In 2005, out of curiosity and my constant wish to travel, I joined my then boss in an event called a “job-a-like”. I remember it like it was yesterday, sitting around a table alongside 6 other individuals, sharing like experiences, laughing, complaining but most of all commiserating about our jobs. It opened my eyes to an opportunity. Fast forward ten years, what was a group around a table became a network of professionals, in touch with each other, leading and developing courses, writing and editing newsletters, organising conferences and checking in with each other regularly. In 2016 the group had grown to over 200 people around the world.
If you asked anyone in this group about me, they would probably have characterised me as a net-worker, lover of people and interaction, tireless worker and a quite altruistic with my ideas and labour. Oh, and did I mention modest? 😊 How come then that I started to feel so disconnected and alone?
As little by little my life fell into place and I allowed myself closer to the truth of who I was, I was surprised (or maybe not so much) to discover that all of this was in fact the manifestation of me as a “relationship junkie”, trying to replace what was missing in my life with something I looked for in the wrong place. That this was not a work of my heart but one of my ego, that I had indulged in something that had very little to do with who I was at the core. More importantly, I had entered a very dangerous and quite distorted sort of deal – I ignored what I really felt relationships should be like, I pushed myself out there constantly offering myself as a service and expected real connection from the people I was interacting with. By any logic, this is an oxymoron. Or some sort of moron anyhow … 🙂
The truth that screamed out of me at some point was that I, the introvert, shy, hard worker, was thirsty for real connection and my ego had short-circuited everything into its endless quest for recognition.
It turns out real connection has no shortcuts, constantly putting myself out there with no real respect for my time, my boundaries, my personal space and that small little voice inside that always, always speaks the truth about connection in relationships, was never to bring me anything but bitterness. It is thus not surprising that about two years ago I ended up cutting all ties with this community, dropping of social media, email and licking my self inflicted wounds.
Turns out the best, the first and sometimes the only spokesperson for ourselves are …. Ourselves. The biggest trap one can fall into is thinking that people you share your life with in any realm can read your mind, that they are psychic and can understand that when you say “no, I am not tired, I can help” you actually are dead tired but hope they will notice that even in your negation, that when you keep on giving without asking for anything in return they will stop asking and offer the missing pieces in the puzzle you are trying to fill. This was unfair to me and unfair to the people around me and the shortest way to relationship burnout that I can think of. This setup was a lie to myself and to the ones I was portraying myself as serving. “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind” says my guru, Dr. Brown. Amen!
The truth is I am quite the introvert. Any public interaction that involves the smallest of uncertainties makes me nervous and it is a step out of the box of comfort for me to even say hello to someone I am not familiar with. When given the choice, I will crawl into a corner of the conference room, stick my eyes to my computer screen hoping to not be seen. Because, I no longer see the need or the logic of putting myself out there in any other way than how I really am, I have found myself lately withdrawing most times as real connection is hard to find. Hard To Find!! I have already been on the road where the connection I thought I had was nothing but a mirage and as Romanians would say it, if you burned yourself with soup, you blow over yogurt the next time around.
The reality is that, at 42, I find myself in need of being re-educated. I need to learn – probably the hard way, as best lessons are often learned – what the happy medium is between the two extremes I have been navigating for so many years. For the moment, I am focusing on being honest with myself about my interests and boundaries and paying attention to that barometer inside which always lets you know if what you are about to embark upon is the work of the ego or the work of the heart. Because the thing is, in that soft whisper of your conscience inside of you, you always know the difference.