November 11th: Connection
This afternoon, I had some errands to run. I timed it rather poorly and found myself stuck in rush hour traffic on the way home. Luckily, we didn’t have a time frame, so it was no big deal. But we wound up stopping in the tunnel between New Monterey and Old, and that’s when things got funny. Someone started honking their horn, and then someone else, and soon every single car in the tunnel was leaning on their horn. All the people in all of the cars were laughing their heads off. It was just a little thing, but it made all these perfect strangers feel…connected.
I’ve been thinking a lot about connection lately. In the world we live in today, we often substitute social media for real interaction. When someone calls, we let it go to voicemail, preferring to text. I have long, ongoing conversations with people over messenger, but the truth is…sometimes I need to hear the voice of my friends. I need to see their faces, watch their expressions, hear them laugh.
In my line of work, as a medical coder, I review anywhere between 80 to roughly 100 emergency room charts per day- about a days’ worth of patients for our ER. Out of those, I would say about 15 on average are people suffering a mental health crisis. Of those 15, nearly half, if not more, are young people. Sometimes startlingly young. Lots of times.
I have seen a sharp rise in these charts over the past few years. Maybe I’m just working faster, maybe I’m just paying attention, but…I don’t know. I have a hunch that there’s more to it than that. I have a bad feeling it has something to do with the way we are living- so much of our lives with our faces glued to screens, so little time doing the stuff that makes a life feel…like living.
When I sit here and I stare at this screen all day, with lots of breaks to stare at my other, littler, phone screen…at the end of the day, I just feel empty. I feel like…what did I just do with my day? But when I do what I did this past weekend- work on the house, meet a bunch of girls at a meetup just to visit, read a book, have lunch with my boss at her house to meet her new great-grandbaby, and play with her two year old great grandson- when I sit down and share a meal and a conversation, and I connect with people…I feel full. I feel seen. I feel energized and happy, and my day feels like it was well spent.
I can’t imagine that children, with their curious minds and their newness, their thirst to learn and grow, are very different. If anything, they need more connection than we do. I think not giving that to them affects their mental health, I really do. I think it affects ours. I don’t have any proof. I haven’t researched it or checked my facts. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about lately, and I think it might have some merit.
Today, if you feel so inclined, I encourage you to start thinking of some ways that you can make more time for connection in your life. Meet a friend for coffee or to go for a walk. When the phone rings (if it’s not, you know, an unknown number- never answer those!) answer it. Someone might need to hear your voice. If you have kids, turn off the TV and read together, or draw, or play a game. Think about the things you remember lovingly from your childhood and do that. Maybe put your phone on the charger and let it just be a phone for an hour or two. Candy Crush will still be there when you get back. This is advice I certainly need to take myself, and I intend to. It won’t be easy…but I think it’s important.