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Kristin Armstrong Column February 2021

“We are having to redefine, reinvent and reintegrate our sense of community and connection”

In both my personal and professional worlds, I’m seeing a theme emerge. We are having to redefine, reinvent and reintegrate our sense of community and connection. COVID did a number on us—the previous default ways we were able to engage or disengage with others were totally upended and cracked wide-open.

Before, we could hide in our schedules, filling our calendars to fill the void. Some couples who tolerated each other with the distance provided by offices, traffic commutes, work travel, kid schedules or dinners buffered by other couples finally started to realize there is nothing to talk about when it’s just them. Parents who had only enough patience to get through the evening hours of homework and dinner were now full-time parents, teachers and tutors, with many simultaneously trying to work from home. Some families felt stuck, fighting for space, autonomy and internet access—somehow crammed together yet lonelier than ever.

Perhaps in some ways it was easier to be ships passing than to be docked in the same port? Friendships clothed in lunches, events and happy hours suddenly stood exposed, unadorned. Relationships based on the commonality of doing couldn’t sustain the pace or intimacy of just being. Spiritual lives formerly box-checked on Sunday felt insufficient, as empty as the pews. Crazy-busy people, forced to slow down, had to look at the very things inside themselves they were attempting to outrun. Old wounds, things unresolved, unhealed, unsaid and unloved—anything previously banished to the basement of our being—suddenly began to creep up the stairs. Everything we used to numb with more began to feel like less.

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Old coping methods that used to rule the kingdom became naked emperors. I can’t travel to get away from myself. I can’t go to the office to get away from him or her. I can’t drink enough to quiet this anxiety. I can’t smile enough to mask this depression. I can’t eat enough to stop feeling empty. I can’t starve myself enough to feel worthy. I can’t ignore myself the way I used to. I don’t like who I’ve become in this relationship, this job or this skin I’m in. I have to stop faking it, because I’m not making it. I can’t do it like this anymore.

Anything we tried to blame on the shadows of something else was illuminated by what is.

“As we deepen and evolve, our connections and our community have to deepen and evolve with us.”

My office is filled with clients who want to, simply must, start again. My favorite place to meet someone is right there, in the sweet (and sour) spot where evolution is summoned by the simple fact that even if something new is scary, it’s finally (triumphantly) less scary than the idea of staying the same. My beloved clients, as well as my most treasured family members, colleagues and friends, all hover on or around this transformational edge: seeking, growing, releasing and becoming—again and again. The ones who aren’t interested, can’t or won’t have all fallen away. Many people are realizing this very same phenomenon. Freedom happens in layers: a painful celebration, a lose-win, a broken hallelujah.

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As we deepen and evolve, our connections and our community have to deepen and evolve with us. Once you have experienced swimming in the ocean, the kiddie pool has far less pull. Relationships that aren’t reciprocal, conversations that travel the same worn circle, hearts that are cold or unavailable, people who don’t attune to create a sense of safety, places where you are not welcome just as you are—all of these old patterns require a vaccine as much as COVID does. They, too, make us sick, weak, divided and lonely.

Many things are now being redefined, reestablished, renegotiated—our country, health, careers, families, education, freedom, friendships and our capacity to show up and love big and deep and true. We have an opportunity to truly make an offering of ourselves. One with impact, with legacy. We also have a very real opportunity to learn to receive.

If you have been holding out on yourself, it may be time, at last, to begin again, again.