Eye contact keeps the 'crazy' at bay (and what this has to do with the housing crisis, addiction, and chronic illness)

September 1, 2017

I entered a long parade of visitors up to my friend's house, bringing chocolate as she had just broke her foot. I followed the guy helping her with her knee crutch and the little girl bringing her gifts from the forest. We sat on the floor because crawling was for now her main mode of transportation.

 

we spoke about how being around other people keeps our 'crazy' at bay.

 

I'm not talking about the deep long hippy stare. I am talking about saying hello to the grocery man, stopping for a chat with your neighbour perched on her front steps, and looking out your window and waving at the 5 year old looking in.

 

This currently crawling friend looks at you as though she thinks everything about you is just grand. I want to shower in it. And apparently so does everyone else on the block.

 

I crave this kind of connection like I crave a cigarette or a chocolate bar. 

 

If I'm honest, I crave this more than anything. 

 

(And if we're honest, this is the craving that leads to an addicted society. Check out this youtube talk if you're curious.)

 

 

 

Meeting people's eyes + passing each other on the sidewalk is necessary cuz:

  1. We get a chance to deal with our own 'crazy'. (I thought I was a saint - super spiritually evolved - before I got in a relationship.)

  2. we need to stay alive - we need connection for our nervous systems to be at ease and so we don't get sick (which is especially important for kids).

There was a town they studied in the U.S. Roseto, where, despite drinking, smoking, and eating such atrocities as gluten and white sugar, they lived longer than similar more "healthy" towns. This is because they had more moments of connection with others in their daily lives. They have SCIENTIFICALLY studied this.

 

The thought of connection can be excruciating. Especially for those of us in North America. 

 

It's excruciating because possibly:

 

1. When we were little the adults in our lives didn't really 'get' us. (The fancy word is attunement.) We don't feel at ease with others.

 

Remember that parent you saw at the park. They really got their kid. There was something warm between them. They helped him stop crying. They knew the kid would be hungry so they took him home for mac and cheese before he was desperate. They weren't phased when he got angry but helped him understand it.

 

That kid knows that they're okay even if they're wailing, tantruming or freaking out after cake on their birthday.

 

They don't have to go to their room alone when they're defiant. They aren't punished for being sad. They're learning how to have BIG FEELINGS in CONNECTION to other humans.

 

That kid feels the love in their bones.

 

 

That kids NERVOUS SYSTEM learns from this kind of attunement and feels safe in the world. 

 

This is the dream.

 

And for some of us this didn't happen.

 

We are going to have to streeeetch into this kind of connection, little by little, learning to trust it.

 

2. We're forced to deal with our own crazy.

 

You gotta...

 

  • stop talking shit about Francesca.

  • stop giving dieting advice cuz it's pushing people away.

  • notice how you always wanna change everyone.

You gotta deal with your shit.

 

You can't hide behind text messages, not dealing with the expression on someone's face after you slammed them.

 

You're forced to see your wackadoodle ways of understanding the world.

 

You've gotta deal with your shit and leave other's shit alone.

 

3. You've gotta get out of the relationships that hurt you.

 

 If you let people in you've gotta learn how to get people out.

 

This is hard.

 

This is also healthy and okay.

 

 

At this point in history...

 

we must fight for human connection in the same way that in the past we needed to grow a potato, or kill a cougar before it killed us.

 

We used to die of malnutrition, now we die due to all matter of nervous system ailments and stressors all affected by our attachment/connection to others. (Check out this video on "the largest health survey you've probably never heard of" here.)

 

You need this.

 

I'm not talking exclusively about deep long hippy stares with everyone you meet, but that general "being held in a web of humans" kind of feeling.

 

You need this like you need water.

 

What would mundane and regular connection to others change?

 

  • the housing crisis. What would happen if you had to sit at a table and be eye to eye with the person you were buying from/selling to? Would rents raise if the paper couldn't be slipped under the door? 

  • Texting. How many things would be untexted if you had to see the face of the person you were saying it to?

  • Government policies. What would be decided if you had to see the eyes of the people you were affecting everyday or live in a community with them.

  • Pace of your day. What would happen if you had to interact with 3 people while running your errands that had recently been turned into machines.

 

This is crucial. This is radical. This is desperately necessary. 

 

With my friend on the floor we spoke about co-housing, the community that she and my partner live in. It is not of the most radical bent, but radical in the current social context.

 

  • People can tell you where your 2 year old has wandered off to because they saw him go up the path 2 minutes ago.

  • People know your name.

  • People look you in the eye.

  • People can choose to work through conflict because most are not leaving any time soon. 

  • People ask for/offer things.

  • YOU MEET THE EYES OF PEOPLE THAT ARE NOT LIKE YOU.

 

Woah.

 

I hate it sometimes. I squirm and blame and fight the urge to gossip and compare so bad. 

 

And little by little I try to let it in.

 

Like someone who's been starving, sitting down for a giant meal is a bit much for the system. I have to meet people's eyes for a moment longer than I normally might....invite one more person for tea.

 

Little by little I widen my "window of tolerance" for human connection...shiiiiiift the neural pathways.

 

  • Talk rather than text.

  • Meet up rather than email.

  • Use the real person line up rather than the machine.

  • Invite someone for dinner rather than watch netflix.

  • Touch base with someone rather than assume "it was fine."

And seeing my crazy in the context of others doesn't always change my behaviour, but it makes me AWARE. My crazy becomes my crazy and not a result of so and so's "bad behaviour." I own it. I don't smear my shit on others...as much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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lisa@lisavoth.ca | 778.319.5928 | Vancouver + Sunshine Coast, Canada