On connection

Published on 1 June 2023 at 22:33

I recently had a problem with my car. I took it to the garage to be repaired and I went off to a local café that I’ve walked past many times but never been in, armed with my laptop and books, to do some work. It was quiet. I ordered a large coffee [my own personal vice] and fired up my laptop.

The only other person in the café was an elderly lady, eating breakfast with a cup of tea. It felt too quiet. I was aware of the quietness. I sat opposite her. After a few moments, she said good morning and I replied.

I confess, I wasn’t really in the mood to be sociable. I wanted to sit and work. I had emails piling up and things I needed to do. After a while, the café started to fill up with people. As someone left, they asked the lady opposite me if she was ok. When they’d gone she turned to me and said ‘that’s all people, ever say, isn’t it: ‘’are you ok?’’’ ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘It’s boring!’ I paused, put down my mug and closed the lid of my laptop.

I wondered how many people this woman might speak to today, if any.

Would I be the only one?

And so I turned to face her and I asked her what she had planned for the day. We talked for a while. She finished her breakfast and prepared to leave. As she stood up, she said goodbye, more to the room than to me specifically. Nobody answered. As she walked past me to the door, she said: ‘nobody really listens.’

I didn’t know how to respond. After all, I know myself – she’s not wrong. I watched her slowly walk up the road and out of sight. I wondered what her day would bring. I wondered what would happen to her.

It’s my opinion as a therapist that what drives most of us is an intense longing for human connection. It’s what we need. It’s what we seek out. We need relationship. Clients often tell me things that they have never told anybody; private, secret, terrible things. I am a professional secret keeper. Clients tell me that I am the only person who has ever really heard them. And while this is a position of privilege that I value intensely, it strikes me that this is also undeniably tragic.

It is a tragedy that any human being could feel so disconnected and isolated in one’s own life, that the best, deepest and most meaningful connection is felt with me as their counsellor. Sadly, this is all too common.

I wonder how many people function in the world, silently feeling this way, and being unable to connect with others. How lonely that existence must be.

As I drank my coffee, I felt glad that I had made that small connection with the woman I’d met, even if just for a brief time. After all – connection is all we really have.



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