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.

16 Responses to “Connect

  • 10 months is such a fun age for babies, isn’t it? Another fine post, Mark, and I also wanted to pop in and say I really enjoyed the Buzzkill podcast you did with Paul. Take care.

    • Insane joy. Paul knows how to move the conversation so naturally and asked some great questions. It was a lot of fun for me. Thanks for listening.

  • Love this, Mark. You make some great connections and points – and yeah, I never thought why it was so horrifying to have someone’s phone ripped out of their hands! (I think we can include most adults in that description!) Making connections to others was a huge things for me, and I still find it difficult at times, especially in the “real” world, or face-to-face world.

    Thanks for this – fantastic piece as always.


  • Another beautiful post again, Mark. I think your students are very blessed to have you. You are a deep thinker and a very feeling person. With all their disconnect, they need someone to reach into their souls.

    • It’s one of those things you have to do assuming good things are happening when by all appereances nothing is. Needless to say, I’m learning patience. Thanks for visiting Birdie!

      • I think teachers are some of the most amazing people. I have such powerful memories of mine. Most were really great. A few (very few) lost their way and some instilled changes in me that I still carry with me today.
        Please wave to your daughter for me. ?

  • Mark – this really is beautiful. I’ve learned that I’m happier when I’m loving others and not expecting anything in return. I love the interaction/connections as well, and it hurts when it goes away (some of it has lately). It sounds like you’ve found peace in both your sobriety and in the love you have for your children. This post made my heart smile. 🙂

  • Oh this is lovely. I love the reference to the prayer of St. Francis. Yes! when we reach out and serve others we are fulfilled. Not in a crazy co-dependent obsessive way…..but in a connected, compassionate, we are fellow humans finding our way sort of way. Connections filled with humility. I work with parents using the CRAFT model of “treatment” for lack of a better word…..the whole premise is how can we maintain connections and stay engaged with our children who are using substances vs. the detachment model. Because yes, we all crave connection and when our children become lost in addiction and removing all connection is counter intuitive to us as parents, but it is actually very hurtful to our already hurting children. Anyway, that is another totally different post…
    I used to joke that my blogging was my gift to my family. I could process everything there and it let my analytical engineer-ish husband off of the hook from listening to my endless out loud wonderings. Ok ok and one more thing!! every time I go to an open AA meeting I cry through the whole thing. All I see there is God’s grace. There everyone is, for that night, seeking a connection, doing the work, showing, up to maintain another day of sobriety. It is one of the most beautiful things to me.

    • I’ve been thinking about you and your daughter Annette, and I’m hoping your connections have been going well and what not. That CRAFT model sounds spot on from what you say. There is truly nothing like a meeting, agreed!

  • Thanks Mark for bringing to me what I have always held in my heart. My daughters have grown to be fine and successful women. The very thing you described about the hand waving to people by a young child does bring a smile to people even the ones you don’t know that might be having a difficult time.
    Through the program and my sobriety has taught me to love rather than be loved and to understand rather than be understood. Look forward to your next post.

    • Thanks Patrick. I shudder to think of my baby girl growing old. It’s funny. For my son, I felt in a rush to have him grow up. Like, all my dreams of fatherhood are working around the house with him, sports etc. But with my baby girl it’s the opposite. I want to keep her my baby girl forever.

  • I love it. I love that you see the miracles through those amazing eyes

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