On Connecting To Strangers
The Sidewalk Talk Blog
On May 7, 2015 twenty-eight listeners took to the streets of San Francisco to listen. Now, over 7000 people listen on sidewalks to create the kind of change towards human connection that our culture so desperately needs. We want to build a MENTAL HEALTH CREATING culture!
Together, we are! Join Us!
Mental Health Awareness Month Activities
Friday Facebook LIVE
Each Friday in May we will have AMAZING guests on the SWT FB page.
LIVE on Facebook @ 4pm ET, Friday, May 1
We are kicking off Mental Health Awareness Month This Friday With Brad Montague!
LIVE on Facebook @ 4:30pm ET, Friday, May 8
Thomas Knox from Date While You Wait Fame.
LIVE on Facebook @ 4:30pm eT, Friday May 15
Dr. Kelsey Crowe, Best Selling Author of, There Is No Good Card For This
LIVE on Facebook @ 4:30pm ET, Friday, May 22
Dr. Elliot Gann, aka DJ Philthy Drummond Playing a LIVE DJ Set from Today's Future Sound
LIVE on Facebook @ 4:30pm ET, Friday, May 29
Random Acts of Connection
We'll be sharing ideas on all our social channels and would love for you to follow along and share your #RandomActsOfConnection
#GivingTuesday has been moved up. Funds raised in May will be matched by our friends at SimplePractice. And throughout the month, some of our members have given us “daily matching challenges”. Up to $3400 is available for matching. Let's make sure we maximize these donations! We cannot do this without you. Donate Here.
Learning Sidewalk-Tested Listening Together
We’re also using this month to rekindle excitement for our mission by running a live version of our Listener Training in the Listener’s Facebook group and our leaders from around the world will host live Q&A!
One of the downsides of loneliness getting a lot of press with Dr. Vivek Murthy’s book, Together, and others, like Johan Hari’s, Lost Connections, is it can lead folks to shame their lonely feelings.
There is no shame in loneliness.
In fact, loneliness can be a really good sign. It means your human systems are letting you know you need more connection or that you need to help your brain fully see and receive the connection you have!
If you are feeling lonely right now...your systems are working. And if you don’t totally dig feeling lonely that makes total sense. The feeling motivates you to go out and get connection.
And if you are feeling lonely right now and dig the bittersweetness of it, you are not alone. Olivia Wilde’s book, The Lonely City, is a gem. You can read more about it here. For many, loneliness ushers in a kind of poetic reservoir of creativity if one can tap into their resilience while experiencing loneliness.
I have two ways I react to my own lonely feelings.
The negative stuff I do with lonely feelings includes:
Ick. Not fun.
The positive stuff I do with my lonely feelings include:
Rather than something to be controlled, lonely feelings are something to notice and be with and let them inform our choices and livelihood while at the same time not letting them rule our life. Our loneliness always deserves and requires our care and attention.
When we don’t take care of our lonely feelings and when the world doesn’t create more connection, what Dr. Murthy and Johan Hari so nimbly point out, is we create a world of illness. Mental illness. Physical illness. Addiction. Violence. Injustice. These ills start from loneliness.
Go back and listen to the podcast with Spring Washam. Life is a wild ride. Blocking feelings blocks aliveness so practicing cultivating a fierce heart to welcome in loneliness is a practice. And when we practice we impact ourselves and those around us.
I am a fan of not making any one thing we experience as a human bad. So no “war against loneliness” or “get rid of loneliness” or “end loneliness” or “loneliness is shameful” but rather let’s create a connected and caring world. Let’s start right here, right now with you. Let’s create connection and caring about all the parts of you. All the parts of me. Then we can love and care about ALL the many different kinds of people and their parts. Let’s love so much bigger than we ever imagined possible. Loneliness can make us sick or it can remind us to love.
Please take the online belonging survey (2 questions) here (or scroll to the bottom).
Something I notice is in my life is I make up stories about my own belonging. Because I have a wound around not being wanted as a tiny baby, I can get hooked from time to time.
What I now know is there are two sides to this belonging coin. In order to create more belonging in the world we have to create it not only outside, on the sidewalks, but inside of us.
If you feel like you don’t belong you will act that out and probably inadvertently make others feel like they don't belong. We have talked about common enemy intimacy or as Dr. Karyn Hall describes it, “belonging through excluding others”.
Here at Sidewalk Talk we are thinking through new ways to be a belonging creating organization. One of the great challenges is that we have to lock arms and walk together in our perseverance. We have to recognize that creating belonging is both an inside and an outside job.
For example, Sidewalk Talk, as an organization, may not be able to make someone feel like they belong if they have a wound that blocks receiving belonging and connection. The other day I was in a Facebook group and someone didn’t respond to a question of mine. Oh the "not belonging" stories I made up in my head. Ouch. I had to go into my own ‘creating belonging’ resources rather than blame or assume things about my group. Ugh, the wounds for many of us are real.
Here are Dr. Karyn Hall’s tips for creating belonging on the inside mixed in with a few of my own:
On belonging, we would love your help creating innovative and fun ways to create more internal and external belonging here at Sidewalk Talk during this quarantine.
Would you be willing to weigh in on some silly goofy ideas and add your own on this Survey Monkey Survey? It is anonymous.
The last seven days, anxiety crept up on me, by surprise. I was quite haughty, feeling pretty grounded and grateful for the first two weeks of this quarantine. I have space to move and our family life has settled into a collaborative routine/ non routine that seems to be working. And I was working from home long before this thing started.
Our family routine consists of the following:
We all agree to being dressed by 10am.
My boys must exercise for 30 minutes, contribute to the house for 30 minutes, and (while my sons are on Spring Break) read for 30 minutes. Then the rest of the day, while my husband and I work, the boys organize their time in a way that suits them. Yes, even if that means video games or tech devices.
But as time has carried on, I am checking the news more, and my sense of gratitude slips here and there into grief, despair and powerlessness. And the more I pretend I am not having those feelings, anxiety takes their place, whispering to me “Traci pay attention. Listen to me.”
Especially when I see the news in other parts of the world that are not faring as well as I am in Germany. The racial bias in treatment and death rates of non-white communities, folks locked in their homes with little kids and little healthcare, and the long term impacts to people’s livelihood create an existential grief hard to sit still with. When this takes over all of my grand “well what are the opportunities and great lessons from this?” fall by the wayside.
We know survivor guilt and stress of varying kinds is a thing in disasters like the one we are in. What is key is to focus on early intervention to cultivate resilience and to develop the tools for fostering recovery for those more adversely affected.
Here are two resources I highly recommend from the Institute for Disaster Mental Health.
Disaster Mental Health For Healthcare Workers
Disaster Mental Health Support For Personal Use
I am going to pull out a few salient points that I have seen popping up on people’s social media feeds in hopes it helps us support each other as a community.
Best to practice now – not after you already feel awful. Do all the things that work for you. We have varying degrees of stress depending on what we are dealing with. Listen to our podcast interview with Dr. Rick Hanson on how to cultivate resilience here.
The IDMH recommends the following suggestions to cope with COVID19:
Be Non-Judgmental With Yourself and Each Other:
Have you ever wanted to take up a practice of non-judgment? Well, now is your time to practice. Early when this epidemic started, I was curious about my own reactions to people’s strong fear. Good news, I didn’t judge myself nor act out my judgement. Instead I widened my embrace to the different ways we cope.
Some become hypervigilant about germs or germ rules. Others look for connection and community. Others look for someone to blame. And still others are the compassion and kindness police – policing everyone to be nice.
The kindest thing we can do is listen non-judgmentally to others (when we can), even when they are worked up and acting in ways we never would.
If we can hear with whole hearts we can be healing agents during this tough time. And don’t forget to include yourself in that listening.
Bottom line, some of us heeded warnings about Covid19 and others did not. And some of those who did not heed the early warnings are incurring incredible consequences and even death. Negative bystanders are those who finger-wag to seek punishing retribution. “You should have done x, y, z but you didn’t so you don’t deserve my empathy and kindness.”
I had a colleague share she was shamed by a doctor for showing up at the hospital with intense COVID19 symptoms because she was putting other patients at risk. This is someone who did a lot of research of where to go and had severe symptoms that needed medical attention. I know the doctor was scared too. Both were. So let this remind us all, soften, stretch as best you can.
To truly come together in community, we must be willing to support those who are grieving, no matter what choices they did or did not make when this whole thing started.
Cultural differences create very different views of this whole crisis and how to respond. You might believe this is karma, God’s will, mother nature sending a sign, a nice break, or just another natural occurrence we will have to get over. All responses will also differ and we will come out of this better if we can do our best to hear and make room for those differences. Some may feel it important to seek financial restitution. Others may find it important to get active and engage to support the local community. Others may want to go inward into a quiet prayerfulness. Still others may choose to call leaders into account.
To contribute to one another’s wellbeing, we will need to develop the sensitivity to the very personal norms that shape how different people and communities respond to this crisis.
For me, I have made a plan for myself on how to remain resilient and I have made a plan for my SOS moments. Here is an invite for you and your family – make your own plan for cultivating resilience and your SOS moments.
For cultivating resilience, I have kept it simple. I keep one promise to myself every day. I pick one: to meditate for twenty minutes, to run in the trees, or to cry. I have also built in regular connection every day. I just need it. For SOS moments I ask myself “in what ways is my thinking distorted?” and “What are 5 things I have control over in this present moment?”
I know myself and so many others would be so helped by your own sharing below. How do you maintain your resilience and handle your own SOS moments? Put them in the comments. And if you need connection, we have lots of online listening available to you here at Sidewalk Talk. Sign Up Here. And if you are a health worker in the front lines, there is low fee and no fee mental health support available to you here.
I am a woman, therapist, wife, mom, friend, listener, and founder/leader of Sidewalk Talk. You can subscribe to my couples therapy list here.