I haven't always been this cool.
I mean, see how cool I am now?
|To be fair, I was 36 weeks pregnant with twins and my daughter picked out my outfit. (The bent glasses are also her doing.)|
Yeah, I wasn't born this way. In fact, you might be surprised to know that I used to be rather uncool. Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know this because you've seen awkward pictures of me and you've read some of my old journal entries.
Now that you new readers have gotten caught up, you're probably not surprised that there have been several seasons in my life when I had very few friends...or none at all. In fact, there have been times in my life when I was desperately lonely and isolated.
Fifth grade...the vast majority of the female students in my class were certifiable mean girls, including me. That, of course, led to a clique system that operated like a revolving door, with me oftentimes stuck out in the rain. I remember spending entire recess periods chasing two or three girls around the playground, begging them to just talk to me, while they ran away laughing.
Tenth grade...I moved from my tiny private school to a large public school with only one friend whom I had zero classes with. I lived in fear that she would miss school because that would leave me at a table all alone for lunch.
Eleventh grade...I went to prom alone with a hairstyle that had good intentions but fell quite short of the mark. I think I had one dance with a friend's date...and I was so nervous I nearly puked.
Freshman year of college...I was desperate to get out of high school, so I skipped my senior year and went straight to college. They didn't have room for me in the dorms til second semester, so by the time I moved in, all of the girls on my floor were quite bonded, and I was the high schooler who was replacing a much-loved girl who transferred to a different school. I slept til noon every day and went home every weekend.
Twenty-four years old...We lost our first baby and were neck-deep in infertility. I built a moat around myself and my grief that resulted in the loss of some friendships and left many others on an extended hiatus. Andrew worked nights and we were both in grad school, so I never saw him. I spent my free time with my dog or my parents.
I know loneliness. I know isolation. I know the feeling of having something crazy good or ugly bad happen and having no one to call except your mom. And some of you...some of us...don't even have that. And we are dying inside because the stuff of motherhood...and if not motherhood, the stuff of life...is even harder than we expected. And we weren't fools going into this, so that's saying a lot.
Some of us are reading this post in a closet.
Literally or figuratively, we are hunkered down in a small, cluttered space that muffles the noise, the mess, the chaos and the uncertainty until we're ready to check our mascara, practice a smile and head back out into a world where we're supposed to be in charge but we have no idea what we're doing.
Some of us aren't sure how much longer we can take it.
The insane exhaustion.
The constantly sick kids.
The disengaged husband.
The extended family drama.
The fears that feel larger than life.
The defiant child.
The busyness that won't quit.
The panic associated with money.
The dreams we've put on hold.
And all the other stuff.
So we go to the closet. We buck up or hunker down and just deal with it. Alone.
We have to stop doing that.
I had a rough day a few weeks ago. Like, super rough. I felt like an awful mom and was starting to realize that all of my efforts to just be better were failing big time. So after I put the kids to bed, I sent a text to a core group of women, laying my heart out there and giving real, humbling examples of how I was doing. I just went back and reread the text because I was going to copy and paste it into this post, but I can't because it's too raw to put out there on the internet, even for me.
I almost didn't send it. I didn't want to bother my friends who I knew were all dealing with stuff of their own. I didn't want them to think poorly of me. I didn't want them to pity me. But I sent it anyways.
And you know what happened?
Not even a half hour later, my doorbell rang. And there stood another only-by-His-grace mom, armed with my favorite coffee, three kinds of candy and a heartfelt, handwritten note. She had read my text and immediately come to my aid. I half hugged her, half collapsed into her arms. And for the next couple hours, we sat in my living room and talked. Even laughed.
I almost didn't send that text. I almost didn't reach out. But look what I would have missed if I had kept to myself.
That emergency visit from my dear friend wasn't even the extent of it. The next morning, I woke up to several texts and emails, sharing genuine encouragement and telling of prayers they prayed for me through tears. Another friend followed up a couple weeks later with a pan of homemade caramel rolls. Clearly, these women know me well.
But it's still hard to reach out. It's hard to take the time, swallow our pride, get vulnerable and ask for something...whether that something is a prayer or advice or childcare for the afternoon. It's just hard.
We don't want to appear too needy. But on the other hand, we don't want to appear too stable because then the truly needy people might sniff us out and rely on us too much. We want to be real...but not so real that we open ourselves up to judgment. We want to share our hearts, but if we do that, they could hurt us. And I'm not sure if you can identify with this, but when I reach out and try to build deep relationships with other women, I get nervous. I don't like drama. So I send a text. And when I don't hear back, I send a million clarifying texts because I obviously offended her somehow. I wait and wait for a reply (apparently forgetting that it takes me about two years to respond to texts). Finally she responds (ten minutes later) and all is well.
I used to be lonely. And in some ways, that was easier. But in the most important ways, it was hard. So I prayed for friends. And I sought them out. I committed to sticking it out even when it got tough and life left only a smidge of room for those relationships.
So now I sometimes look around and marvel...seriously, MARVEL...at the priceless relationships that God has put in my life. There's my accountability group...ladies who lately have seemed to sneak into every single post I've written because their words are bursting with truth and grace. There are my college friends...we're ten years deep in these relationships and I've never loved them more. One family at a time, we seem to be congregating in a certain part of the cities, and those who aren't here yet? We're holding them a spot. I have my small group girls...past and present, each of them are beyond precious to me. And my work friends...women who share a passion and a vocation with me whom I can talk shop and life with and always walk away from feeling like my soul's been to yoga in the mountains. The online blogging community...women whose voices I've never heard out loud but I can still hear their hearts speaking to me throughout my day, encouraging me and reminding me what truly matters. And then there's the random smattering of women around the country, some of whom I've known forever and some who've just recently crossed my path. We know each other's hearts and care about one another's stories.
Reaching out is hard and scary. Am I the only one that feels this way? But still does it? Because I don't know how else to survive this:
And God knows that.
So He has lavished me with gift upon gift upon gift...angels dressed in yoga pants and infinity scarves, armed with gentleness, generosity, wisdom and Truth. Rolling up their sleeves and doing the work of love.
You know that woman in your spinning class...your MOPS group...your neighborhood...your newsfeed...your clinic waiting room...your study group?
She needs you just as much as you need her.