Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Social Networking

In the suddenly ubiquitous happiness studies, I keep seeing the "experts" say that expanding your social network will bring happiness. In fact, I saw a happiness expert on Oprah (no shame in nursing your baby to the beat of Oprah's daytime drum) who said that people who know their neighbors are more likely to be happy and feel safer in their communities. In Gretchen Rubin's book "The Happiness Project," she cites a study that says joining a club that requires you to show up in person once a month boosts happiness. In light of all this purported evidence and considering that I am already very social, I am employing some of these concepts to see if I can boost my happiness level. Yesterday, I took the kids to the park and met three or four neighbors. It's true, I did feel safer and happier once I knew their names, their children's names and where they lived. As a corollary to this, I have also challenged myself to say hello to people I know in the grocery store, at the gym, or Target. This afternoon I was waiting in line at Whole Foods and I saw a friend of mine. Honest to God, my first instinct was to hide. HIDE? Why would I hide? My hair, while a little goofy, wasn't so outrageous that I wouldn't want Mary to see it. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I actually really like Mary-- she's warm-hearted, gentle, sweet, wise and hilarious in a very un-self-conscious way. Why not say hi to her while buying our favorite organic pizza crusts and some pears? I pushed away the thought to hide and went over to the line where she was checking out. Hi, Mary, how's it going? That wasn't so hard. It wasn't. But I bet tomorrow if I see someone I know when I am out, my first instinct again will be to run, to hide, to avert connection. And, it's not because my visit with Mary today was "bad" or negative in anyway. In fact, I told her I was spinning about going back to work and how to decide what to do, and she gave me some very wise and gentle advice: "Maybe it's not time to make a decision." How lovely for her to reflect on my sense of urgency and to remind me that I don't have to rush. If I don't yet know, then I don't know. And that's okay. I got all that as a gift when I countered my impulse to hide and keep Mary from catching my eye at Whole Foods. I want more of those gifts, which is why I am keeping track of the how connections bring me peace and answers and joy and connection and a sense of safety.

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