Connection: where Vulnerability meets Possibility
I do it often. (For better or for worse.)
Having felt isolated for most of my life, it takes a lot of time for me to wrap my head around the concept of connection, why it feels so frightening, and how it can be so essential to live a meaningful life.
Connection takes on so many different shapes and forms, and it really only becomes apparent how much it means when you are lacking it.
Over the years, I have come to understand that connection is very different from communication, although you can see connection as a qualified form of the latter.
It is possible to have communication without connection, but you can't have connection without a form of communication.
Communication, then, becomes the first step to connection, but most of our communication doesn't really feel meaningful, at least not to me. Communication isn't enough.
As many has argued before me (especially Brené Brown) connection runs much deeper than just communication. True connection builds on vulnerability and the ability to be authentic and true in your relationships.
True connection is about vulnerability – and daring to fully be who you really are in front of another human being.
When I realized this, and started to become more open by showing up in communication with my full self – including my hopes, dreams, fears and feelings – my life took on a whole new dimension. It has been such a gradual process that it has taken me years to realize how deep this shift has been in me, and how much goodness it has brought upon me.
Not just in my relationships, also my work has been deeply impacted by my learning process of being open and true.
It's been – and still can be – confusing and sometimes straight out chaotic to be open in this way, and it is challenging on a whole range of levels, as such fundamental processes of change naturally are.
One of the things that has been confusing for me is to make sense of my feeling of identity and how it has evolved as I have become more open about who I am. Over the years, I have seen that there has been a duality to my work – and life – that I haven't managed to completely understand before now.
I have been writing a lot about connection and vulnerability: about what makes life difficult, mental health issues, my personal story and how to relate to the darkness of loneliness and depression. And at the same time, I have also been writing about following your dreams, about endless possibility and about how to create the life that you truly want.
Likewise, my life has been a battleground of severe mental illness and a chaotic mess of crisis and very low day-to-day functionality – and at the same time, I have also been experiencing a level of function and success unfamiliar to most people. It is hard to wrap your head around. I have been severely depressed and fulfilled incredible dreams at the same time.
Through it all, I have been struggling to see the link of this dichotomy between darkness and light in my writing and in my life.
The link between vulnerability and strength like that finally dawned upon me when I worked on my new dream come true: my postcards.
"You have to send a postcard," my friend told me over a last-minute cup of coffee. I was flying out for a trip to Peru the next morning and had managed to carve out a little time in-between packing and organizing to catch up with an a good friend.
I sighed. Postcards. How boring!
Being an avid traveller, I am used to get postcard requests, and it always ends up with me buying the cards but putting off writing – or writing the cards and then putting off buying stamps or finding a mail box. Either way, I usually ended up not sending the cards at all – or hand them over to my friends and family days, weeks and even months after I returned.
"But I hate writing postcards," I told her. "I hate writing all that crap of today I did this and that and it was amazing and I am so happy here and this trip is fantastic yadda yadda yadda. It feels so wrong."
"Then write something else," she said.
Simple as that.
And that's the story of how my postcards were born.
On my trip to Peru, I posted on Facebook for The Freedom Experiment, and promised to send cards to everyone who wanted. I ended up writing more than 30 cards to people all over the world – and instead of writing boring things about me, I wrote about life. I wrote little inspiring messages, poems and wisdom notes. I wrote from the heart and connected with my soul. And I loved it.
It turned out, other people loved it too.
After a while, I started to get thank you notes from the receivers of the cards, and they all said almost the the same thing: "You gave me exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time".
Then I understood: This is connection.
Something happened when I sat down to write those cards, something fundamentally different than when I had written postcards in the past.
I didn't just communicate, I connected.
This summer in India, I decided to do the project again – and this time I sent more than 120 postcards, including several cards to myself, at my home address in Oslo.
Through this project, I connected with people in the most touching way possible. I LOVED writing the cards, and I loved hearing how they were received.
One story in particular really touched my heart. Through Facebook, I got a request for a card from a daughter caring for her dying mother, and I wrote to them both. Later, I learned that the daughter had read the card out loud again and again and again in the mothers last days. It was the closest her mother would come to India in this lifetime.
This is connection.
I had to face my vulnerability when writing that card – and all the others. I had to touch in with my deepest core and really feel how it must feel to care for your dying mother. And I had to feel into my own powerlessness and ask what needed to be written, rather than to just pour out the phrases.
Communicating in a meaningful way like this, means that you have to show up with your full vulnerability. It means taking a deep breath as you sit down to write, and it means to listen within and hear what wants to be expressed. It's so different from just scribbling down a note about how amazing your life is at the moment.
That kind of one-way communication doesn't nourish connection, it just creates more disconnection in the world.
However, when you sit down with an intention and connect instead of just communicate, you contribute to more soul-to-soul possibility born from the seeds of connection.
I decided to have my own postcards designed to create a meeting place for vulnerability and possibility: where vulnerability gives room for connection over communication. I wanted to create a space where connection creates the possibility of change and growth.
And this is when the link between the darkness and light in my work really clicked into place.
I believe that magic happens at the meeting place of vulnerability and possibility.
I believe that it's when we are open and share our vulnerability – our hopes and dreams, fears and pains – that we can truly connect with others. And it is when we truly connect with others that we unlock real possibility of creating truly wonderful lives and make our dreams come true.
Based on my connection with others created through the postcards, I decided to make a little dream come true. I decided to create my own line of postcards, the perfect cards to inspire, uplift and connect.
My hope is that you will take these cards and use them to create a little spark of connection and love in the world too.
Send someone a card and write something vulnerable and inspiring. Send a card to yourself and write what you most need to hear. Write your goals and dreams on the back and stick them to your vision board or frame them and keep them as a reminder. Write a message of hope and stick it into a self-help book in the library or bookstore. Leave a message for the person who will come after you in the coffee shop. Connect with family members that you haven't seen in a while. Show up with your true self and connect on a different level.
When you dare to be vulnerable, the possibilities are endless.