Saturday, 4 March 2017

Family, laughter, and the things that bring us together

I read an absolutely BRILLIANT article today that totally resonated with me on many, many levels.  It described one of the blights of our society's structure... Social isolation. "The world is getting lonelier". Indeed.

I look around, and I see so many of us who live on our own, whose kids have left home to step into their own lives; I see those who (like me) moved away from their 'home-town' for work purposes or life-style choices. I think of other dear friends (and family) who found themselves suddenly living alone after the death of a partner.  So many of us, for so many different reasons, living a life that isolates us from those we call family, from those we hold dear in our hearts. 

One of the observations the author made was how "we need places to bump into each other' - and not just with those who are 'like-minded'.  How, having places that we can 'bump into each other' with a friendly smile / hello / chat helps us develop communities, to feel connected to each other, to feel we are 'not alone', and to really appreciate and value the diversity of those in our community.  To recognise each other as someone more than just that person from up the road. .

Remember when you used to drop your kids off at school, and you'd chat with the other parents outside the classroom as you waited for school to finish, or you'd bump into each other at various school events etc.  And then, as your kids get older, that whole 'mum walking me up to the classroom' thing just gets a bit embarrassing for our kids and they 'ditch us' on that score.  And our connections with that community can just slowly and almost invisibly slip away.  And then our kids leave school altogether, and that sense of connection to our local school community is just gone.   And there's a hole there, a gap, that for some of us goes unfulfilled.  Our sense of connection to our community becomes a little more tenuous.

And yet, it's that sense of community, that sense of belonging, that we draw on when times are tough to give us our feeling of resilience, of strength, of support. That was one of the really good things that came out of the Chch earthquakes. The solid bonds that were re-established and strengthened within our various communities. These are SO vital to our health and well-being, on SO many levels.

And yet for many of us, these bonds and connections are really lacking. 
Nearly twenty-six years ago, I moved from my home-town in the North Island down to Christchurch to progress my career, leaving behind ALL my family.  It was only going to be for 'five years'.  ;-) 
Twenty-six years and 10,000+ earthquakes,  I'm still here.  ;-)  

And then at the beginning of last year, my daughter left home to go and pursue her studies in Wellington, leaving me living on my own. After she left, I **really** noticed the isolation and gaps in my sense of belonging, my sense of connection to my local community.

So I resolved to strengthen them. :-)   Sure, I could move back up north.  But I love my home.  I love Christchurch, even in it's on-going 'transformational state'. ;-) I love the climate it offers, the diversity of people, opportunities, lifestyles, the beach on my doorstep, and the mountains too.  There is something magical about this place that winds it's way into your heart and just refuses to let go.  This 'big town that masquerades as a city'.  Yeah.  It's home now. :-)

So instead, I found ways to re-connect with the people who gave me that sense of belonging, of community, of 'family', here in my adopted home-town. 

For me, Laughter Yoga is one of those places. It's a place where I can be myself, laugh and be silly and 'let go' without judgement. With others who also see and understand the benefits of that too. With people who understand that when the chips are down, laughter really IS the best medicine, but for those of us who live alone it can be REALLY tough, almost impossible, to find ways to generate that laughter for ourselves.  There is a wonderful diversity amongst the people who go there, a wonderful acceptance of self and others just as we are, where we are, who we are. A recognition that we are all just doing our best to get through a life that isn't always fair, that can be pretty darn tough, that isn't always a bed of roses. To be amongst people with that perspective on life is so refreshing and reaffirming. And over the years I've been going, there have been some absolutely delightful and deep friendships that have blossomed into life, that continue to nourish me to this day  :-)

This group of people and this 'practice' have been my support over the years when I've really needed it. Through thick and thin (and there has been LOTS of 'thick and thin'), they've given me a very much appreciated ability to find light in some very dark tunnels, a feeling of support, and community.  A sense of belonging, and a reminder that I am not alone.

So, wherever it is that you find it, whatever it is that gives it to you, find your 'community'. Find whatever / whoever it is that gives you your 'sense of belonging', and embrace it. Be it Laughter Yoga, a knitting group, a dance group, a choir, a walking group, a tiddly-winks club. Whatever it is, find it, and then have the courage to reach out and embrace it, like it's family.  It'll keep you going when you really need it.

And here's a link to the article that provoked this thinking.   Thanks heaps, Lucy Hone, for the reminder about the importance of belonging.