This winter break I was lucky to fly home to Kentucky for a few days. I saw the community choir concert, visited with people at the historical society Christmas party, and walked through what may someday be my practice. After living in New York City and now Portland, I am pleasantly surprised to discover that I feel the strongest sense of connection in this small town back home. Everyone was overwhelmingly receptive about natural medicine and welcomed me to return openly, which warmed my heart and made me incredibly grateful to return after medical school.
So many of our conversations around New Year's are about our resolutions for the coming months: what we want to change about ourselves, how we can improve, what we can cross off our bucket-lists. This year, I have been thinking instead about our connections to one another and our community.
One of the conversations I had back home was about the bicentennial celebration the town threw this past September. At first, participation was limited and slow to build. But then something amazing happened: momentum grew, and the whole town came together to celebrate the history of their past and the community of their present. It filled a void that many didn't even realize was missing: a strong and living sense of connection. That community and connection is exactly what makes living in a small town a beautiful option for some. Without connection to one another, to history, to the land and nature, living in a small town would be isolating. With it, it can be wonderful.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I did my health coach training, has a concept I love called "primary and secondary food." Secondary food is what we actually eat, and it has a vitally important role for our bodies and minds, but it is not the most essential. Primary food is what feeds us, metaphorically speaking. It is our environment, career, physical movement, creativity, spirituality, and relationships. Above all, it is LOVE and CONNECTION. When we are deficient in primary food, no amount of secondary food can make up the difference.
You may have seen the article circulating the internet this past year about the "true cause of addiction." Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, says that, "For a hundred years now we've been singing war songs about addicts. I think all along we should have been singing love songs to them. Because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection." If we cannot connect to one another, we will find something that attempts to lessen the pain and fill the holes in our hearts.
We as human beings (and mammals) are built for attachment to one another, from infancy throughout our lives. Without love, we physiologically shut down. Without love, we cannot survive. With it, we can grow to our fullest potential, and lead lives we find truly satisfying.
This year, I invite you to resolve not to change or improve upon yourself, but instead to work on your connections beyond yourself. Embrace your community, be it your extended family, school, religious group, or your neighborhood, and appreciate the joy that comes from a sense of belonging. And please, in these increasingly uncertain times, remember that we are all one community, seeking love and connection together.