The Rich Paradox of Deep Connection and Freedom
In December, we made a video called, Creating the Future: Hope and Light. In it I talked about my three wishes and the overall theme I wanted to set for 2021. I called that theme 'the rich paradox of deep connection and freedom' and I found the above mural to capture it visually.
As I say on the video, one of my high moments of 2020 arose from my lowest moment. When the first lockdown came in March, my world turned upside down. I was hit on all levels and found myself in solitary isolation and in a very dark wood. Everything was cancelled, personally and professionally, with no sense of when or if the lockdown would end. It was brutal and I reached a very low point. I am a very tactile, social human animal and before lockdown, like many in the big Metropolises, I had built a rich tapestry of a life: it brought in my emotional and psychological well-being, my happiness, and also my livelihood. Zoom dinners and quizzes felt cruel hoaxes and my heart just couldn’t do it.
And yet. Out of this darkness came immense light. At my lowest point, I was forced to own and show my vulnerability and my need for others in a way I have never really done before. My identity had always been to be there for and to heal others. It took the extremity of isolation in lockdown for this proudly independent woman to understand the shadow consequences of a passionately fought for freedom.
I am writing in late January 2021 from a very grim London. There is much darkness around and people are battling, physically and/or psychologically. I am very aware of many experiencing what I did back in March 2020: an increasing isolation and disconnection, a loss of hope for the future and a sense of helplessness that they can’t influence and change events.
I think, 11 months into the pandemic, we are all learning about deep connection and what that really means for us. As Dr Richard Sibthorpe says poignantly in our video discussion: 'We learned in 2020 that, as humans, we need social contact. Technology is doing phenomenal things, but it does not fill the gap of feeling alone or feeling connected.'
My situation was overt because I live on my own and I had no family living near me in the first lockdown, but people can be living in the same space with others and still feel isolated and disconnected. Deep connection is about intimacy and being our true self with another. As simple...and challenging!...as that. And, for me, I need Newton’s Third Law of Motion: ‘To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’ i.e. I need the interconnected energy of someone/thing other.
This is my first wish for 2021: ‘I wish to continue deepening my relationships, including new ones.’
So, why did owning and sharing my vulnerability save me? And why did Richard say, as part of his high moments of 2020: 'Everyone was vulnerable, so it was ok to have these feelings.' A constant request last year was for kindness: ‘Let’s be kind to each other.’ What we are really saying when we talk about kindness is: 'I feel vulnerable and I am thirsty for kindness, i.e., a heart connection.'
This is what brought me out of my dark wood:
1. The love of close friends who knew I was struggling and who would not let me hide proudly behind my mask of strength and capability. They persisted in pushing through even when I irritably didn’t want them to. It was me choosing to share my vulnerability with them that allowed them to help me and has created such deepening bonds. And, of course, they too were feeling vulnerable. We are all in this together and this brings us great strength and courage.
2. Again, a close friend pushed me to roll my sleeves up and get back to writing which always brings me a deep sense of meaning, purpose, connection…and work. Suddenly I was busy working again.
3. In June, in the UK, support bubbles were introduced which changed everything for me. I am very strong and mentally robust, and, as I am revealing, the isolation hit me very hard. It is significant that support bubbles have not been touched through all the tiers and lockdowns.
4. My Daily Alignment: every morning I write the date and I ask my Higher Self (a psychological term meaning our best self) to keep connecting me to a higher frequency/positivity. I think about the day ahead and ask for the best outcome, being specific in the details. As I write I begin to let go of all that is wrong in my life, everything I feel anxious or hurt about, and I consistently experience an energetic shift. It starts viscerally: my heart opens, and I feel a warmth and peace flowing through me, creating a conscious ‘psychological gearshift’. And in the evening, at the end of the day, I write down all the good I have received and give thanks. This creates a day by day, step by step awareness of how much there is to be thankful for and also how we can start to create our own future. We have so much more influence than we think we have.
I’ve been writing about deep connection because this is where, more recently, I was out of balance. Like most women who had been looking after others for many years, I then spent the last few years experiencing the opposite polarity: freedom to explore who I am and what I want out of my life. In a Post 18 months ago, I wrote:
‘I focussed on raising my son who has grown to be a man I am extraordinarily proud of and then these last few years I have focussed on raising me: of growing me up! Like many women, I grew up ‘playing small’, trying to be a good girl, focusing on empathy and listening and shying away from speaking my ‘voice’, my inner truth. And yet, paradoxically, I have always wanted to make a positive difference to the world, to change it for the better. So, despite my ‘good girl’ intentions, my voice would not be silenced for too long. I wasted a lot of energy over many years trying to reconcile this internal conundrum: how to stay safely under the radar and yet how to voice my inner truth.
And then I finally gave up resisting. It took a lot of courage and a lot of stumbles but gradually the shift happened: each time I consciously showed up I began to respect and like myself more. And this encouraged me to stretch myself further and, in turn, this created a positive flow: like attracting like. I began to embrace life’. Being Alive
And this is what freedom means to me. It is connected to my second wish for 2021: ‘I wish to continue having the courage to use my voice in current and also new ways.’ This to me is freedom and independence, a Ulyssean expansion of frontiers on all levels with the courage to share that knowledge. It is a hard fought for freedom and one that, in many countries, including in my own, is not freely granted to all women.
So why have I made the rich paradox of freedom and deep connection my overarching wish for 2021? It is because I…we… need both. Some people get to that point of lonely independence I have described. Others give up on themselves and become co-dependant, submerged into the other. Either state is living a half-life, the polarities of isolated freedom and superficial connection. I’m wanting the evolved paradox of both: the freedom to express ‘be’ ourself and the deep passionate connection with another. Ironically, we cannot truly have one without the other and I’m realising it takes experiencing the extremes of each state to shift into this balancing, co-creative paradox.
So, this is my third wish for 2021: ‘I wish to stop doubting and hesitating and simply embrace the joy of life and all the magical adventures it keeps bringing me.’
And my actions to ensure these wishes materialise? I will keep doing all I am doing. It’s been a long road and now is not the time to give up!
Hannah Elizabeth Greenwood