Something remarkable happened this week.
My baby girl learned to wave—to everything. Trial and error taught her that human beings, eye-contact, and a smile produce the best wave-back probability. The fire hydrant, empty chair, and family dog were not as responsive.
So she’s waving and melting hearts, particularly her parents’.
I can think of this remarkable thing in physical or behavioral terms. Her hand, which still fits within my palm, gesticulates uncontrollably in a circular motion. Other people smile to reinforce the action. And she repeats: a conditioned behavior, a Pavlovian response.
I can analyze it clinically; I can research Piaget’s Sensorimotor Stage of Cognitive Development and mark her at Substage 5: Tertiary Circular Reactions, when infants learn their impact on their environment.
I can view it as a proud father, Substage 5 typically occurring at 1 year while my daughter is only 10 months. I can make it about me, ignoring the larger joy I now share with every parent who first witnessed their child engage the world.
Or, I can take a moment to reflect on the sheer miracle of it all. A unique soul wants a part of, wants to connect. I can let the moment break open the monotonous drudgery of parenting, the way tree limbs sway to let light touch your face.
We aren’t so different from our infants. Our craving for connection only intensifies as we grow older. We can learn to crave the technology that connects us to the world to the extent that it rips us from the beauty in our everyday lives. I have observed as much in myself.
My reaction when my site suddenly spit out “bad gateway” errors was infantile. My frustration grew with every refreshed error page, and long hold on the phone for support.
I see it in the teenagers I teach. Take their phone away and you’d think you ripped their heart out. This is because I didn’t take away a phone, I took away their primary means to connect, their Coronary Artery to the world. The craving to connect is a universal primer for human development. While we are wired to crave social acceptance,
I’ve found there is a deeper connection that satisfies the constant craving to connect to the world.
The prayer St. Francis made known helps explain this deeper connection. When I pray to love rather than be loved, to understand rather than be understood, I find my soul.
When I am focusing on the love I receive, or crave to be understood or liked, I am drifting into vain selfishness.
This deeper connection was ignited in several ways in my life. I realized that helping others in sobriety gave me a deep and sustained exaltation, like a musical crescendo. It has expanded in my sharing my life with a woman, and now caring for my two children. Loving them makes me happy.
It’s also why meetings work for me. People in recovery often boast about how great it is in the rooms because only people in the rooms understand how they feel. I don’t think that’s entirely true, but I do think all forms of recovery have a membership requirement: you must be vulnerable and open. When you throw a bunch of people who have learned to be vulnerable and open in a room, caffeinate the hell out of ‘em and bring up topics near to their heart, a deep connection happens—a soul recognizes its counterpoints in others, a phrase used to describe true love.
It is the deeper connections that keep me clean and sober. I crave it more than I crave anything else. It supplants my craving to drink and use. It’s how I feel a greater power move and speak and guide.