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How to Create Connection During Difficult Times

The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”

- Pema Chodron

December brings many things…. colder weather, less money in our bank accounts, a range of emotions, "overdoing it", missing and/or connecting friends and family, and revisiting treasured memories.

And of course…. “The Holidays”.

For some this is a time of great joy, love and togetherness.

For others it’s a time of disconnect, loneliness, anxiety and sadness.

Many of us are some mix of all of the above.

How can we both embrace the positive and be comfortable enough to sit with the negative?

Hint... We are more alike than we are different.




Challenge, discomfort, unease, worry, grief.... It’s part of life. We cannot escape it.

It’s the sense that we should be feeling differently… that causes trouble.

Because of something we’re not doing right.

Some defect in our character.

An inherent ‘wrongness’ about us.

This is our psychological ‘misery index’; the distance between how you feel and the way you think you should feel.

We think we should be happy all the time. Full of joy, skipping around, a pleasure to those around us.

But of course we're not. Because no one is.

And then we compare ourselves to people who have what we want, not others in a similar situation... Ever notice that??

Comparison is never ‘like to like’, it’s always ‘me to the exact opposite of me’ and 'look how I’m falling short'.

It’s me compared to “the more perfect other”.

* My ‘flabby’ stomach compared to the stick-thin supermodel’s six pack abs.

* My crazy dysfunctional family compared to the loving, ‘normal’ crew I see on tv.

* My weeknight wine habit compared to my friend who never drinks a drop.

* My first yoga class compared to the woman in the front row who’s been practicing for 20 years.

* My frizzy, needs-a-dye-job hair compared to the Pantene commercial girls’ luxurious locks.

* My endless failures compared to the continual success of my overachieving sister.

* My lonely nights of Netflix and chocolate compared to the fun and friend-filled, glamorous city nights out my kid’s friend’s mom seems to enjoy.

* My apparent inability to get up and go for even a walk around the block compared to the woman in Health magazine who ran 4 marathons last month.

* My limited social crew compared to the 1600 followers that girl from high school has.

* My depressing holiday alone because my ex has the kids, compared to all the happy, smiling families together on Christmas morning.

Why do we do this to ourselves??

Comparison is not only exhausting and unfair to us, it is the thief of joy.

Side Note: This is a BIG one in our house, and it starts young! She got a bigger piece of the cookie, how come he gets to stay up later, why does she get to have a playdate etc…. They were perfectly happy before the comparison, but now what they have simply won't do.

Side Note #2: Telling my kids this has never helped the situation, not once, but I say it anyway in hopes that one day it will sink in.

It comes down to this sense of separateness or ‘otherness’ - and it leads to suffering every time.

We think, “No one else feels this way…. It’s just me”.

I’m the only one who is sad, fat, drinking too much weekday wine, depressed about kids growing up and leaving me, miserable in my job, not super happy in my marriage, wishing I had more friends or deeper connections with the ones I do have, wishing my body was different, wishing my family was different, wishing I could get my eating ‘under control’, wishing I wasn’t so anxious, nervous, angry, depressed, addicted, lazy, etc etc etc…..

But really it’s the truth of our shared humanity to feel the full range of human emotions; positive, negative and everything in between.

This struggle against what is, (how I’m feeling now) and wanting it to be different - that space between - that’s where we get caught up.

We get stuck.

And when we’re stuck, we’re in judgment and shame; anger and hurt.

And from that place, it’s very difficult to see another way.

Very difficult to feel connected or sense that you belong, difficult to imagine that others could possibly understand what you’re going through..

The (often unwelcome) truth is that difficulty is inevitable.

We can work to accept and even welcome challenging emotions; we can look at these inevitabilities as part of our human existence.

When we approach all emotions with curiosity and openness, it becomes an important opportunity for real inquiry, understanding, presence, awareness and transformation to take place. You have to be open to it in order to experience it.

So, the next time you are sensing that familiar pang of aloneness, comparison, or separateness, try this simple practice to come back to that sense of connection to yourself and to those around you.




I love this practice from Pema Chodron, a beloved Buddhist nun.

It can’t NOT change you.

Essentially, when you come across true pleasure, tenderness or joy, first cherish it and then make a heartfelt wish that others would feel this as well. I can share out this happiness.

When you encounter pain in your life (disappointment, grief, sadness, heartache, loneliness, disconnect...) breathe into your heart the deep recognition that others also feel this. It’s not just me.

This is the Shared Heart of our humanity.

Not long after I first read about this practice I was at the beach in NJ with my family. It was one of those beautiful LBI mornings with the sun shining and it’s light glinting off the waves. Sitting with my feet in the sand, I watched my husband Dave holding hands with our 4 small children as they danced and jumped and giggled in the waves. And my heart was overcome witnessing this simple, beautiful moment unfold.

Having just read about the Shared Heart, I gave it a try. The act of wishing this kind of deep joy for others not only magnified the beauty of that moment 1,000 fold, it ingrained the image in my memory and forever changed the way I relate to myself and to those around me.

It's actually pretty simple.

During times of deep happiness and connection {a crinkle-nosed smile from a child, a moment of compassion from a stranger, the knowing look from a trusted friend}, wish with your whole heart that same joy and peace for others. You have to be open to it in order to experience it.

During difficult times {the loneliness of feeling misunderstood, the thought that everyone else is ‘doing it better’, the shame of doing or saying something you wish you hadn't}, take comfort that others have felt this too. You have to be open to it in order to experience it.

Let this practice be a reminder of our shared experience and an incredible connector to yourself and to others.

We are never truly alone.

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