Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Connected, Part Five: Maybe. Maybe Not.

We've almost all had the experience of walking into a room of tense people and immediately feeling our own bodies tense, or of finding someone else's joy or laughter contagious. But how far does inner connectedness extend?

When my then-foster-now-adopted daughter first moved in with us, I experienced several months of intense anxiety. In some ways, my stress was understandable; our family was undergoing a dramatic transition. In other ways, my reaction seemed disproportionate. I sometimes found myself wondering in those day if the emotions I was experiencing in my body were truly all my own. Was it really my fear, or hers? Was her active trauma triggering some kind of mirror response in me, reactivating my own old trauma?

I am not the only mother emotionally "linked" to this child. Her other mother, the biological one, has reported feelings of connectedness with her even when they were apart. During the years when they were separated, there were times when Erica (the mom) would experience heightened concern. Something would tell her that Ashley was struggling. She would call Ashley's social worker and find out that, sure enough, Ashley was in crisis. Mere coincidence? Maybe, or maybe not.

In an essay from his book Life Itself: A Memoir (reprinted in Salon), Roger Ebert tells the following story:
In this life I have already been declared dead. It wasn't so bad. After the first ruptured artery, the doctors thought I was finished. My wife, Chaz, said she sensed that I was still alive and was communicating to her that I wasn't finished yet. She said our hearts were beating in unison, although my heartbeat couldn't be discovered. She told the doctors I was alive, they did what doctors do, and here I am, alive. 
Do I believe her? Absolutely. I believe her literally — not symbolically, figuratively or spiritually. I believe she was actually aware of my call and that she sensed my heartbeat. I believe she did it in the real, physical world I have described, the one that I share with my wristwatch. I see no reason why such communication could not take place. I’m not talking about telepathy, psychic phenomenon or a miracle. The only miracle is that she was there when it happened, as she was for many long days and nights. I'm talking about her standing there and knowing something. Haven't many of us experienced that? Come on, haven't you?
Yes, I have. And though I understand that we need to be cautious about assuming cause and effect simply because two things coincide, I'm also aware of how little we, as human beings at this point in history, know with absolute certainty about the workings of this world we live in. Despite all the scientific gains of recent centuries, we are still but in the infancy of human knowledge. Are we really the distinct entities that we think we are, or are we connected in ways that we don't yet fully understand? As human knowledge increases in the years to come, it seems entirely possible that we may discover that we are not as separate as we once believed.

This post is one of a series of posts on the subject of connection. To read the full series, please click here

Image courtesy of Vlado /


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