I usually resist the push for New Year’s resolutions because it feels to me like a contrived focus on personal change. Why does January 1st need to be the point when we change our behavior? Why would we be more successful at this time of year than at any other? So I usually don’t make any resolutions, and to the extent that I had thought about it this year, I had planned to do the same.

I was listening to a podcast earlier this week and the host spoke about focusing on a theme for the year rather than a particular goal or resolution. At first, this didn’t seem any more appealing, but as she listed several broad human needs that could serve as one’s focus, she came to connectedness. This word spoke to me. I have been grappling over the past few months with feelings of anxiety and depression that have developed from family challenges I have been facing, but even moreso from my failure to process those challenges with others. As so many men of my age, I have failed to invest in my friendships. I have a strong relationship with my spouse and we share a lot, but although I know that we can’t place all of our emotional needs on one person, I have neglected my relationships with others who could support me, and whom I could support as well. 

So against my general inclination, I have decided to focus for the present moment on “connectedness”: fostering my relationships with those around me. This means continuing to deepen my relationship with my spouse, my child, other members of my family. It means reaching out to friends with whom I have lost some of my connection. It means remaining open to friendships with other people. It also means daily pushing against my introverted tendency to put my head down and walk on past others. It means pausing to talk with neighbors. It means nodding and saying hello to others on the sidewalk. And it means as well deepening my understanding of myself, of taking time to connect with the natural world around me. 

I am choosing to use the word “connectedness” rather than “connection” to describe my ideal state, even though the word itself feels a bit stilted. But I think that slight awkwardness serves well what I mean – not just “connection”, but “a state of being in connection”. I want to highlight for myself that although connection is what I am after, I must make an effort to get myself into that state, especially with those whom I have fallen out of it. There will be some work involved, but I am excited to do it. 

I am an introvert at heart. I know that I will not change my basic personality, nor do I want to do so. Although some aspects of being an introvert are difficult, I generally and genuinely enjoy this aspect of my character. But all humans are social creatures – we need one another to be healthy and joyful people. We evolved in society and we all benefit from being connected with one another in various ways. Connectedness is not the sole answer to my or anyone’s feelings of anxiety and depression. But it is an important part of how we address those problems. We can’t do it on our own – we do it in relationship with family, with friends, and with the world around us. If I can do that in the new year, maybe I can see this kind of resolution in a new light.

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