THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Linda Noble Topf Headshot

Wheelchair Wisdom: Invisible Threads Are the Strongest Ties

Posted: Updated:
Print

"Each friend represents a world in us,
a world possibly not born until they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."

-- Anais Nin

Why talk when you can text?

This spring, I was a host at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society fundraising luncheon in Philadelphia: Women Against MS. It was unsettling for me to notice that I couldn't get through my lunch or maneuver my scooter among the crowd without seeing someone reaching for a cell phone or already talking or texting on one. The unfortunate message sent out to the people present may be, "There is someone else I'd rather be interacting with than you."

I wondered to whom the people at my table could be speaking on their cell phones between the appetizer and the fish entrée. You would think that we all could have found someone in the room to relate to, given that we were all there for the same reason -- ridding this world of multiple sclerosis -- instead of being distracted by our smartphones (and temporarily removed from the event). The thought occurred to me that maybe most of us fear intimacy and deep connection even when we are sitting next to each other at a fundraising luncheon supporting a cause that we all have in common.

Our days are filled with beeps and pings, many of which pull us away from tasks at hand or face-to-face conversations. We may feel that the distractions are too much, but we can't seem to stop posting, texting or surfing. The benefits are obvious: checking messages on the road, staying in touch with friends and family, efficiently using time spent waiting around.

Even while we're standing next to each other, we choose technology to communicate. From texting at dinner to posting on Facebook from work, or checking email while driving, on a date, or sitting across from each other at a restaurant, the connectivity revolution is creating a lot of divided attention, not to mention social angst and separation.

When someone starts texting at a party, or at a business meeting, or at a luncheon, it may be taken as an insult by those physically present. The downside is that we're often effectively disconnecting from those in the same room. Psychologists agree this is not good and it's time we take a good look at what we are creating. We've come to confuse continual connectivity with making real connection. We're always "on" to everyone; the idea is that you are available to everybody in your social circle at every minute and they are available to you.

When you actually look more closely, in some ways we've lost the time for the conversations that count. Listen closely, everyone, I want to remind you that technology can be turned off.

It's no surprise that, with to-do lists a mile long and overloaded and multitasked schedules, most of us aren't even aware that intimacy and connection are missing from our lives.

We may even feel lonely, and not know why. Something feels "off." With each new gadget or "next new thing" we acquire, we learn how to connect with others in a new way. We teach our brains how to deal, reorder, repackage, rethink and reinvent. We are getting smarter, faster, and more and more isolated. We can no longer assume we have someone's full attention when we're physically with them. We're saying to each other in one way or another that we can always put each other on "pause."

Susan Sontag, an American writer and filmmaker, professor, literary icon, and political activist reminded us: "Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration's shove or society's kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It's all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager."

As we go through the aging process and experience grief and loss, and as friends and family pass on, the need for connection to extended family, friends, community, and to all of humanity, becomes even more important. Being connective means being ready to connect. In other words, each time we connect with someone, we should treat the experience with awe and respect, as if it were the same offering of spirit, as much as that unique handwritten letter of yesterday. We realize and are grateful for all the things that matter -- beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace -- we begin to awaken to what really matters to us... and why.

Question: What are the qualities of your heart enhanced by the fact that you have cared and shared (compassion, forgiveness, love, resiliency, courage, acceptance, tolerance, warmth, gratitude, trust, wisdom, etc.)?

How does that feel? What actions will you take? What is possible?

Peace is present,
Linda

I would love to hear from you so please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at lnobletopf@comcast.net.

Contact Linda for practical spiritual counseling, and transform adversity into a spiritual awakening. Visit www.lindanobletopf.com for more information.

If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life around illness or any adversity and apply a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please find Linda's book, You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge on Amazon.com.

Linda Noble Topf is author of You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge, Simon & Schuster, 1995. Wheelchair Wisdom: Awaken Your Spirit Through Adversity, will be published in 2013 by Berrett-Koehler & iUniverse.

For more by Linda Noble Topf, click here.

For more on unplugging and recharging, click here.

From Our Partners