Menu
Announcement: Want to share your story in the next Tiny Buddha book? Learn more here!

Are You Shut Down and Disconnected?

“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another—and ourselves.” ~Jack Kornfield

I had to work on Easter at my job in a coffee shop. I missed out on my family’s big holiday party, and I struggled with quite a bit of resentment about the whole deal. I could have gotten someone to cover for me, but because I’m one of the more experienced employees and we were short-staffed, I was told that I needed to work.

I wasn’t too terribly happy. I came in to work and immediately launched into the craziness of Easter in a coffee shop, sliding Americanos to travelers across the counter with a stone face.

I was amazed at how unforgiving people were. I thought that Easter would bring out the best in people, but it seemed to make some act grumpier and more disconnected. Many of them weren’t happy for the same reason that people are grumpy at Christmas: They hate spending extended time with family.

So I slogged through the day, helping grumpy people stay awake on the road to a place where they didn’t want to go, when suddenly a single interaction changed the course of my day: A man came in, greeted us warmly while he ordered his coffee, and then apologized.

“I’m sorry that you have to work so that schmucks like me can have their coffee.”

This one sentence transformed my whole day. This guy had gone out of his way to connect with us, and made made me feel both happy and ashamed—happy that there was someone out there who didn’t get too caught up in his own troubles to connect; ashamed that I had fallen into that very trap myself.

Connection

When did we substitute busyness for real living? A majority of people out there go through their lives numb, not connecting with the people around them, not enjoying their lives. They simply exist, floating through life. I call them “the living dead” because they’ve allowed so many parts of themselves to die: passion, energy, connection, joy.

They settle for a life of greasy food, distracting entertainment, and the accumulation of possessions.

It’s not enough.

If you suspect that you might be one of the living dead, start examining your life. Do you connect with people, or do you just gloss over everyday interactions? Do you notice interesting and beautiful things about life, or do you go through your day like you are a machine, operating on force of habit and routine?

When was the last time you truly forgot your busy day in the pleasure of a conversation with someone you didn’t know?

Reach out to people. Ask them their names. Make a connection. Forget about your busy day, if only for a second, and try to validate someone else.

Thank someone who has served you well.

If you don’t—if you fail to give attention to waiters, baristas, gas station attendants, and maybe even your coworkers—you’ll start to lose touch with your humanity as well.

I’d lost touch with my humanity that day. I was so caught up in my own anger and disappointment that I became a member of the living dead. I went through the motions of daily life without looking for perspective, without looking into the faces of the people around me and attempting to connect. It’s incredibly easy to fall into numbness.

Reach out to the living dead

Maybe you make the leap. Everyone has their bad days, but maybe you’re usually like the guy who came in the coffee shop on Easter: You try to connect with people and treat them the way they should be treated, but you’re frustrated with the living dead. They seem to stubbornly resist any attempts at communication.

My advice (from years of being a member of the living dead): keep trying. There’s a human down there somewhere, and if you keep working away at their hardened exterior, you’ll get there eventually, and the work will be worth it.

Remember, you have worth

If you’re a member of the living dead, today or often, I’m not saying that you’re worthless, or you somehow resemble a zombie. You’re a human being, you’re unique, and you have incredible worth.

We all have living dead days. Just do your best to start moving out of the pattern of disconnection. Go out of your way to reach out. People are occasionally going to ignore you, be grumpy toward you, insult you. Remember when dealing with them that, just as you have unique worth, they do too.

Treat them with respect, even when they’re not very respectful to you. Why should you do this? Shouldn’t you just be nasty back to them and cut them out of your life? Definitely not. The fastest way to become a member of the living dead is to treat them as sub-human. Keep this in your mind as you live your life: You are unique and have worth.

So does that server that you have the chance to tip.

So does your boss.

So does that Wal-Mart greeter.

So does that surly mechanic.

So does that barista who is skipping out on Easter to serve Americanos.

We all have worth. And we all have a choice to recognize and honor it in each other.

Photo by Peter Alfred Hess

Avatar of AndHeDrew

About AndHeDrew

If you are interested in living life on purpose and becoming the person you want to be, check out AndHeDrew's free e-book, "Slapping Yourself Upside the Head" which you can download here: http://andhedrew.com/upside-the-head/.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Smoothsucces

    This is well said. We all have a gift or gifts to share with the world by remaining disconnected we deprive others of those gifts in turn, we also lose out. Sometimes just a simple smile from someone llights up your day. Recognizing the spirit in others not only honors that person but it also helps you to honor the spirit within you. We are here to help and encourage and share in this journey we call life.

  • Catherine

    This is such a great article. I have had to work on holidays before and just think to myself “Thank the Lord I actually have a job”.

    It is so well written and insightful. Thank you for sharing this.

  • http://exciramedia.com/ Shannon Steffen

    Thanks so much, AndHeDrew!

    This very morning, I ran to the store to get some breakfast supplies (to surprise my husband tomorrow morning with a homemade treat). The man in line at the register was talking to the clerk, asking her how her mom was and having a deep connection with her.

    When it was my turn, I didn’t make eye contact and didn’t really talk to her. Normally, I’m like the man before me but this morning I was so disconnected and rushed that I didn’t take time to even smile at the woman. I felt bad moments later, when I left the store, but didn’t realize until just now what was wrong.

    Thank you for shining a light on the importance of human engagement and relationship building. You are spot on – we need to take the time – if only to smile and give a warm greeting.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Julie

    Well said! Thank you for the reminder.

  • Emily H.

    This is something I think about all the time. As someone who’s worked in many different positions in the service industry, I’ve learned a deep appreciation of those who go out of their way to connect. It doesn’t take much effort to make eye contact and greet someone with a genuine, bright smile. Doing that alone, sets you apart from the majority of the “living dead.” Next time you walk up to a checkout counter, or a drive-through window, take the time to do that. You will feel better for it, and so will the person on the other end.

  • Susie Gill

    This is a great post!  I have a great group of friends and we love to connect with people we meet.  We have been told that we are “overly friendly” ~ how sad that someone actually thinks you can be overly friendly!  Your story is a great reminder that your attitude can change not only your own day, but others’ too!

  • reluctantexpat

    Surely it is as simple as treating people the way you would like to be treated? No matter what side of the counter you are on…..”You get what you give” really does work…

  • Papabear7373

    The perfect words at the time I needed them! Thank you :-)

  • Lv2terp

    What a wonderful reminder! Thank you for this post!! :)

  • TheAndHeDrew

    Susie: how dare you try to be friendly to people! ;-) Yes, sadly that’s the state of the world today. I’m glad that there are some peopl (like you) who still continue to connect. You’re a bubble gum person: http://andhedrew.com/the-bubble-gum-people/

  • TheAndHeDrew

    Great! Glad the timing was right.

  • TheAndHeDrew

    You’re welcome. :-)

  • TheAndHeDrew

    Simple, yes, but not always easy. But I agree: treating people like that is what we should aspire to.

  • TheAndHeDrew

    Agreed! Well said.

  • TheAndHeDrew

    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s tough sometimes, especially if you’re having a difficult day, but it’s worth it, isn’t it?

  • TheAndHeDrew

    What?!? You should be whining and complaining about your job, just like everyone else. Not really: I think it’s awesome that you’re able to keep that position of thankfulness. It’s a much better way to live!

  • TheAndHeDrew

    Agreed. When you give a gift to someone, oftentimes you end up getting more good out of giving than they do from the gift.

  • Juniper

    Wonderful post.  Perfect timing.  Thank you.

  • Mamak808

    I needed this and so did my partner …..thank you!!

  • http://www.lets-get-happy.com/ Dan

    This is so true.
    I used to work the night shift at McDonalds and most of the time it was deadening except when I worked with good coworkers. But every once in while there would be a customer who would treat me like a human being.
    I can’t say it made it all worthwhile, but it usually cheered me up.
    So I try to make it a habit to at least smile nicely and thank cashiers, sales people and pretty much anyone else I interact with during the day.
    Hopefully many people will follow your advice and start connecting.

  • Teresamaria

    I love this post! I humbly say that i always connect with people, every where i go. Often exchanging telephone numbers with people that i have just meet.In one of my bad days i even share with strangers why i am down! It lifts my mood automatically and brings the best out of people, some people also like to connect with us.Just beacause some of us prefer to be “living death” don’t give up on others like me and you…if we don’t try we will never find out who we are.

  • TheAndHeDrew

    Awesome. The world needs more people like you! You’re a bubble gum person. :-) http://andhedrew.com/the-bubble-gum-people/

  • TheAndHeDrew

    Agreed. It seems that a lot of folks think that they can treat people in food service like second-class human beings. It’s too bad.

  • Porvu

    here in finland nobody speaks to other people they don’t know. if you talk to stranger tehy think you are crazy or drunk.

  • Gavrev

    Nice one.. This is going to be hard though.. In all the zombie films I’ve seen I don’t recall any coming back from the brink but I’ll bear it in mind and keep trying hehe *^^*

  • oncearoundjupiter

    Thank you.  This has made me realize that I need to move forward and rethink many things in my life.   I’m very grateful.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/erik.ahlblad Erik H Ahlblad

    I find that no matter how encouraging you can be…some people never want to connect. They look away..egnore you…walk away…even people just met are like that.

  • The walking dead

    I agree…this will be hard especially when you spend years this way. I am going to try my best though.

  • loiuse

    my partner of 25yrs took his life 2012 and now I feel disconnected from my children and family even my pets,im just floating along on this journey of life in pain physically and mentally .

  • BlueBoomPony

    Not everyone is wired the same, you slappy happy little fuck.