I have been postponing writing this article for over two weeks now… I feel I want to say so much about this topic, but at the same time I fear I may be leaving something essential out of it. Nonetheless, it is high time I wrote something down.
So, connections. This Summer I came across a TED Talk about the longest study ever made on happiness and quality of life. I will be linking the video here so you can have a more detailed look at it too.
The main idea that was supported by the results of the study was that the quality of the relationships we have with other people determine the quality of our lives. In a way, it sounds pretty obvious and natural, but how often how often do we consciously value our friends, family members or lovers and let them know about it? My guess would be, not often enough. I have seen this pattern many times over and, unfortunately, I have done it myself repeatedly: we get so caught up on our own little bubbles filled with our own little problems and aims that we forget to look around us to see and listen to the ones sitting near us.
A few weeks ago I have shared in an Instagram post that I have been struggling with depression. Well, I must admit that one thing that helped me very much to get out of that low state was simply to stop focussing on my little selfish universe and start listening to what was happening around me. And guess what I found? Everyone struggles with something. Woaaa, I know, the biggest discovery ever made… I’m childish sometimes, I’ll give you that.
However, I have come to learn that by being present while someone else is talking about their concerns, their issues, their ideas, their dreams or their questions about life, not only was I detaching myself of my problems, but I could also see that, in a way, I was making myself useful just by simply actively listening to the other person.
There isn’t that much we need as humans. We have a few basic needs and some desires that, when fulfilled, can improve our lives’ quality a lot. It doesn’t require that much effort, just a little more time spent being present, being conscious, being here now.
I have some dear and wise friends in Germany who used to tell me that when life gives you a bad day, you ought to make the best of it at least in the evening. Whether it is watching a good movie, ordering pizza with some friends, taking a walk, it doesn’t really matter; it is supposed to be something you do for yourself that you enjoy. Smart, simple, valuable lesson. Little things are not that little.
While reading Viktor Frankl, Robin Sharma or even Eckhart Tolle, I found the same message over and over again: showing compassion and doing acts of kindness is human and is also part of our duty in this world. Audrey Hepburn has said it very nicely: “As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, one for helping others.”
If I were to name one positive aspect the pandemic has brought us, I would say it is this context it has created that allows us to strengthen and cherish more the relationships we have with the people in our lives. We are, after all, social beings; having lost this direct connection to many may open our eyes and teach us gratefulness for the ones near us. By “near” I don’t really mean physical distance, since caring and love know no distance, but rather near to our heart.
I believe that now, more than ever perhaps, it is time we started listening. It is time we started looking into the eyes of that person who has been talking to us about a concern or maybe (let’s say something positive) a dream, or an idea. We shall put our phones down and learn to reconnect. Learn to be present and to acknowledge that we are offered time. Precious time that at some point we will lose, so we better make the best of it while we are blessed with it.
As a closure, I will leave bellow one quote I have read in Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s search for meaning” that somehow touched my soul. The way I see it, it doesn’t only speak of love from a romantically point of view (this can pass by pretty quickly) but rather it says more about love as a way of living and of connecting with the others. It goes:
“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of their personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless one loves them” – Viktor Frankl