We Are What We Share–With Ourselves

2019 August 13

In the visual-laden world of social media, it’s no real surprise that our attention is focused almost exclusively on sharing spectacles that can easily be appreciated by others. Spectacles that have clear beginnings and endings.

A sunset. An incredible meal with family and friends.  A moment of triumph.

Yet, feeling connected, remaining connected, and finding value in our everyday is as much about the social media moments we share with others as it is about our capacity and willingness to share (and reshare) the seemingly insignificant, minor, and ephemeral moments of joy with ourselves.

Because caregivers are vulnerable to feeling alone and apart from the world around them, they are also less likely to remember and find comfort in the fleeting moments of joy and connectedness throughout their everyday. How we think about ourselves, our care situations, and what tomorrow will bring is a byproduct of what we (don’t) take with us.  Too often, ephemeral experiences of peace and comfort can so easily be forgotten and discarded amidst overwhelming responsibilities and concerns.

A difference between those who feel connected and those who feel lonely isn’t simply about “what” you do everyday or “whom” you spend your time with. If it were, loneliness would be easily measured and quantified. But it can’t be because so much of feeling separated from others is about how we perceive our connections to those around us.

Feeling connected and valued is also about what you give yourself permission to drag with you throughout your day.  A transient moment of peace. A line of poetry.  A brief smile.  A passing sense of wonder. People who feel connected are more likely to lean on, leverage, and return to those specific moments of joy and experiences of connection long after they are “over.”  They are more likely to use and reuse these small, seemingly insignificant experiences of the everyday—the micro experiences of connection and value—and make them work for them throughout the day and into the next.

On the other hand, those of us who feel disconnected from others find it much more difficult to drag “good” meanings with us throughout our day and weeks.

Instead, the “minor” and “subtle” experiences of connection and awe quickly become casualties to self-doubt. These moments can too easily become discarded, pushed to the edges of our awareness.  They aren’t injected into our awareness of the now we are in; rather they become camouflaged as if we were hiding these revered experiences from ourselves as a cruel form of punishment.

A hug. An unexpected conversation with a stranger. The sound of a loved one’s voice. A shared smile. For those of us already vulnerable and feeling disconnected, there are long-lasting consequences associated with interrupting these moments of connection. Increased isolation. Deeper self-questioning. A growing unease about the people nearest you. And a looping narrative that increasingly misrepresents you and your situation.

Instead, the momentary and ephemeral—the stuff that might otherwise never make it into your social media feed—must be shared with ourselves (repeatedly) and held onto tightly. Our willingness to go to these experiences long after they are “over” must be introduced into the present, over and over again, so that we might allow ourselves to lean on them for comfort.  Constantly re-animating these moments isn’t a luxury, but a necessity because they serve as a type of insurance to keep ourselves open to seeing, experiencing, and indulging in the ongoing availability of connection and joy in our lives, however temporary and invisible they might be to outsiders.

Zachary White, Ph.D. is the co-author (with Donna Thomson) of the book,“The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The Transformation from Loved One to Caregiver.”

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Sophia Hunter permalink
    August 15, 2019

    Wow. You just described my whole life. Caregiving has left me so isolated that I feel that way even if I am with other people. Do you think it is possible for this to shift over time?

  2. August 16, 2019

    Thanks so much for the comment, Sophia. Yes, I definitely think it is possible to shift over time. Donna Thomson and I talk specifically about how t re-connect with others in our book,The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The Transformation from Loved One to Caregiver.

  3. Sophia Hunter permalink
    August 16, 2019

    Thanks so much! I just ordered it on Amazon.

  4. August 21, 2019

    Zachary, wow, this is one of your very best posts yet! You’ve articulated so well what all of us — whether we are currently caregivers or not — need to remember. This post spoke to me. And it reminded me of the advice of the ancient Stoics to recount to ourselves, or keep a journal on, all the meaningful events of the days. Keep on with your writing, my friend.

  5. August 21, 2019

    Thanks so much Norris. Your kind words mean so much.

  6. September 25, 2019

    I just love this post. So true. There is so much joy to be had in caregiving once you get past the muck. Thank you for the messages you are sharing with the world

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