Once or twice in a lifetime, you might connect with someone on a level neither of you can quite explain.
More than likely, what starts out as a meeting of the minds will quickly transform into a deep sense of kinship, giving you the uncanny impression you’ve known this random stranger most of your life.
As they make themself at home in your head and you in theirs, life rearranges itself in subtle yet noticeable ways. Being becomes a little less tentative, reasoning becomes a little less stilted, and the load that is life lightens.
You smile more, you think better, you even start coming up with solutions to problems that have held you back for years. Suddenly, you realize you’re awake and present and aware instead of still struggling to come to.
All because another human seeing you exactly as you are, dented bits and all, and engaging instead of recoiling brought you back to life.
This, I believe, is what writers allude to when they talk about meeting the muse, that intangible and nebulous presence that leads to innumerable intellectual and creative improvements. When, like me, you’re used to barricading yourself in your own head as you engage in an ongoing tug-of-war with the page to survive, this is quite a shock.
Inspiration can be as simple as another human being curious about and paying attention to you, dispelling loneliness.
It changes everything.
An intellectual and emotional connection of this magnitude can neither be engineered nor forced.
When it happens, its impact is so life-affirming you can’t help but notice it.
Although social media is a unifying force capable of breaking down barriers between people, this connection takes more than a swipe and a click. It requires focus, self-awareness, and two enquiring, open minds eager to engage in the delicate tango that is human communication.
And you cannot reach deep into another human’s psyche or heart if you’re not already fully conversant with your own.
But if your guard is always up and you project a public image at odds with who you are, how can you expect anyone to ever know you or relate to you? An image built around a personal myth designed to influence how others interact with you only results in cognitive dissonance both for you and anyone you come into contact with.
The individualistic and capitalistic culture we foster through self-aggrandizing narratives and personal branding has alienated us from one another.
We’re scared of letting others see us as we are, imperfect and ever-changing paradoxes full of contradictions.
Instead of honoring our shared humanity with radical honesty, we’ve become ashamed of it.
Chronic illness is the great equalizer.
Living with something that blights your daily life and will never go away wears you down and humbles you. While many expand a formidable amount of energy concealing their condition for fear of losing face or status, others like me let it all hang out because we’re weary.
Allowing yourself to live unedited is liberating. It is also the only way to forge meaningful relationships, something most of us yearn for and need to thrive. When you have the courage to acknowledge your imperfections and shortcomings, you’re daring others to accept you as you are, you’re daring others to be themselves.
The willingness to be fully human begets more of the same. In this context, when you connect with a like-minded person, exchanges without pretense or fear of judgment are the norm. In a society where hyperbole and lies are the default, this can be enough to rock your world.
Owning your vulnerability is key to surrounding yourself with people who will understand you.
Forget posturing, personal mythology, and a curated image with about as much depth as a cardboard cutout, be a human instead so other humans can find you.
This is how a random act of algorithm came to illuminate my life.
Through the fog of depression, that other human was the flashlight that showed me the way forward, despite the many setbacks and crises common to chronic illness.
The exchange of ideas, thoughts, and energy between us pushes me to push myself and transcend adversity every single day.
When we connected, I had no idea they’d turn into such an inspirational force. I was already hard at work but very fuzzy about how to connect the great many dots that make up my non-standard and geographically challenged life. Because I had been left to hold my own hand through illness and was very isolated, I second-guessed myself all the time and lacked assertiveness.
But with their encouragement, thinking soon became fluid, more ideas started happening. I was also able to strategize again for the first time in five years.
Suffice to say that one human caused a small revolution in my head.
Against all odds, I even threw myself back into a language I had suppressed for seven years although it formed part of my cultural identity. Attention, diligent advice, and gentle care gave me the confidence to try and become fully myself again, complete with comedy accent and botched conjugations, which thankfully can be eradicated in print.
That one human and I didn’t so much lean on each other or prop each other up as create energy from the get go. Other than invoke mysterious chemistry, I haven’t got a clue how it actually works. All I know is that this energy translates into a relentless drive to try and pull myself out of the unspeakable mess depression made.
United by a shared desire and determination to overcome our current circumstances, we forge ahead. We became each other’s trampoline rather than crutch.
For we saw each other as complete and competent despite our non-standard circumstances.
As we continue to try and reach for the stars in two different galaxies that more and more frequently merge into one, we’re forging a bond designed to endure the test of time.
Meanwhile, this connection forever reframed how I approach life and marks a personal u-turn of sorts. It helped me remember who I was and what I’m made of and unlocked the potential within that depression tried to suppress.
Because we’re all far more capable than we give ourselves credit for, but sometimes we need a spark to ignite the fire within.
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