We all desire human connection. We yearn to be known. We need support and sometimes we just need a glass of wine with other women who laugh at the same things we do. But we often let distractions be an obstacle. Set a goal of embracing at least one way to connect and build your community.
1. Say Yes!
My husband is from South Carolina, land of sweet tea and a thousand “Bless your hearts”. Being from Vermont, the cultural gap feels vast for me at times. Something I’d picked up from some admittedly very sweet, sincere women was that when at a gathering or running into someone you know at the grocery store it’s custom to say, “We need to get together sometime!” and they respond enthusiastically, “Yes, definitely!” And then walk away until next time when you have the exact same interchange. I don’t doubt the sentiment, but there isn’t intention of follow through. It’s just something you say. Well, I caught myself starting to do this. I felt so fake. After judging them for being fake! I took action by only saying this if it was immediately followed by suggesting a day to get together. So, next time you run into your neighbor and she says, “Let’s get coffee sometime!”, grab your calendar and make a plan. Your words mean more in all contexts when there is action to back them up. Take action and embrace the opportunities to connect.
2. Join a Community Group
Shared interests foster community. There are plenty of options available to suit your interests and personality, from Bible studies to fitness clubs to “Mommy and Me” classes. Many of these have the added bonus of childcare. Receive encouragement, find inspiration or revisit a hobby that you’ve put on the back burner. Connecting with others is self-care. And self-care is another way that we care for our kids and significant others. Relationships can be medicine for a weary, busy life.
3. Skip the Small Talk
This takes little effort in the way of planning, but a lot of effort in pushing past the status quo of last night’s Bachelor episode or the 50th story about the cute, or infuriating, thing your kid did yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, we all need mindless chatter that livens the mood and lets us converse like adults for a moment. But once you get past the small talk, push through. What’s been difficult lately in parenting/marriage/life? What have been the most encouraging moments? Bring up *gasp* politics or religion. Go crazy out there seeking real connection about real things. Present yourself disarmed; paving the way with something you personally feel insecure about, something you felt proud of or something that’s been weighing heavily, but you feel shame in talking about. All this helps push aside competition and comparison and lets loose the freedom to be two women, honestly engaging and being themselves in their own skin. Isn’t that what we’re all searching for anyway? Gift yourself with this, while gifting your friend as well.