Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” Thinking about how fortunate I am to really have that village to help me. Then, last week I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post that caught my eye. Searching For My Village. It was like I was meant to find this post, with my recent train of thought.
But I was horribly disappointed. This website, Scary Mommy, was one that I’d often found I related to in the past, but this time? I just found myself angry. See, I’ve been there. Friendless. Alone. And even worse, depressed.
I moved to Colorado 14 years ago, when I first came out here I knew no one. Being young? I quickly made a few friends with the people in our apartment building. We were all so focused on having fun, that we all got along well. But fast forward a few years? I was moving back to this same town, but none of my friends were here. I had a one year old daughter, a husband who traveled 320 days per year, both of our families were 600 miles away. I had no friends, and no clue how to make them.
This led to a deep, dark depression. I gained 117 pounds in one year. I refused to leave my house, the exception being quick runs to the grocery store. I was miserable. When I finally started realizing I needed to step out of my box and change something, I headed to the local library for story time. It took six months before I even worked up the nerve to talk to anyone. (And no, they didn’t magically come to me. It would have been great if they had! But they didn’t. I had to reach out to them first.)
Here is where my ability to relate to the original article ends. Here is where it annoys me. Because I feel her pain. I was there. I was lonely. But I was never bitter. I always knew I had to just keep trying.
My library friends were a great stepping stone, but I really had to work for those friendships. I joined the local MOPS group. And I have to admit, that after three years? Many of those women are little more than casual acquaintances. (I have forged a few friendships from that group, but again? I had to work. Hard. For those friendships.)
(Friendships are hard work. Especially when you’re busy moms. I think that’s something that they failed to mention in the brochure!)
But after two years of trying and trying? I had a few friends, but no one I really felt I could lean on, and no one I would consider my village for sure. So I did something I never in a zillion years thought I’d do. I went to church. (My “Church Story” is one for another day, and I’m sure I’ll tell it eventually, but just know that a church was the last place I ever thought I would wind up as an adult.)
After just a few weeks of attending church, I was reading a local coupon blog and the girl mentioned something her pastor said. It jumped out at me because my pastor had said the same thing! I left a comment on her blog and we started talking. (Yes, I promise, I’m going somewhere!) After realizing we went to the same church we checked each others “About Me” pages from our blogs and realized we had daughters who were close in age. (3 days apart!) So we met up at a local McDonald’s for coffee and playing.
I was terrified. Remember, I gained 120 pounds. Instead of being the crazy, outgoing party girl I once was? I had become painfully shy and I didn’t really have a new identity, and I was pretty sure I had nothing to offer. But somehow? By some miracle? This new girl had a heart for reaching out to people, and to this day I don’t know if she realizes how much she helped me that cold April day when we met for coffee.
So now I had my library friends. I had my MOPS group, that while it was a support? It wasn’t really my village. I didn’t feel I could call any of those women to talk me off a ledge by any means. But this new girl, Blog-Girl? She kept reaching back to me, pulling me in. She invited me to coffee, a group of girls from the church we’d been attending. Our girls became insta-BFF’s, but our friendship took another year or two to really grow into something amazing.
But again, I had to work hard for that friendship. I had to answer her calls, and reciprocate invitations. Because no matter how much she wants to reach out and help people? Blog-Girl can’t be a friend to someone who brings nothing to the relationship. (And I promise you, if you get an invitation to my crazy messy house? You know I must love you!)
However, one friend does not make a village. (And I most certainly cannot just lean on one person, over and over again.) I signed my kidlet up for soccer and football. We took dance classes. We went to the children’s museum and the zoo. And the park. I struck up conversations with moms EVERYWHERE. I even had business cards for my blog that I would give people in case they wanted to contact me. But? I was still lonely. I still didn’t have my village.
Then, I signed Scribber up for Girl Scouts. I’ll be honest. I’d given up on finding my village. I had a few friends, that were great. I was getting involved in church, although still often felt like I was on the outside looking in. But I was determined to give Scrib the best life she could have – and being homeschooled? I knew she would need some way of making friends. Girl Scouts sounded good, right?
But they told me I had to be a leader if I wanted her in a troop. There were too many girls, not enough leaders. I reluctantly agreed, and the next day they called to tell me they were sending my new co-leader to my house.
The panic ensued. My house is a perpetual mess. (We’re too busy living, thank you!) I wanted to lose 20 pounds before I met people – not that 20 pounds would make a HUGE dent in anything… I wasn’t ready to take on this project. And then my doorbell rang. WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?
I’ll tell you what. 18 months later? I’ve had to work my butt off at this whole Girl Scout thing. (Cookie season is a special kind of torture!) But slowly, overtime? I bonded with Girl-Scout-Lady. She puts up with my insanity, and loves me – extra weight, messy house and all.
So between Blog-Girl, Girl-Scout-Lady and the Library Moms? (And a few extras I’ve added along the way?) I’ve found my village. It’s not what I pictured it to be all those years ago. It’s not glamorous and self-contained in a box. (In fact, I think Library Moms and Blog-Girl would probably have nothing to say to one another!) But, it’s a village. One I worked hard to form, and one I wouldn’t trade for all the Girl Scout Cookies in the world!
I suppose what I’m getting at, after all this time? Is that friendships, especially as adults, are hard work. Your friends don’t always come as you’d pictured them, and sometimes you find them in odd places. Sometimes, the places you thought were a no-brainer for forming friendships don’t work out that well at all. And, most certainly? You will have to put yourself out there, WAY OUTSIDE of your comfort zone. But don’t give up. Your village is out there, probably somewhere you’d least expect it.