When I traded in a Friday lime to meet a new person I admitted to myself that I like meeting new people. I love liming with my friends, there is a familiarity that allows me to show up as I am, in whatever mood that I am in and spend a good time with them. Yet when my friend called me on Friday, I declined. I wanted to meet someone new, a complete stranger who reached out to me on Linkedin. The thrill of the new tugged and I happily gave in to it.
I get a rush when I am meeting new people, because I just never know. Curiosity demands to be satisfied, to see if the face matches the perfectly polite voice on the phone and to read the expressions beyond the beautifully written and thoughtful notes.
The possibility of a new connection, a new relationship or a new way to relate pull me in and I show up. I feel anxious, I am uncertain and have flashing concerns about how I look and how I feel, all while reminding myself to slow down, to listen, to be open and to share.
These uncertainties challenge me to stay in the present, have no expectations, make no assumptions and see how the meeting plays out minute by minute. From the onset I am setting boundaries for the relationship and watchful for breaches. I have to gauge if the questions posed to me and by me are inquisitive or nosy, and gauge the right amount of push back if I am uncomfortable with any questions or comments. I have to limit distractions, ignore my phone, will myself awake if I am bored, and not pick a fight if there is any contention.
As the meeting progresses, the suspense unfolds, and I am fascinated to join the dots to learn about the new person, just as they are learning about me.
How do you feel about meeting new people?
If there is one thing an earthquake reminds us of, it is how fragile this life is. And how connected we are as a world family. The tectonic plates don’t care about the boundaries we draw over Mother Earth. To think that in just a split second, this reality we have built up around us can be destroyed, is a humbling thought.
If today were the last day of our lives, would each one of us be truly content with who we ARE within? If not, it is time to start working towards becoming the persons we want to be. Not so much in terms of professions and designations, but as people – as living, breathing manifestations of soul energy.
My lovely friend Jalaja shared this with me. It was sent to her from a friend in her spiritual practice.
I have been saying “Yes” a whole lot more in 2015. Thus far it has led me to interesting people and places. I have been excited and thrilled by what unfolds in the moments that I expect nothing and open myself to the experience.
Yesterday one of the persons that I said yes to was explaining how she felt about me. She identified what emotions she felt as we interacted and explained how some of her assumptions changed as our relationship deepened. As she shared I realized that I could not participate in the discussion, since I could not tap into any feelings about her. I sounded unconvincing as I explained that I like her, I enjoy the time that we spent together, and I look forward to spending more time with her.
As I walked away from that exchange I realised that I fooled myself into thinking that I have been fully present in each moment that we shared. I can recall the places we have been to, the conversations that we had, the experiences that we shared but I could not associate any particular emotional response to them.
Today, I admitted that I have not been fully participating in the moments. I have been an observer, watching the stories go by, without being vested in the outcomes. I have been riding the waves and not dipping into the ocean. I have been gazing starry eyed at that moments, enjoying the thrills while being disengaged.
Today I realized that I cannot truly experience and engage in the moments and the people without my heart.
Today I reaffirm my commitment to being in the moment. I am saying yes to the moments with my heart.
How do you engage in the moments? With heart or head?
It’s Carnival Tuesday in Trinidad and Tobago. This is the culmination of the weeks of partying, the various events and competitions. Today, the day before Ash Wednesday, thousands of people will take to the streets in and out of costumes, dance and have a good time. For each reveler there will be many people like me who are at home, chilling.
Carnival for me is an opportunity to meet and greet with people, both those who are fully part of my life and those who I don’t regularly see. I hook up with my friends who live abroad and travel home for the revelry. My time with them is a reunion, during which we share the stories that we could not share over the internet.
Then there are the newbies, the people who somehow are in the same parties and each time we see each other another layer of comfort in being around each other is established. Most of these are immediate pops that fizzle by Ash Wednesday, but sometimes they last. Then there are the folks who I only see once a year, at a certain event. These say “Hi” with a peck on the cheek and then they are gone until the next year.
There are many Carnival love stories, in which people have met their significant others and travelled to other countries to get married. After the season, I have seen friends claim relationships and been introduced to a new boyfriend or girlfriend.
The Carnival festival serves our human need to connect. The alcohol, the music, the freedom of the season makes it easy for us to tuck away our veils, show our shadow selves and become exposed and raw. At this time of the year, we go with the flow and live in the moment. We surrender to the now, fully aware that we are not in control and excited that anything can happen at anytime. We let down our guards and are friendlier and more open. We blame it on the music and the alcohol and we gayly connect with each other. After the season most of us, return to our watchful position, shutting the door on possibilities and wait for the next year to connect with others again.
I am challenging myself to stay in the Carnival mode of openness, friendliness, to remain excited about the possibility, to live in the now and go with the flow.
What makes it easy for you to connect with others?
I was at the airport’s information desk when I noticed her. She was sitting at a stool leaning over the counter and her face was furrowed. I overheard the hostess admonishing her, “That does not make sense. Please do not send him anymore money.” As I completed my transaction I understood what was going on.
The woman dated a man online for several months and they decided to rendezvous in Cape Town. She sent him money to buy the airline tickets and they agreed to meet at the airport on the appointed day and time. When she arrived at Cape Town, he was not there. After waiting several hours and making several calls to him, he related that he was in transit and needed some assistance. The airline incorrectly sent his bags to another transit town in his country and he was at that town collecting his bags. Since this was an unplanned trip, he incurred additional expense and he needed more funds to get back on the route to Cape Town.
As she relayed her story, the hostess became stern, “Why would he travel to get his bags? Why did he not come to Cape Town and wait for his bags? Do not send him any more money.”
The more the hostess spoke, the more the woman shrank. By the time I left she was curled up over the counter, with her head down.
I empathized with the woman. I have been lonely before and have felt the hope that the possibility of a real connection brings. I have felt the spark that ignited my entire body when I thought that I connected with someone special. I have also leapt at the chance of being close to someone and gone through lengths to extend that connection and keep it alive. Sometimes I have been rewarded and other times I have been forced to accept that the connection was a dud. The failure to connect is always painful, and the intensity and duration of the pain is directly correlated to how hard I tried or how much I wanted it. I have been left embarrassed and ashamed when I opened myself to someone, only to be tossed off like yesterday’s garbage.
The pull of the possibility of a true connection is very sexy, and the more unlikely it seems the luckier we feel. We all want something special, we all crave the attention of another, and we all want to have a singular connection that seems just for us. We have been conditioned to think of a soul mate, the one, the other half and without questioning the veracity of this we are hell bent of finding it.
Online dating extends these possibilities; it takes us beyond our normal pool and introduces us to new and exotic possibilities. The emails, the texts, the Skype conversations, the late night calls all build the intensity of the possibility and we get excited about meeting this person we have constructed in our heads. The further the other is from us the more we want the connection to be real.
We have all fantasised, left our existence and travelled miles to step into another’s world hoping that in this new reality we will meet the the promise. It has worked for many and for others like the woman at the desk it did not.
What have you done to connect? How has it failed you? How did you feel?
There is a new rule on the compound. When approaching the guards, drivers need to put their windows down so that the guards can verify whom they are before opening the gates.
This, I thought, was a bit much. Usually when I approach the compound I raise my hand in acknowledgement, the guards open the gates and I give a firm nod or thumbs up as I drive past. Today, since there was an admonishment written in red, that the gates will not be opened unless the driver’s window is down, I reluctantly complied.
When I put down the window I greeted the guard, “Good morning.” The guard cheerfully replied, “Good morning Ms Attong.” When I drove through the open gate I said
“Thanks” and he replied “You’re welcome.”
I thought how pleasant was that. When the glass is up, I never hear the guards’ voices and they never hear mine. How sad is that? I pass these guys every day and I never say hello, I just toss my hand into the air and I am off, without stopping to find out how they are. Here I am yearning for human connection and I never thought that my car glass was shutting people out. In the simplest of ways I can connect with others on a daily basis when I say hello to the guards.
What was I thinking? That a nod could replace a thank you, that the wave of a hand is a greeting. I am wondering where else in my life I have my glass up, where else in my life do I nod instead of saying hello, where else in my life am I shutting people out because it is expedient to do so?
What about you? Where in your life is your glass up? What would it be like if you were to put it down?
Tonight I was reminded of how connected we all are and that in that connection how natural it is for us to like each other. Liking someone is not something that I am accustomed feeling. I may appreciate the physical or intellectual aspects of someone, be fascinated by his/ her accomplishments but rarely do I sit opposite someone and just plain like them.
It was therefore rare feeling to sit and notice that I like this person. It was amazing to sit opposite someone, watch his words form , listen to his tale as he spoke about to what he did, what he wants, who he loves and just to feel in that moment connected.
Maybe the meditation class that I took this evening helped. I learned to focus on my out breath and count to ten. As I counted I stayed in the moment and whenever a thought formed I would start over counting and refocus on my breath. I learned to keep my mind clear and listen to only the birds chirp.
And so it was over a table, I followed his breath and his words staying in the moment of his thoughts, not judging just listening and the reward was a feeling of pure likeness, joy to be in the company of another as I sat in the perfect cadence of the moment.
It was a powerful moment for me, connecting with someone whom I knew when we were both much younger. It was amazing that after many years, I could still conclude that he remained a sweetheart while he experienced me as jovial.
Maybe our younger connection was always real, maybe we always presented our true selves so it was easy to connect, or maybe we both want the same thing in others – to be truly connected.
Whatever the reason I enjoyed it, a moment of friendship, a moment of connection, a moment of liking someone intensely.
Who do you like? What’s it like when you spend time with them?
I have often been a coachee – a coaching client – as I looked for ways to change some aspect of my life or get something done, or just needed some space to think. Whenever I sign up for coaching sessions, the first session is always the most difficult. Even when I am familiar with the coach it takes a few sessions for me to warm up and to trust that this relationship will work for me. I have often wondered “How effective is this coach? What can she do for me? Does this even work?”
Now that I am a coach, I remind myself of the uncertainty that the client must feel as they enter into a coaching relationship with me.
As a result, when clients are in front of me I am awed at their bravery, stunned by their openness and admire their courage in reaching out to me. I am also humbled by their willingness to sit in the hot spot and examine their life choices and the honesty to admit to what is keeping them back.
My clients have taught me the true meaning of intimacy – into you I see – as they show me themselves, and let me in behind the veil, to the truth of the person and to what lies beneath. It is a rare privilege to be allowed a front row seat to another’s life, behind the public face to the very essence of them. I have mixed emotions of honor and humility as they strip to their core and lay themselves open and bare, vulnerable and exposed in front of me.
I am grateful for my clients, because they show me what connection really means and what it feels like to be connected. I feel the connection on my skin when my hair stands or my pores raise as they express themselves. I feel the connection when my body mimics their movements, and my emotions range with theirs. I feel the connection when the air between us goes silent, and a dropped pin will deafen us. I feel it when the air between us becomes tangible and no one wants to be the first to cut it. When I hear the client’s brain click when they are on to something and see the “Ah Ha” form in their heads just before it spills out of their mouths, I am connected. When the question feels right as soon as it leaves my mouth I know that I have connected.
Clients remind me of my humanity, the beauty of it, its transience, and its frailty. They display for me the power of human connection and remind me that we are infinitely wise with the amazing ability to change our futures. Most importantly clients reaffirm for me my purpose – to enhance the lives of all with whom I make contact.
Thanks to all my coaching clients, you have given me so much.
December is a time of parties. Sunday evening I went to a friend’s birthday party and today I attended a client’s end of year event. I usually dread these events. I attend out of a sense of duty – it’s my friend, she invited me or it’s part of my job. Sometimes I am in a state of dread, wondering if I will speak out of turn when I hear something stupid, or if I will eat or drink too much because I am totally bored.
These concerns were unfounded, as both yesterday and today I had a great time at each event.
I met wonderful people and we chatted for extended periods. On Sunday I met a female executive at a traditional male organisation and we chatted about power, misogyny and navigation of a political system. Later that evening I met a man who lived with chronic arthritic pain for over 10 years and was celebrating his new found mobility courtesy his monthly intravenous drips.
Tonight at the client’s event, I met a colleague and learned about his career moves, challenges and successes since last we spoke.
These for me were two perfect evenings. Sure the food was tasty and the wine was decent, but these details are secondary for me. When I go out I want to connect with people, to meet them as they are and to hear from them where they are at and what they are doing. In that moment when I am with them I am not interested in anything else, I want to plug into them, to hear their tales, their point of view and to share mine. I want them to tell me how they feel, what they are thinking and what they are hoping for. I want to find some nugget in what they share, take away something to ruminate on and to appreciate at least one thing that is unique about them. In the moment of our meeting I want to congratulate them and cheer them on to whatever they want to achieve.
I want to connect, I want to make contact, I want it to be real. In return I open up my world, my aspirations, inspirations and my challenges.
Before this December month, I have not been socializing much. I am tired of chitter chatter, mindless networking over drinks and the pointless exchange of business cards. I am fed up of being re-introduced to the person who never remembers me
as we ridiculously pump up in a meaningless handshake. I have been turned off by the diminishing value of socialising since I often walked away without the smallest of connections.
The last two evenings have restored my faith. If I met three interesting people in two nights maybe in a week I can meet ten?
Since I know that when I point a finger, there are three pointing back at me, I contrasted how I showed up in the last two nights.
For the last two nights, I stayed in the present time, I was not distracted ( no phone) and I was genuinely interested in others’ stories. I phrased my questions appropriately and listened as the answers were given. I did not exchange business cards nor numbers. It was all about that moment, and making that moment pleasurable. I was totally focussed on the person in front of me and I responded in the moment to whatever was important to us in the moment.
Now I am now looking forward to attending the other events that I have for the year. I am going to enjoy all of them.
What was the last boring party that you went to? How did you contribute to the boredom?