It’s easy to get caught up in all the things you “should” be doing to connect with the people you love. Your kids, your partner, your parents or friends – our relationships naturally are extremely important to us, and with our powerful desire to connect we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get it right.
Loving someone can turn into a stressful check list of things to do, but it doesn’t have to. We can foster connection more simply – here’s how.
When a friend of mine was grieving the loss of her mother she sent out a simple, yet heartfelt message that said: “If it’s been a bit since you’ve talked to someone you love…. pick up the phone and say I love you.”
“Pick up the phone and say I love you.” is the kind of message we’ve all heard a hundred times. Hug the ones you love. Hold your kids close today. Call your mom. What stops us from connecting through these simple actions? Here’s what I’ve noticed-
Here’s how we make sharing love more complex that it needs to be:
- I hear: “Pick up the phone and say I love you.”
- My brain goes right to guilt: ‘Ah, shoot yeah I should go down and have dinner at my mom’s house. When will that be possible? Ugh, that’s not going to work for a while, she’s traveling, UGH I should have called her before she left, now she’ll be too busy, she probably doesn’t want me to call while she’s on trip.”
- PAUSE! Brain check! I’m complicating something which is actually very simple. Just call mom and say I love you! What mom wouldn’t want to hear that?? We get wrapped up in perfectionism, trying to “get it right” when it come to connection, and miss out on opportunities to strengthen our relationships with the people we love.
We need “connection, not perfection.”
One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how my daily actions align with my deepest values. One of those values is to build strong connections with my family. Even though I’ve written a book about it, I still frequently need reminders about ‘connection, not perfection‘. Perfectionism is a hard habit to break!
I realized this the other night when I was reading a Babybug to my 7 year old. Babybug, if you haven’t seen these little magazine books before, it’s geared towards toddlers. It’s very simple with beautiful pictures and a handful of little poems or tiny VERY short stories each month (by very short I mean – like 2 or three sentences).
Lately we’ve been reading one or two of these Babybug books a night. She’s got a basket by her bed. And these books have been waking up my perfectionism, or as I call her, my Should Mama (do you have one of these too?) I hear my Should Mama in my head saying:
I should be reading more complex books to her – aren’t; these a little too easy? I mean – is she really getting anything out of this? Why am I so lame about bedtime reading? I should get her to bed earlier and get the boys to bed and then read for a longer time to her!
The other night I noticed those shoulds. And then I noticed something else:
My daughter next to me…her body relaxing, her face with an open smile as she pointed out pictures she remembered from when she was little. I like the way she has complete delight in doing the finger rhymes with me – they’re much easier to memorize now that she’s older and they turn into a sweet way for us to giggle and play together.
What she’s getting out of this time is connection to me. Sure, other books might be nice, but by being there reading with her I was showing my love, and because the books are so simple and short, they are getting read which is what works for us right now.
Simplifying the way you connect with the people you love
So – this goes back to the simplicity of “call them and say I love you”. It doesn’t have to be more complex than that. Sure, one day you might get on a plane and visit. One day you might write a long letter and send printed pictures. One day you might know the right words to heal old hurts, or the right questions to ask… Maybe those things will happen, but maybe they won’t, and you’ll miss your chance.
What can you do today, right now? Take that small step that strengthens the bridge of connection. Call the person you love, and say I love you. Read the book that’s familiar even if it’s “too easy”. Invite the friend over even though their’s laundry on the couch. Look at the ways you’re stopping yourself from reaching out the the people you love, and then go for connection, not perfection.
Dedicated to Dayna Abraham of Lemon Lime Adventures in celebration of your mother’s life. Thanks for the reminder about what matters most.
For more posts on simplifying connection check out:
- 100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child
- Connection Not Perfection at the Holidays
- The Connection Not Perfection Guide to Kid Dates