It’s 2020. What’s on our minds? Inside most of us there’s a conversation about relationships.Belonging can affect our immune systems, our hearts, and our wellbeing. There’s research about how important relating is for both humans and animals. We know connection is important and that it’s part of the inner scaffolding holding us up.But some relationships are like an itchy sweater. You just can’t get comfortable with them, so you put them in a drawer. This shunning or tendency to turn away from each other sometimes happens because we’re afraid of their traits or we don’t understand them. Other people’s views or abrasive habits can be perplexing or triggering. Our judgements can come from a natural instinct to survive. But, we also have to be careful not to miss who the person really is.This week I asked an acquaintance if I misunderstood a text that went between us. It hurt my feelings and I wanted to understand what it meant. It was scary to ask. But, it turned out she hadn’t intended to write it in a negative way. I was lucky that time! The conversation was easier than I feared. I was relieved but it struck me that I had carried that emotional hairball of beliefs around with me for three weeks!Putting up walls is bad for us and our community. It tears a hole in the fabric of our world and creates a disturbed connection, like a frayed garment. Fight or flight is an instinct. So, when we feel rejected or unsafe, we withdraw or attack. “We all know what happens when we feel humiliated – we put all our energy into protecting ourselves, developing whatever survival strategies we can. We may repress our feelings; we may get furious and plot revenge. We may decide to become so powerful and successful that nobody can ever hurt us again.” (Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score.) But, when we shun each other we build fewer bridges. Turning away from others or not talking about mixed feelings in relationships often means we lack the courage to face conflict. It’s not easy.Being brave enough to talk to each other about difficulties or to stop criticizing differences is important. (Sometimes I get this image of a globe that looks like a big round ball filled with stuck hairballs, with a huge sign saying: “I don’t like you and I don’t want to talk about it.”) This has to change and it’s up to each one of us. Oh, I know that some relationships are just too abusive, challenging, or draining. So, we have to discern, not judge others, but make choices everyday about who or what we want to engage with or imbibe. And sometimes we have to let go of connections because they aren’t a great match for our interests or our energy levels.Still, as this important New Year starts, I encourage everyone to communicate more and give a little bit of slack to the folks who are simply different. Keep learning to stay calm as a cat and love the one we’re with.