You might be surprised.
Do you remember the feeling of absurd joy over securing a piece of Bazooka bubble gum when you were a kid?
I think one piece cost a few pennies back in the day.
Yes, the same day I walked barefoot to school, in the snow, uphill. It’s a Boomer thing.
This was the bright pink gum that came wrapped in thin paper with a comic strip for your personal enjoyment. There were two distinctive parts, but you shoved both pieces in your mouth at once because you were a kid.
My mom used to say, “you look like a cow chewing its cud with that wad of gum in your mouth.” It was important to my mom that I looked and behaved like a lady at all times, so of course, I spent most of my time disheveled and running wild. I was such a rebel.
My excuse today is less viable. It has to do with jugs of water and Jesus. Enough said.
Eventually, I resorted to chewing it at night under the cover of darkness in my room. I don’t remember falling asleep one night with a wade of it in my mouth (the gum people, try and stay with me). Normally I would stick it on the bedpost, but I must have forgotten and woke up with a sticky glob enmeshed in the nap of my hair.
Today, bubble gum reminds me of comic strips, sticky connections, and blowing bubbles which, according to Tim Richardson, immediately sets us apart from the animal kingdom.
Truth be told, comic strips are the only reason I can read and write today. God bless my mom for never giving up on my disdain for reading before realizing I had a passion for comic strips. Short sentences, the pictures told the story, and there were a lot of cool characters who chewed gum!
Anyway, mom bought me a comic book every time she went to the grocery store. So I sort of forgave her for the cow comment and gum ending up in my hair.
Now, on to sticky connections, this is a category all by itself.
Brene Brown writes, “Across my research, I define sticky connection (Brene failed to add the sticky part, I should write her a note, she’s totally slipping) as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
Like my mom did with the comic book thing, I felt seen, heard, and valued. Clearly a sticky connection.
I’ve always been interested in the idea of connection. I suppose because we’ve all experienced disconnection, especially as kids, which leads to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and a sense of powerlessness. I remember when no one would walk home with me from school or when the cool kids wouldn’t let me play Lost in Space with them on the playground.
Speaking of torture, my husband just walked across the room and said, “my boat is covered in bird shit,” before I finished my first cup of coffee, mind you.
I respond, “That’s why you have a cover, honey. Oh, and while you’re up, could you refill my cup?” I lift my empty mug in the air for emphasis.
He grumbles to himself, but it’s as if he did not register my observation or my request because he grabs some rags from the laundry room and heads down to the dock without looking back. I think he was still grumbling?
But it’s also an experience of adults (we’re talking about sticky connections, I don’t know why this is so hard for you), primarily when used as a power play in friendships, relationships, and marriages.
Brown says people with solid connections are happier, healthier, and better able to cope with the stresses of everyday life. And most likely to get their coffee refilled upon request. Just sayin’.
Brene goes on to say sticky disconnection is frequently a product of unequal power structures where chronic sticky disconnection and disempowerment can arise. Chronic being the key word here. Work environments come to mind, along with controlling individuals who hope to “hegemonize” or dominate a partner’s behavior with negative reinforcements.
The thing that Brown points out is these feelings of sticky disconnection actually share the same neural pathways with feelings of physical pain.
It hurts because it actually hurts.
And even worse, according to Trisha Raque-Bogdan, someone who is exposed to this sort of continual abuse will eventually discount their need for others. They’ll learn that it is safer to keep their feeling and thoughts to themselves rather than share them in their relationships.
I think most of us have done this. I have, and it’s not fun.
This is how it goes, I say/do something Larry doesn’t like, Larry says/does something I don’t like, I get mad, he gets mad. We withhold our sticky connection (see what I did there). It’s a form of silent torture, unresponsiveness, and physical withholding. It never works.
And now you don’t need to read Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown because I just gave you the cliff notes. There are a few other things in the book, even some comic strips (a total bonus) and a nifty notes section for easy referral to topics. Oh, go ahead and get one, she could use the dough, and the poor girl obviously needs some Bazooka!
The thing is, our individuality is required if we want to belong and connect with others. It’s when we try and fit in, look perfect (hello mom), or any behavior that masks our true self that leads to sticky disconnection and avoidance by others.
Okay, let’s blow this up, so to speak.
Bazooka has three distinct attributes, according to Brett Ermilio: flavor, repetition, and cheap entertainment.
But Travis Bradberry really does his research, like Brene, and he says chewing gum actually lowers your cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress. But chewing gum doesn’t just reduce stress; it also makes you more alert and improves your performance in memory-oriented tasks. It does so by increasing the blood flow to your brain and alerting your senses.
I think Larry needs some gum?
He comes back into the house acting as if he did not ignore my request for coffee and says all sweetly, “I need gas. You want to go with me?”
I say, “no,” and return to my post (which is not going well) and my empty cup.
“Really, you’re not going to go with me? Then I have to hold the boat and pump the gas at the same time?”
“Hey, I get my own coffee.” I shrug.
He looks at me like my mother did when I was chewing a wad of gum. I can see he’s just about to go into one of those sticky disconnections because he’s running a hand through his unruly hair, and his eyes are bulging like when I talk about bras and menopause.
I relent. “I’ll go if you refill my coffee.”
He looks relieved, grabs my cup, and returns with a full cup.
I can’t resist, it’s a character flaw of mine, but I need material for the blog. I say, “Honey, it’s not really warm.” Pointing innocently to the mug of coffee.
He looks incredulous. His hand is covering his mouth, so I might be misreading his expression, but it appears as if he’s choking on something.
His masculine resistance?
I add with undue cavil, “And it’s really hot in the house.” I fan myself with my hand for clarity.
Now he’s really confused. Seriously, he’s standing there with his hands on his hips and staring at me as if I’ve grown horns.
I smile sweetly.
He finally says, “oh, I get it.” I have no idea what he got?
But he walks over to the thermostat and turns on the air conditioner, and then he grabs my cup (I detect a smile), warms the coffee in the microwave, and returns it to my side table.
I might leave an entire pack of Bazooka under his pillow tonight.
I’m Living in the Gap, chewing it up, care to join me in the comments?
Writing a book is like sliding down a rainbow! Marketing it is like trudging through a field of chewed bubble gum on a hot, sticky day. ~ Bette Davis