Playing in the sand with some of our peeps.
I’ve read (and taught) the research on “loose ties” and I understand that all sorts of fabulous mental health and wellness outcomes are associated with the size of your social network. I get it in that it makes sense and seems like it should be lots of fun, but I’ve never gotten it on a gut level. I’ve always considered it to be one of those things that’s good for other people. Although I’m quite pleasant in a neighborly smile and wave kind of way, I’ve very rarely been enthusiastic about the idea of having more friends. Two is really my limit and I function pretty well with one. This isn’t because I’m opposed to the idea of other people, it’s more because I’m totally into it. I’m so enamored with my people that it’s hard to imagine maintaining that level of connection with anything like a network. Daunting really.
Then my life changed. I left my career and began staying home with very young children. It took me quite a long time to realize it, but without my long accustomed network(?) of colleagues and administrative staff and students and random people at the gym, I was lonely. I hadn’t realized that all of that just being friendly added up to something. That it was not just the being a decent human being thing, but also something that offered real connection.
As I became more involved with my Mom group the loneliness began to ease and what has replaced it is something I would never have expected. It’s not just that vague connectedness that came from having a friendly kind of engagement with the world, it’s something else all together. I think it’s what all those social scientists have been going on about. It’s a network. A sense of having people. Maybe even a kind of village.
Yogi and I went to our first gathering with these folks when he was about 8 months old, so it’s been a little over 2 years now. In that time I’ve seen many of these people almost every week. That’s a lot of time together. These women may not be my soul mates, but they are important to me just the same. These are not the kind of intense emotional connections that I’ve previously understood to be real friendships, but I’m understanding (slowly) that these women are my friends. I care about them and I care about their children. I trust them with small intimacies and know for sure that when I’m in need, any number of them will be right there.
It’s really the needing that’s created this shift. I need these women in a way that I’ve never needed anyone before. Before having children I managed my own self just fine thank.you.very.much. I looked towards friendships for interesting conversation and shared understanding and also for entertainment (I do enjoy a quick wit). Given the few spaces available in my dance card, I found my people early and just hung on. And then I moved and a few years later moved again. And before we had gotten our feet under us in our new town, we had Yogi and then the Monk. So, things changed. I changed.
These days I need things like interest in yet another conversation about how everyone is sleeping and new ideas for what the hell you can feed a toddler that is not a goldfish. I need someone who notices when I’ve actually brushed my hair and is thoughtful enough to mention it. I need someone to invite us over to their house because they remember my wife is on call and understand that I am a handful of steps from the deep end. I need that look that says “I totally get it” when my kid loses his sh#t at the park again upon realizing his shovels are not on the stroller.
What I need is kindness and I’m very grateful to say that I get it. More of it then I ever expected really. This awareness is yet another one of the fabulous side effects of motherhood. Before these kids I wasn’t open or vulnerable enough to realize that kindness is everywhere. It’s all around really. It doesn’t have a “witty conversationalist” criteria or even a “has a thing in common with me” requirement. It comes from so many directions and I’m over the moon to finally understand that.