So far, my writing on this blog has been all about who I am, what I have been through in recent years, how it is I’ve come to be an “expert” on community but don’t really experience vibrant community in my daily life.
But the New Year is almost upon us, which means it’s time to get down to business. The business of connection, that is. Because 2019 is my year to reconnect.
So what is Project Reconnect?
- It’s the next chapter in my own healing journey—a chapter in which I move from pursuing “wellness” individually and privately, and reach out for the healing power of connection and community
- It’s a counter-cultural adventure exploring practical, everyday ways to put relationship first in a society increasingly built for distance, privacy, and isolation
- It’s a living manifesto. A personal effort to declare the era of hyper-individualism—with all its attendant miseries—a thing of the past by embodying a new ethos
- It’s an experiment to see how one person’s deliberate, mindful, and consistent efforts to connect can change a life, a family, a neighborhood, and a community over the course of one year
- It’s a community to join and an example to follow for others who, like me, see the dangerous road we’re all on and feel that there must be an alternative
Starting January 1, 2019 I will spend one year deliberately reorienting my life toward relationship. I’ll do this by engaging in a monthly challenge aimed at reevaluating the beliefs, behaviors, and cultural norms that are so often a barrier to connection. Each week I’ll report and reflect on my experiences in this blog.
You may be thinking, “who is this sad, lonely person who has no friends and no community?” Don’t get me wrong—it’s not that I have no one. I have a loving husband and a wonderful daughter, and family members, neighbors, friends and acquaintances all around me. And yet, in the midst of all that, I consistently find it hard to make time for deep and meaningful relationship, hard be my true self, hard to connect beyond small talk, and hard to break through modern norms of privacy that trip me up when I feel the natural impulse to reach out. And I do feel—despite living a blessed and abundant life—a gnawing lack of social support.
And if recent statistics about my fellow Americans are right, I know I’m not alone.
I’m also not alone in looking back on previous generations, or looking outward to other cultures, with an envious sense that they really had or have something that I’ve never known: a deeply communal life, lived out in dense networks of trust and support, and propped up by a culture that values community as an end in itself. Sure, this is likely nostalgic and maybe even a little naïve, but I prefer to think of it as aspirational. And, more than anything, it’s a puzzle.
The puzzle is this: How can I—a working mom steeped as much as anyone else in the economic, social, and technological realities of modern America—find a way to connect meaningfully? Why is it so hard? Is it so hard? What would it look like to just choose to make connection my highest priority and noblest aspiration? Would it really involve doing something crazy like packing up and moving to a small town? Downsizing into a tiny home? Or joining an intentional community? (All things to which, full disclosure, I’ve given more than a passing thought.) Or is it something I can do right here, right now, by setting an intention, applying a little creativity, and seeing how I might be able to pull existing cultural levers to flip the narrative and the reality in my own life and, by extension, in the life of this nation?
Working out an answer to this puzzle is what Project Reconnect is all about.
Of course, part of me feels like I should just call this “project connect,” because, let’s face it, have I ever really been a fully connected human? Have you? But I’m giving myself the benefit of the doubt that at some point, I knew what it was to live in community. I knew what it was to put relationship first. So instead I’ve chosen “Project Reconnect.” Let’s just call it a tiny little act of self-love.
Or maybe a better way of putting this idea is that we all—by nature of our very humanness—already know what it is to live in community. We’re built for it. We long for it. We need it to survive. And yet, somehow, we have created a modern cultural context in which it feels nearly impossible to access it.
John O’Donohue, a poet, philosopher, and spiritual teacher I was introduced to by the On Being project, has put it this way: “I can’t believe in any of this stuff about creating community. I think the whole project of trying to build community is misplaced. I think community is. It is ontologically there. So the project is more about awakening.”
Project Reconnect is about awakening—to my own unmet need to connect and belong, to the vibrant but latent relationships and communities all around me that are waiting to be activated, and to the hope, healing, and spiritual home that connection just might provide for myself and this nation.
I hope you’ll join me on my journey.