When Connections Fail

1000 Voices for Compassion (and more) are collaborating on the 20th once again to spread a compassion theme around the world. The theme for May is Connection1000speak

Humanity is billions of connections spread around a globe, our potential great, our responsibility to each other and the planet greater yet. Like humankind, the brain’s vast network is prone to breakdowns. When the brain functions its a powerful moment to which we give little thought, for it’s a moment that’s but a thought, electrical impulses leaping across synapses with ease, but malfunction breeds chaos and fear.

I experienced a breakdown firsthand 5 years ago after a lengthy hospital stay when my life was saved via a high Prednisone dosage. My reaction to the drug was, as it is now, swift and a virtual miracle. Once home, my condition continued improving, but sinister side effects were lurking in the background.

Finally able to venture forth alone, I volunteered to take my daughter’s pets for their shots while she worked. It was there my thoughts drifted time and again, but I dismissed it as fatigue. When I wrote a check I struggled, my focus slipping amidst writing words. The struggle continued on the return to her house, but seemed to ease while I dropped off the animals. On the other hand, the short drive to my apartment from there was harrowing. I fought to remember rudimentary tasks like steering, pressing on the gas pedal, or shifting the manual transmission. Time and again I forgot where I was going and was forced to talk myself through each step and act.

Somehow, I reached home without killing myself or anyone else, but upon reaching my apartment discovered I couldn’t remember how to operate my phone. Worse, after a lengthy struggle to make a call I was unable to convert thoughts into speech. The two weeks that followed were a nightmare that still haunts me.

Three years later, while working as a CNA in assisted living on the overnight shift I turned a corner and nearly ran headlong into a resident who rarely strayed from her room even during the day. An avid reader and tremendously sweet woman, I saw a fear in her eyes that night that was all too familiar.

Photo: CA Hawthorne

At work after midnight. Photo: CA Hawthorne.

“I can’t remember where I am or how I got here,” she confessed in a trembling voice.

I took her hand while speaking reassuringly. Deep down, though, I recognized the ugly affliction that had found her. I walked her back to her room where seeing her possessions provided needed support. She returned to bed where I knelt beside it and talked with her until she fell asleep. Afterwards, I eased her door closed and stood in the hallway where I cried for her and the memories her Alzheimer’s had summoned in me, memories I shared with several residents during my time there so they’d know I understood their fear.

Broken connections become broken communications and chaos resulting in confusion and fear. On a more epic scale the same is true with the connections each of us represent in the human race that has its own versions of side effects, Alzheimer’s, or even cancer. In both the brain and human communication cancer’s thoughtlessness is such that it consumes its host. Unchecked, it leaves behind a withering end.

Let’s think about the connection each of us represents in the global network that is humanity, for each cancerous connection is a breakdown that diminishes our potential. Many who spread ills are past victims of ills we should be striving to eradicate. If we remain silent, if we say, “Oh well, that’s just how it is,” then we’re lost, a vast race gasping its last on the dying planet we neglected.

There can be no “good enough.” We must fight, fight for one and for all, everyone. Strong connections are constructed of love and respect. Hatred and exclusion is a disease that withers who we are, one connection at a time. Each negative act is a flinch, a disquieting warning in the brain that something is terribly wrong. Compassion is an ingredient in the cure.

7 Replies to “When Connections Fail”

  1. Pingback: When Connections Fail | Christina Anne Hawthorne

  2. That must have been so terrifying for you. I think it’s wonderful that you used your experience to comfort others, and I love the analogy you draw in this post.

    • Thank you, Leslie. I wondered if residents would see my experiences as a connection and was at first hesitant to share, but after I shared I was glad I did. I believe they could hear the still-echoing fear in my voice. To this day it’s a difficult memory, but for me it’s ONLY a memory.

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