We had already passed each other and smiled two or three times by the time I saw him near the eggs. As he approached, he smiled again, this time with a soft Hi.
I flushed and said a soft Hi back before stopping just past him at the milk, pretending I was actually going to purchase a carton of organic soy creamer.
I wasn't, I just didn't want our interaction to end yet.
Later we passed again at the checkout line, stopping at lanes just next to each other. When his line appeared to be moving much quicker than mine, I moved over to his.
Because, you know, his was moving quicker.
He smiled again as he made room on the conveyor belt for my groceries and put out one of those wooden dividers. I said Thank you and looked away.
At which point I wish I had just taken a deep breath and called forth my deep reserve of bravery and said I'm Ruth.
But I didn't. And so an hour later as I put groceries away in my kitchen alone I kept picturing him walking away, bags in hand. (That was that.)
And then I had this brief thought of Missed Connections.
Missed Connections. You know, the personal ads on Craigslist. Those ones. I had never really read them in my life, much less posted one of my own. And yet. And yet.
I went to the site. And got sucked in.
If you don't already know, there are some beautiful stories that come out of Missed Connections. Of course there is an equal if not greater amount of scare stories, but please -- heart-wrenching novellas and love-soaked success stories have also emerged.
That night I found myself down a deep hole of missed connections. Ones that broke my heart and ones that made me laugh. I got lost in these hundreds of humans who were so very desperate for connection.
I decided to become one of them. I wrote my own post:
We passed a few times in Stop and Shop, and smiled at each other -- you seemed so sweet and were rocking an awesome beard. I wish I had introduced myself as I waited in the checkout line behind you. I've totally never posted to Missed Connections before (!) but life is short, right? :)
And so I waited. Not really expecting much, but knowing wilder things have happened, too.
Have you read the article about how scientists are discovering that the real cause of addiction may actually be loneliness and lack of connection, rather than chemical dependency? I read it and was floored at how true it felt, deep in my bones. I've known a few addicts in my lifetime, and while I don't assume to know the inner workings of their hearts, it does seem apparent that they were missing connection in their lives in some way.
Can you imagine? If lacking authentic human connection could actually be causing disease and crime?
These past few years have shown me that Of course it is. No matter how hard I've tried to accept it or force it or welcome it or just-fucking-swallow it, isolation just isn't our way. We as humans are a social species, meant to live out our days in community and togetherness.
Solitary confinement? Torture. Actual, literal torture. They do that for a reason.
Loneliness seems to be an epidemic these days, especially in my generation of millennials. Perhaps it's the ever-present technology at our fingertips, perhaps it's the ability to constantly distract ourselves from real feelings, perhaps it's simply social anxiety.
But I can bet you that the people who are shooting up elementary schools and executing 26-year-old American prisoners are very, very lonely.
My word for 2015 is connection, the kind you make with trees in the forest and strangers on the street and your own raw heart and new lovers and old friends. I have this deep relationship with feeling alone that I'm ready to end, and 2015 feels like the year to do it, to open up, to expand.
I've gone about these last two months welcoming connection and greeting it in so many forms -- a pen pal friendship begins, a deeper writing practice develops, spontaneous lunch dates are proposed, new friends appear everywhere I turn.
I'm getting distinct responses to my intentions and slowly but surely, connection grows. 2015 is the year of the Wood Sheep and sheep live in herds and are all about community and family.
I think it's time. I think we know it's time.
My grocery store man has not written to me. Plenty of other men have though, surprising me with their encouragement and congratulations at my bravery. It almost makes me want to weep, thinking of everyone at home on their computers, trolling the Missed Connections -- closer to each other than we all think.
It's rather nice, to think we're all in this together. War-torn hearts wandering about the world, just wanting to settle into communities of our own, herds we can call family.
Just wanting to love, and to be loved.
Are you with me?