Why Do We Fear Connection: Lessons from the Subway

The subway was busy during the afternoon as I was coming back from court. I managed to get a seat and quickly shoved my bags underneath, awkwardly maneuvering my gym bag, yoga mat, and briefcase all together into a haphazard pile. I close my eyes for a moment. Deep inhale. Exhale.

At the next stop a senior woman in a wheelchair came on and stopped a few feet away from me. I glanced over and noticed how bundled up she was for the hint of colder autumn weather — winter coat, winter hat, and this awesome blue fleece blanket with cats on it. I could sense her spirit. She was kind. Loving. Plus I just knew she had to be open hearted with that blanket. I watched her focus to find her stop on the subway map atop the doors and then watched as her gaze unexpectedly met mine. I smiled — she smiled. I then politely looked away.

I then turned and observed everyone else down the car. They were looking down, at their phones, at the ads above their neighbour’s head, or anywhere else other than at the individuals sharing the space with them.

Witnessing the disconnection of us all, I then thought “why do we avoid connection?” I had just done it when I turned away from my new friend. We do it habitually, instinctually, and yet, it’s not our true nature. We all want to connect, at our core.

So, I chose again.

I looked back over at the woman who was now staring at me. She pointed at my tights and suggested I should be wearing snowpants given the weather. I softened and allowed myself to melt into the sweetness of connection. For our eyes to meet. To see each other. “It IS cold today I was freezing on my walk!” She moved her wheelchair toward me.

We spent the next few minutes chatting. About how I was, in fact, not in high school and a practicing lawyer, and about how she was from Newfoundland originally while I was raised in Toronto. As she neared her stop, she asked for my card — “LOVE WARRIOR?!” she laughed.

Once the bell chimed and the doors opened for her stop, she had trouble getting off. The new subways are tough to maneuver and her wheels got stuck between the platform and the car. Two guys rushed over and struggled to help her while the subway driver was yelling what to do. It was a whole kerfuffle. But the whole time she held my gaze as I stood beside her, offering my support to my new friend, and was totally upbeat “you’re my witness, lawyer!!!” she laughed as they not so gracefully unwedged her wheels from the gap. She whizzed away and I sat back down. Eyes open this time. Inhale. Exhale.

Connection! Why do we fear it? There it was. Two strangers sharing a laugh and finding our commonalities. We all need it. We all are BUILT for it — and yet we often willingly choose NOT to.

Later that week I was walking to work and was late because it was so dark in the morning and all I wanted to do was hibernate. I snoozed too many times through my alarm and once I finally peeled myself out of my bed and gathered the courage to leave the cocoon of my apartment, I was annoyed about how rainy and windy it was. Peace is always a thought away, and I knew better than to travel down into a funk so I did what I always do and asked my inner guru for help to reframe the wind, the rain, and the darkness: “help me to see this differently.”

I got onto the streetcar because it was too wet to walk. As soon as I got on a disheveled man came up to me “isn’t it nice we can still wear outfits like this at this point in October?” he said, pointing to my running shoes, bare legs and light jacket. There was the moment. Choose to connect or choose to look away. Choose love or choose fear.

I smiled. “YES. It IS amazing!” He replied, “enjoy it. The cold is coming in fast.” Perception changed through connection: no longer was I hung up on the rain, but rather found myself grateful it was still warm enough that I didn’t have to bundle up.

We then got talking about how he was going to meet the cable company because his cable got cut off for failure to pay because he lost his job.. In that moment, he needed the moment of connection too — someone to listen and SEE him and tell him it was okay. He got off at the next stop.

As always, magic, love and connection are always available, we just have to choose it. We forget. We forget that we’re all just dancing through the life game together, at the same time. We forget to connect. We forget that we’re all one. That’s the choice — choose connection or choose fear. What do you choose?