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I first met Jocelyn Ring as part of the original 100 Connections. She was a fascinating person who existed within the confines of social media, advocating for these ideas of truth and honesty at the core of finding identity that fascinated me. When you have the opportunity to reach out to anyone you can personally meet with, you try to meet as many people as possible, and I was lucky enough that Jocelyn agreed.

In meeting Jocelyn, I met a woman with an incredible mind. More than just an intellect, the way she thinks and pursues knowledge, the mutual obsession and reverence she holds for learning is phenomenal. From finance to the parasympathetic systems of prey animals, a conversation with her is a journey always worth the taking.

Even now I don’t think how much I appreciated the esteem I hold for her, or how grateful I am for her presence in my life, even in the lingering moments when it’s just a digital voice.

As we wrapped the first 100, we held a picnic in Hampton Park. Jocelyn came with her husband and Ollie. In our first encounter, Ollie was the kind of dog you dream of as a child. Warm and affectionate, a great judge of character, and a wonderful friend. In my mind’s eye I can still see him by Jocelyn at that picnic, still see him meeting other people, and seeing the smiles he brought to their faces.

Recently Ollie passed on.

It was a painful thing to first see, because it reminds me that my own canine companion, Maggie the Wondermutt, is very old and will also pass on one day. Ollie has been with Jocelyn for as many years as Maggie has been with me. He had bonded with her in a way you can’t appreciate unless you’ve shared a similar bond. His loss is something I know she felt deeply, a strongly rooted grief you have no choice but to pass through in its entirety.

Grief is an unusual emotion. Not because of its nature, but because of how it comes into our lives. Jocelyn talks about grieving, about feeling that grief in its natural cycle, but also about the grieving the world is engaged in now. The world will never be the same. For some this is the breaking of the dream, the reminder that you, and your life, are not immune. For others it’s a new way of life, and the reminder that, even if the permanent changes are small, something like this pandemic has changed the way they live.

And yet there is no cheating grief, no shortcut through grieving. You just have to walk the path.

Though you can always take a break from your walk with a friend. In our own ways, Jocelyn and I both take that time, though the grief for both of us has entered the late stages. Those moments where time and memory do their dance, painting the image of what we miss into our minds and moving ever onward. The world, after all, moves ever onward.

We laugh and we talk. It’s what friends do. We share our stories and, for a moment, forestall our individual grief in the presence of another. The screen in front of me, the person’s image cast as digital magic into my home, is a reminder that connection is not about a hug or a handshake, not about physical presence, but instead a presence of mind and being. For a moment the world is more sane, my friend Jocelyn is funny, and things are as right as they can ever be in a world moving ever onward.

After we end our time together, I think back to our first meeting at a picnic table under the watchful eyes of horses. We grow up loving predators. Lions, tigers, sharks are animals of aggressive action. They move quickly and act on instinct. It’s easy to see the appeal. Why not emulate the animal at the top of the food chain? We carry these concepts into all aspects of our lives too, from dating to business, for better or worse. But on that day my friend showed me the wisdom of horses.

The moment where they formed a sort of protective perimeter around us ranks in my top 10 most impactful life moments. They had accepted us, our connection and our meeting, within the herd and sought to preserve and protect it. It’s an amazing magic in the parasympathetic system of a horse, I can testify to this from experience. Perhaps it’s time we thought more about others, instead of viewing ourselves through the lens of the lone predator. Maybe we need to remember that all animals become prey at some point, even human beings.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that we all need a Jocelyn, someone so dedicated to trust and truth that they see us for who we truly are. Now more than ever.

Social distance and the isolation that accompanies it can be hard for many, especially when you combine it with the stress of our current situation. Please, reach out and connect with people. Share your stories and your time. Use the technology available to stay close to people.

If you want to be a part of this project and share some time and stories with others, or if you just need to connect with someone, reach out to me here.

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