Tonight 800 words seem impossible. I know that I am avoiding further writing because I’ve stumbled on something uncomfortable. I’m not ready to explore the questions, or I’m afraid to explore them. So, I’ll just write.
One of the topics suggested by posts about this challenge was community. This writing challenge has brought together hundreds of people who wish to find a voice and support each other. I appreciate the comments and contacts that I have received already and I am encouraged to go on writing and moving. Tonight, though, I want to speak of another community that has become so important to me.
For the last fifteen years of our marriage, because of career choices, my husband and I have lived in locations that require overnight visits from family. Calls for assistance have been answered with generous extended visits from grandparents on many occasions, but we are not lucky enough to live close enough for spur of the moment babysitters or Sunday dinners. We have struggled to find a “village” in which to raise our children.
I have written briefly about the decision we have made to homeschool our children. With the typical questions about socialization, one might believe that homeschooling would be the antithesis of community. But, this decision had finally allowed us to find that “village” we so desire and need.
I am not the type of person who cultivates acquaintances. I genuinely like people, but have not felt the need to be with others or accepted by others to feel happy. I am an introvert at heart and draw energy from time alone. I have held miserable jobs where I was expected to mingle with peers in social situations and I have experienced panic attacks in those social situations. I have spent years in a town without going out with anyone but my husband. For most of my adult life, I didn’t realize that a good friend might be something to celebrate. I know I never thought that being a part of a group of women could bring me such joy. Never once did I stop to think that maybe this was something I might actually need. This thing that has happened was accidental, or serendipitous, and it has changed my outlook on friendship.
There is no plot to this story; no real conflict or climax. Simply stated, my kids needed a social group to share activities with when we took them out of school. We were invited to join in a scavenger hunt and were thought of as members of the group from that very moment. The emotional part for me at first was the acceptance that my kids felt from the kids and the other parents. The surprising part was that I couldn’t shake the feeling that this group would somehow be important to me personally; important to my own well-being and to the creation of my own “village.”
When I speak of this group I really speak of individual, beautiful, loving, diverse women who came together as a means to an end (our children) and who stay together out of love, respect, and genuine interest in each other. Some of us come and go as our lives ebb and flow, but all are accepted back into the fold when we return. I feel a need to hear these women, to watch their children grow, to sit beside them in silence when they cry, and to laugh raucously when they rejoice. This I have never felt for any of my peers except my sisters. I have never felt blessed to be responsible for friendship before. I have never felt so completely vulnerable, or so completely supported by friends before.
I wish I could say thank you, but I do not expect that of them. I expect loyalty and honesty. I expect them to love my children and to respect my right to hold political and religious beliefs different than their own. I expect them to have my back and to have my kids’ backs. I expect them to be in my life somehow when I am old, even if as a fond memory. I expect a great deal from them, but I do so because I expect more than this of myself. I feel all of these things from them, and more.
I know that friendships come and go. I know that simple and complex things can drive a wedge between people; wedges that may stick forever. I know that this may happen someday, but really there is no someday…no tomorrow. There is only today…now. So for now, I am thankful for what I have found. I am grateful for this moment even if it all ends in the next. My belief in this connection has been established and I hope to have the mindfulness, the presence, to be ready for this to happen with others.