Building inner life is first step in connecting

I have read some of your articles on friendship, and I was wondering if you could help me with something. I guess I am looking for what you call depth connections in this article: So how do you make them? It seems like I have forgotten how to make these types of connections. As I am typing this, I realize that depth connections are a big risk for me.

Work: They might find out I don’t like my job, that I am pursuing a different vocation and as much as I try, I will never be fully committed.

Church: Most of the people are older than me. Men my age there aren’t really interested in making friends. I would get the door of friendship slammed in my face. It would be subtle, but I would feel it.

Anywhere else: I have a hard time trusting people. Sometimes it feels like they might think I am weird. I guess I have a hard time making friendships in general and then depth relationships.

Marriage: My wife has a hard time making depth connections as well. It’s tough because we are each other’s best friend. It’s only at certain times that we feel that something is missing and that we are both kind of isolated. Any advice?

— P.B., Las Vegas


First, some perspective. Depth connections are a "big risk" for everyone. The risk of trust in another human being, especially over time, isn’t easy for anyone. It is precisely this uneasy vulnerability that makes depth connections deep. So, take a breath and resist the temptation to think of yourself as having a peculiar or special problem.

Next, your list. That you will "never be fully committed" to a particular employment is not unusual, either. Huge cultural changes and economic changes have swept through our society in the past 50 years. It’s uncommon, now, for anyone to "work for The Man" for 40 to 50 years and retire with the proverbial gold watch.

It is now much more the norm that a person’s vocational growth virtually necessitates moving at least a handful of times from one employment to another. Good managers and executives learn to expect and even facilitate this movement, almost like pro sports owners expect to cultivate a creative and successful relationship with a coach only for a specific window of time.

I’m saying your lack of categorical commitment to a particular employment is probably not relevant to your interpersonal question at hand.

Likewise, your interpersonal depth connections at church. Fifty-plus years ago, especially in small towns, one of the things that church membership nurtured was contiguous, interpersonal friendships. Not so much any more, especially in suburban and urban church settings. You can see this at funerals. When a venerable, long-standing member of a parish dies, the funeral attendees are predominantly family and co-workers, not other parish members. So, again, I would encourage you not to use this as a meaningful way to measure what is going on.

Now let’s examine "sometimes it feels like they might think I am weird." Let me save you some time. You are weird. So am I. Everybody’s weird, at least in the sense that everyone who seeks depth connections eventually must connect his particular, idiosyncratic weirdness with somebody else’s weirdness.

Connections of weirdness, in the end, are the "good stuff" of great friendships and marriages. It’s the stuff you remember long after people are dead and gone. The joy of depth connections is to meet folks whose weirdness makes you smile a bemused smile, and likewise your weirdness is endearing to them, even when it’s a pain in the arse.

So you married your best friend? Congratulations! It’s utterly normal, in the ebb and flow of marriage to move through times where something feels like it’s missing, to feel times of isolation. These times often have nothing to do with the marriage and more to do with movements of our own psyche and calls "from within" for our development and growth.

Which brings me to your question. How to make depth connections? Stop trying! Turn your energy to nurturing depth connections with self. The serious work of building an "inner life" is a cosmic attraction for discovering depth connections with others.

Depth connections are a gift. A discovery. Not a decision or an achievement. Yes, once discovered, they require our work and attention. But I would no more tell you to "go make a depth connection" than I would tell you to try to sit in your own lap.

Instead, I would tell you to never give up on the work of being wholly thyself.

Originally published in View News, Oct. 26, 2010.

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