Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Human Connection

This post was inspired by Mali's recent post. If you haven't already read it, click over and have a read.

In 2009, the stop-motion animation movie Mary and Max was released. Stop-motion is something I've learned to appreciate with age (think Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run), so I was surprised how quickly this movie grabbed my attention. The story is about a lonely little girl who establishes a pen pal relationship with a middle-aged man who has Asperger's syndrome. The story unfolds as over the years their relationship grows and changes, hitting emotional mountains along the way. It was the ending that got me, though. Despite all the trials and tribulations, this moment where Mary visits Max, only to find he has died hours before, revealed the power of human connection and lifelong friendship.

Like so many introverted geeks, I struggle to find human connections; kindred spirits I seemingly click with. I always assumed that this stemmed from not having much of a connection within my own family and that I had failed to develop the necessary skill set to foster relationships. Hence I'm one that has always had a small circle of friends, focusing instead of the quality of the relationship vs. the quantity. And in general, I've learned to be comfortable with being alone.

Mali's post has me wondering though. Is this lack of human connection actually inhibited due to family? Have we been programmed from a young age to embrace family over all else? If so, is that part of the reason that infertility is so painful? A dual loss not only of potential family, but also the one at present as we become outsiders looking in. The added trauma of having to build human connections when one is unsure where to start.

When I began blogging about my journey through infertility, I found I was in the minority when it came to family involvement. Sure, most people weren't overly open with their journeys, but through reading it seemed that most had the support of parents and loved ones, even if it was more peripheral. In my case my family was completely cut off, leaving me struggling to find any source of support as I was grieving that loss. I was fortunate from the beginning to find the support I did through this space. To find my tribe. But this issue surfaced again just before the Beats were born. There was a disconnect about me not sharing this news with my family that many struggled to wrap their heads around.

The story of Mary and Max gets at the heart of this for me. With my family, I was a black sheep. So finding a human connection elsewhere, usually with strangers, became natural. In a weird way, it did prepare me finding my tribe within the ALI community. Shared pain and uncertainty do created a lot of bonding.

What I never considered, though, was that for many this sudden distance with family could actually be terrifying. That as Mali pointed out, most deep connections may be restricted to family and shared only within family. Making the mantra "blood is thicker than water" take on a whole new level and, as Mali pointed out, all the more traumatic when seemingly lost. And maybe, just maybe, that's one piece of information those who have never experienced infertility and loss ever really consider: the possibility of losing the human connections we know and have fostered simply because of the failure to relate.


  1. Powerful post. I remember seeing things about Mary & Max, but I never saw it. It sounds so amazing, and yet so very sad (the missed in-person relationship). I think in situations like yours, you make your own family. I'm not sure I believe "blood is thicker than water." Although, now you have your own nuclear family and can try to foster better connections than you had, to make your own family part of your tribe. That is something that I am struggling with -- having this incredibly difficult time making my own family where maybe I can have the kind of family -- trusting, understanding, relatable -- that I feel I didn't exactly have. I love my family, and I see them, but it is hard to feel outside of it, to feel that things are superficial and not truly connected. I don't put that on whoever Mystery Baby might be, that's an unfair burden to bear, but I hope that I get the chance to have the family I wanted for myself, if that makes any sense. (I can't write about any of this on my blog because my family reads it, inconsistently, but it makes it impossible to process that element of things there.) Otherwise, I seek those connections in other people -- in friends I see in person or otherwise. :)

  2. I admit that I find it hard to wrap my head around family estrangement like you describe: while I can intellectually understand why it might happen, it's contradictory to my most basic, unquestioned assumptions: I don't have a lot of unquestioned assumptions, but "family will be there for me and vice versa" has always been one of them. I don't question that if needed I would give up all my material possessions and my time for my husband, mom, siblings and child. In my daughter's case, I would give up my life, but probably not for other family members since she is my responsibility and she takes precedence. There is no doubt in my mind my parents and husband felt/feel exactly the same and my siblings too. I value my friends, but it's in no way a comparable commitment. For me those relationships are the meaning of tribe: it just happens that due to various factors my tribe is quite small. Thank goodness It would be a lot of responsibility otherwise. But having said that I do understand the idea of seeking your identity outside that family tribe, because I did that too. It is such a privilege that we can do that in our society, whether by travel or Internet connections or by exposure and immersion in different cultures. I guess what is different in your case was you were basically forced to do so because your family wasn't meeting basic social needs. That had got to take a lot of courage, more so than simply the desire to explore or expand.

  3. I'm luck to have close, if not complicated, relationships with my family. I definitely know my parents would always be there for me if I needed them. Having said that, they are humans and flawed like the rest of us, and I'd rather not have to rely on them if I can help it. ;)

    My mom was estranged with her father, but maintained strong relationships with her siblings, so I kind of understand the estranged family relationship, but only in a limited way. My husband's extended family is very complicated and they never see each other, even though they don't live very far. So that is another example I've been witnessing and processing as an adult. I will admit that I was quite shocked when I read that you hadn't even told your parents of the Beats' existence, I think that is when I truly grasped the enormity of the chasm between you. No judgement, you're reasons are your own and I'm sure they are very valid, but that was when I first realized what you were dealing with when it came to the separation with your family. It must be incredibly hard.

    I struggle a lot with human connection. I want it so much, but I realize that I also push it away, consciously and unconsciously. It's like my brain is not wired for it, but my heart craves it. It's a really, really hard combination to manage. I try to be present in the close relationships I'm lucky enough to have, but I'm always looking for a community of people I can fall back on, outside of my family, because I don't want to rely on them for everything. They can't possibly be all I need, that isn't a fair burden to put on anyone.

    Sorry, this is long and rambling. Your post has gotten me thinking a lot, but I'm not getting it down super coherently. I apologize for that. Perhaps I can think on it some more and write a post of my own...


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