By Georgina Portas
I’ve always loved researching the etymology of words. The root of metamorphosis is particularly one of my favorites: meta comes from the Greek word that means “beyond” or “change”, and morph comes from the word meaning “shape” or “form.” In short, to go beyond the shape.
I recently looked for the etymology of the word begin and I was amused. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it comes from the Old English word beginnan, which means to attempt, undertake, and even more, it states: From late 12c. as “originate, be the originator of;” from c. 1200 as “take the first step in, start to deal with.” Intransitive sense “come into existence” is from mid-13c.
As I searched for the meaning of this word, I couldn’t help but connect it to this year. This year has been dissimilarly different. Remarkably, the word beginning is a perfect fit for the biggest event that happened to me in 2020: the arrival of my first niece. A strong beautiful wide-eyed baby girl who was born at seven months and still managed to come out with all the strength and will in the world. To say the least, her existence has filled my family and me with hope, joy and smiles. It’s experiences like these, witnessing the beginning of a new life, that renew my faith and make me feel more aware of how precious and wonderful life is.
This got me thinking that right now we are collectively beginning something too. In a way, we are starting to enter a new era — and no, I don’t mean the “new normal.” I think people are finding new ways not only of working out or working from home, socializing or doing business, but discovering something deeper and more meaningful. I think we are finding new ways of connecting with each other.
Perhaps it’s the distance because of the pandemic that is making our hearts grow fonder; or maybe it’s just making our minds more present. This personal experience and journey throughout the confinement has led me to pay more attention to my closest relationships, even if it’s just being more mindful of who they are, their needs and interests. Chatting with them through my phone I, ironically, am there even more.
I am beginning to connect with others profoundly, learning how to collaborate with them with different approaches and wanting to help them out in any way I can — even if it’s just listening to them and giving minor advice and with this realization, I’ve also found that I value them in a new way now. I try to understand them more and be more empathic and compassionate; to really see them and listen.
Starting to feel this new way of connecting with people originated in a sense with a reconnection with myself. When I accepted that I want to enjoy life as it is right now, as best as possible, even if I can’t do many of the things we all wish we could do — like going to the movies, to weddings or traveling. Little moments now have become the fuel that fills me with energy and motivation. Little moments that include these connections with people, these exchanges that remind me how days are meant to be savored, in small and large doses.
A perfect example is my new-found friend named Beti. I work with her, she’s this lovely young woman from Cordoba, Argentina. I’ve known her only for about a month and a half and of course, have never met her in person. Nevertheless, despite being on different time schedules and living in different countries, a genuine friendship has emerged. It was through my relationship with her that I noticed one of my newest pleasures: the brief moments when we take a small break from work and talk about our personal lives. Conversations in which she speaks about her father’s difficult past growing up, how her mom passed away, how she’s currently raising two girls and her role as a mother; all these things have led me to feel like I really know her.
All these stories have been an opportunity to imagine what her life is like all through her words. I’ve had a chance to live her stories through her, through this exchange and evocation of her personal history. I’ve realized that these experiences are so enriching to me that it feels as if my soul were enjoying a nice glass of wine. I end up satisfied, warm, filled with life, calmed and relaxed while also being inspired and amazed.
These little moments have also emerged in the relationship with my husband. Casual midnight conversations or midafternoon thoughts, where we can share an unexpected spontaneous pleasurable connection have the same wine-like effect in my soul.
Honestly, I feel every relationship I have has changed inevitably during this year. They have evolved and in many ways, adapted in the best way possible. Another example: visits to my parents’ house have transformed into relaxing rituals such as taking the dog out for a walk together with my mom while talking, or having a cup of tea on the garden swing while watching the sunset and listening to her talk about her childhood memories. Even with my brother, sister and with my friends. Now when I ask how they are, it’s not just a casual question, it’s filled with genuine interest, attention and intention. I’m asking because I want to know how they are internally and emotionally.
The conversation has changed and simultaneously it has steered into simple mundane pleasures. When it takes the shape of talking to someone deeply, I find that one is enriched by being more present, more aware and more connected to the other. I’ve also noticed that these pleasures are always within reach, always accessible; I just have to be mindful and pay attention when they manifest, take them in, savor them and be thankful I get to experience people and life through them. I just have to, as the etymology of the word begin refers to, dare to undertake the moment, act on it, originate it and arise within it. I have to dive in completely with all my attention and take that first step with my awareness and enjoyment.
All great connections with other human beings require that first step, either by responding and being open to the other person or by initiating an exchange. The latin root of the word connect means to ‘join together’ also, to ‘tie or bind’ and that’s exactly what nurtures our soul, to share a meaningful experience with another person, to be united by it, even, for example, if it’s just a conversation. In regards to this, I think Peter Senge was right when he said “All great things have small beginnings.”