Let me assure you before I go any further that I am in no way mocking anyone with an eating disorder. That said….
I used to go to church.
I used to belong to a Bunco group.
I used to work in an office environment.
I used to travel all across the country with a group of mothers who supported, cheered, sewed costumes and did a million other things so our daughters could perform and compete on a clogging team. We spent Thanksgiving day at the Rio in Las Vegas for one of these competitions. And yes, our team won….thanks for asking. :-)
Each of these communities fulfilled a role in my life but today, I am no longer a part of any of those communities for a variety of reasons.
This morning, as is the case almost every morning, my husband and I were having conversation over our coffee. Sometimes we talk about the kids and grandkids, sometimes we talk about our plans for the future but almost always we end up talking about the work we do which is not easy to describe in elevator pitch words. We both work in the areas of ‘transformation’. My focus is on personal transformation and coaching while he has worked in spiritual transformation and integral theology for over 40 years. Both, at their core, each have the foundational question of identity. That explains everything, right? Moving on….
During this particular conversation we were discussing the era of ‘deconstruction’ we, as in the collective ‘we’, are living in. The long list of old identities and paradigms are being changed faster than we know how to handle. In so many areas we know what we DON’T want (to do, be, believe, etc.) but in so many ways this collective ‘we’ has no tangible idea of where we’re heading. We’ve been busy moving ‘from’ but not sure of the ‘to’. All we know is, a lot of what we thought was our identity is falling apart. That’s not a bad thing but along the way we’ve fallen apart from each other.
The pandemic impacted every area of every person’s life in ways we may not even comprehend until years from now. But the one thing we do know is we were forced to separate. Humanity is feeling the very real impacts of isolation and as we drank coffee and talked I casually said, “we’re suffering from a meeting disorder.” Neither my husband nor I laughed at my play on words. In fact, as we got out with our day I began comparing the two.
According to pyshciatry.org ‘eating disorders’ are “behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions. They can be very serious conditions affecting physical, psychological and social function.” Without going any further into a scientific explanation we know certainly that one who struggles with an eating disorder most often deprives the body of necessary nutrients. This, naturally, causes the body to become weak and unable to function optimally.
I imagine, by now, you see the similarities. We are created for connection…for community…to feed each other with the energy of love and support, joy and compassion, empathy and so, so much more. There are already numerous studies on the effects of being suddenly cut off from the social norms we have engaged in most of our lives which include how we have been affected physically and psychologically. Just like the body encounters distress both physically and emotionally without proper nutrition, we are feeling similar effects due to the lack of connection. Without our ability to feel like we a part of some type of community, a place as the old sitcom, Cheers, used to say…’where everybody knows your name’, we have deprived our bodies and our psyches of the necessary ‘nutrients’ that contribute to our overall health and wellbeing.
Think this is a stretch? Just do a quick google search on the benefits of friendship. Here are a few: “People with good friends tend to have stronger immune systems and anti-inflammatory responses that can lead to quicker wound healing and reduce the risk of illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and some cancers.”
And for goodness sake let’s don’t discount the benefits of having fun together! Just good old fashioned fun!
We are starved for belonging. We were created for connection.
We learned in science that a body in motion stays in motion..a body at rest stays at rest. Without motion we begin to atrophy. There’s absolutely a time for rest for a body that is active but like a body of water that doesn’t move, it becomes stagnant. We know these facts about our individual bodies but what about the collective bodies? I have to believe that what happens in the micro is replicated in the macro. We need each other to survive.
So while it’s fun and even productive to post and blog and create behind the never ending sea of screens, I need some connective nutrition. The way we connect with people may be changing but as the old telephone commercial used to say…”long distance - it’s the next best thing to being there.” They were wise enough to understand it doesn’t replace face to face conversation and connection but until we find our way to new in-person communities or if we never become a part of a larger collective, remind yourself that you matter to someone. You can feed your spirit and someone else’s. Don’t atrophy because you just got used to being alone. When you’re feeling emotionally hungry, pick up the phone and actually call someone, schedule a zoom reunion, FaceTime your friend or join an online community that supports you in your area of interests. Let’s work together to cure this meeting disorder!