Like many people today, Erin Callan, the former CFO of Lehman Brothers, slowly slipped into a life where her job was #1, ahead of every relationship in her life. To have sufficient energy to work an exhausting schedule throughout the week, she spent weekends sleeping. Eventually she reached a point where what she did was who she was. When she left her job around the time of Lehman’s demise, she was devastated. As Jason Pankau, my friend and business partner says, “when you are what you do, when you don’t, you aren’t.” Recently Ms. Callan told her story in a very thoughtful essay that appeared in The New York Times. Be sure to check it out at “Is There Life After Work?”
The other night my wife and I watched the DVD extended-cut version of the movie Margaret. The movie’s story is about stress, relational disconnection and loneliness in the lives of a teenage girl and her mother, an Off-Broadway actress. Anna Paquin gives a tour-de-force performance as the teen traumatized after she witnesses a bus hit a pedestrian after running a red light and the woman dies in her arms. She seeks comfort from her divorced parents with little success (her father lives in California, while her mother is pre-occupied with the opening of a new show). Desperate for connection to help soothe her pain, Ms. Paquin’s character begins to look for connection in all the wrong places including alcohol, drugs and having sex with a male acquaintance who already has a girlfriend and one of her high school teachers (played by Matt Damon). I don’t want to be a spoiler so let me encourage you to rent the DVD.
Today we live in an age where relationships are devalued and tasks that increase wealth and status rule supreme. The problem with this is that human beings are hardwired to connect. Insufficient connection leads to feelings of anxiety, emptiness and depression, and an unsustainable life. We thrive only when our lives include meaningful relationships. Ms. Callan’s essay and the movie Margaret provide vivid reminders of that, so to is the recent sad news that in America, deaths from suicide now exceed deaths from motor-vehicle accidents (note that the Centers for Disease Control has found that promoting connection in a community reduces the risk of suicide).
Are you investing sufficient time in developing and nurturing the meaningful relationships in your life?