The longing for connection

“Connection is our number one human need. All the actions or non-actions we take in the world are related to this desire.” ~Rhonda Britten

Despite being such an introvert, I wholeheartedly agree with Rhonda’s statement above. My deepest longing, from my earliest memories, has always been to have that sense of connection to another person. I believe that the need for it coupled with the lack of it has fueled the relentless over-achievement I’ve aimed for since I was a small child. I have done everything I can do to find a way to be good enough to be loved like that.

It’s never been enough. As I look back at two failed marriages and more broken long-term relationships (both romantic relationships and friendships) than I care to count, I’m finally admitting to myself that it never will be enough.

I’ve tried giving more than I receive in relationships. I’ve tried settling for less than I truly want or deserve. I’ve tried twisting myself into compliance with other people’s needs. I’ve tried holding myself back to keep from outshining others. I’ve even tried just being myself. None of those things have brought me the kind of love and connection I long for.

Although it brings me greater grief  than any I’ve ever known, I think I’m finally ready to accept that I will never have the kind of love and connection. Not because I am not enough, not because I don’t deserve it. I will never have it because it doesn’t exist.

I’m not saying that love and connection don’t exist at all; obviously they do. But the deep kind of love and connection I’ve longed for, the kind of soul mate I’ve dreamed of, the finding of my other half—THAT does not exist. And any glimpse I’ve had of something that would seem to indicate otherwise is only illusion. An illusion created by misdirected longing.

This realization leaves me feeling horribly adrift. The one thing I’ve devoted all my life to finding is nothing but a fairy tale. So where do I channel my efforts now? What do I work toward?

At the end of the day, the only person with whom I will ever have that kind of connection is me. This is a real problem when I am someone who I dislike so much that I would rather have no connection with at all. Which brings me back to the question I’ve been trying to answer recently about how to learn to love myself. If I am my own hope for this much longed-for connection, that is an imperative question to answer.

Realizing that what  I’ve spent my life searching for doesn’t exist relieves the sense of failure that comes from not finding it but brings with it a whole other sense of failure for having taken so long to figure this out. When I add that sense of failure to feeling like such a failure at this most recent job (despite being underemployed!), to the failure of my marriage, to the failure to figure out what I even want to do with my life at this age, to the failure to have developed a community of family or friends, to the failure to even have a clue who the hell I am … it’s hard for me to see much in me worth loving or valuing.

So what now?

“There is nothing left to do but live; live the life your soul intended. Everything else is just a lie.” ~Rhonda Britten

Oddly enough, this overwhelming sense of failure in every single area of my life, while devastatingly painful, also bring with it the same freedom that losing brings. I have not succeeded at much of anything in life either by my own standards or anyone else’s at this point (even though family and many friends don’t yet know how badly I’ve failed by their standards). But having failed this miserably means that there’s nothing left to fear. I’ve already failed at everything that mattered to me and I’ve already failed those whose opinion mattered to me, so now I’m free to do whatever I please. There’s nothing left to prove, no one left to hope they will love me the way I had hoped to be loved, no standard of success to live up to anymore.

The only thing left to do is to live my way, doing whatever I want to do (at the soul-deep level of want—not the superficial self-centered level), defining “success” by any measure that happens to suit me at any given time. It’s a lonely road, made even lonelier by the loss of my dream of someday finding that soul mate connection I had dreamed of. But it just may finally be the only honest road.

And perhaps in time as I learn to love myself, I may one day figure out how to connect with others in a way that makes the journey less lonely even as I let go of the need for a deeper connection with anyone but me.