I'm not usually one to watch reality TV, but as I was flipping through the channels these piqued by interest. In other words, they drew me in like a gawker at a car-train accident. As I watched, though, I realized these shows are at either end of the same spectrum. They're both about connections, or lack thereof.
The Hoarder's show is heartbreakingly raw as hoarders try to clean up their homes and lives. What is painfully obvious is the hoarders don't have any real connections to other people. Instead, they focus on things.
Most have suffered a traumatic loss and cling to things with the excuse (and very real fear) that they might need them one day. As a result, their house is a maze of trash, empty boxes, mismatched socks, gloves and shoes, and too often dead rodents or pets. Their relationships often seem as jumbled and mismatched. Many have distant, hands-off relationships with family, including those who live under the same roof. The hoarders have withdrawn into their internal world and the reconnecting process is painful.
At the other end of the spectrum is Sister Wives, a show about a polygamous Mormon family with one husband, four wives, and seventeen children. Personal beliefs on polygamy aside, I suspect the kind of suffering in isolation that leads to extreme hoarding wouldn't happen in such a family.
The very nature and number of the relationships and household structure requires an openness and emotional intimacy that would make it impossible to hide away when something or someone breaks your heart.
It makes sense. Words are approximately seven percent of a conversation. Tone of voice is 38 percent and body language is 55 percent. In other words, it's easy to lie with words, to say we're doing great, to hide the heartache and the frightening loss of control that cause us to cling to stuff. Face-to-face connections force us to be more honest with others, and by extension ourselves.
The more numerous our connections the greater the likelihood of our honesty.
Connections are on my mind this week because I've been sorting through my possessions, deciding what to toss, donate or pack for my upcoming move. I'm always ambivalent about moves. I love the idea of going someplace new (in this case, someplace much warmer) and meeting new people. But I also hate to leave people behind.
Sure, there's email, IM and Facebook, but these can't replace meeting someone for lunch or supper and talking about your day, your boss, your muse. A quip on Facebook, a link on Twitter, a quick email to "see how you're doing" isn't really a connection. It's just a reminder that we have these connections. Keeping those connections strong and honest is up to us.