disconnection, with people who are also feeling disconnected from those they care about and their values, interactions tend to reflect that sadness. We inflict violence on ourselves, our environment, and on others. That violence comes out in our tone of voice, our choice of words, our actions based in a sense of fear or scarcity… Who in your life seems disconnected? How do they express their disconnection?
Then I read this article about the importance of connecting to ourselves so that we can have inner peace and the sadness that exists when we have a society that is disconnected from their passions, values, and feelings. Connection begins within us and extends far beyond our understanding.
But what if things were different? What if our lives were centered around connection? What would that look like?
Imagine the love and peace and learning that we could create within ourselves (and our families and our communities) if our lives centered around connection. Perhaps peace is possible by following our passions, connecting with ourselves and our communities and our environment and then providing space for others to do the same?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one! Part 2 to this blog post coming soon!