My 10-year-old son bounds out of the van as I drop him off at school. I see another little guy, back pack knocking against his body, as he spies my boy and runs to catch up to him. Their faces burst into smiles when they meet up; sincere grins that show trust and acceptance in and of each other. Secure, liking both what they see in front of them as well as what is reflected back: pure joy in knowing each other.
It's no small thing to feel accepted, valued,
in another's eyes.
If we're fortunate, we have people in our lives that help us remember who we are
and that we are not alone in our days here: friends, partners, co-workers,
exercise buddies, book clubbers. I wrote a post earlier this month with some suggestions on where to begin looking for companions along this road of life.
There are books written, an especially helpful one by Renee Trudeau, on the value and therapeutic benefits of having
people who understand us in our lives. What Trudeau calls a personal support
system. Support, because they hold us up, like strong beams against a howling wind. Having friends is natural and effortless when we are young, but
for me, it takes much work in this later part of my life.
What is it about relationships at this phase of our life? Busy? Yes. Excuses? They don't feel like excuses. We have important, pressing, urgent, time sensitive responsibilities to others now. There are mouths to feed and little people to keep warm and dry.
Much too quickly, we find ourselves only doing, and not maintaining.
It's not easy, and it takes effort and planning, sometimes just acting on the impulse to reach out -- to make time for friends and personal contacts -- but it's worth every bit of work. Life is better with someone there to give a pat on the back or send a kind word. Knowing there are minds and hearts out there, caring about you, sending you love. The
personal support system that friendships create is something that reminds us that we have a place to turn to.
Friendships can be re-ignited, or an initial spark can be lit, in one of many ways.
Here is what I have found to be successful in maintaining, building, and
connecting with people I really, really like, and need:
Aquick voice mail
to say you miss someone, a short email saying you’d
like to catch up, or a simple hand written note inviting them
for coffee. It is an action set into motion that will start the wheels
spinning in the right direction.
One of the challenges of a busy life is to carve out time to
reach out. Finding time. Making the time, even if you never have it. We
need to tend to our relationships with others to keep this friendship alive and
healthy. Making staying in touch a scheduled priority; as in, every
Wednesday morning, scheduling a walk with a friend, then sticking to it. Make the time, rather than waiting for the time to appear.
A Quick Conversation Still Works
With the internet, emailing, voice mail, twitter, Facebook, there
really is no reason we cannot have a quick two minute check in, to ask how they are, retell a funny story, update someone on
our life, wish them a good day. It can be done. And we can do it on
our own timetable. It's communication that keeps a friendship alive.
Keep It Simple
If we wait for the right time, the right words, the right event, we
can end up waiting for a time that never comes. We need to grab, snatch,
make, the few minutes it takes to feel connected. It can be so simple and doesn't need to be a half hour phone call -- five minutes will do -- a quick gesture or words saying, “Hello, I miss you, and I’m so
glad you are in my life.” This is how you let someone know they are
important to you.
Small accommodations with a huge pay off. These daily, mini gestures on my part have made an
amazing difference to me and to my presence in my friends' lives.
It’s the power of a deliberate effort that brings its reward. And the
reward of feeling connected and bonded just from a few minutes of my
time on a daily basis far outweighs the few minutes I am able to give
here and there. We're social creatures, craving that presence of another.
Just one soft touch down in someone's life can keep that person in your life.
My son sees his friends every day. They are vested in each other through laughter and shared lunch times. No wonder their smiles light up as big as the sun when they see each other again the next day. Smiles as telling as mine when I see my friends; the ones I sit down for at 11 p.m. at night to send them an email -- the people I'm so much happier with, than without.
Have you ever watched an episode of TLC's series, with the pretty music and the soothing woman's voice that announces the beginning of a show called, A Birth Story? Each week, they highlight a story, told through eyes gleaming with joyful tears, of how someone's baby came into this world. It sounds so great.
I've got a story too, on how my first born arrived on what felt like an Olympic luge. And I'm stoked to tell you that it's been nominated for Babble's Best of Blogs series.
If you've got the stomach for it, I invite you to click over toBabble, and read "A Birth Story -- For the Rest of Us," aka Oh, Boy, I Really Got Myself Into a Jam This Time.
No voting required.
Thank you, Babble!
* * *
*Babble's Best of Blogs Campaign.
This is a brand-new initiative to honor and celebrate the incredible
voices in the blogging community. Each month, Babble will be
selecting a number of nominated blog posts to be included in ebooks on
breastfeeding, potty training, and many more subjects that run the gamut
of parenting topics.
"I think I'm making a new friend at work. For the love of god, BE COOL PEOPLE. let's not f**k this up."
* * *
Can you please tell me what is not too much when meeting a new friend? I mean I think it's a new friend, I hope so! I want her to be but don't want to scare her away like what happened with the last new temp we had in our department. That one had to leave suddenly after I made her a lunch and brought it to work for her the second day she was here. I don't know what happened, I mean, I rationalized as long as I was packing one for myself, right?
I Think This Is The One!
Hold on hold on. You what? No no no no NO. Dear desperate reader, you cannot and will not make a lunch for a total stranger again. I know, in your mind she's not a total stranger because you spent all thirteen hours away from her after work imagining her plugged into your lonely life -- but I assure you -- she is a stranger. She knows it. Your work department knows it. You need to know it. No More Lunch Making. You asked about the "what is too much." Extra Lunch I Made For You is the too much. Slow down, Nelly. Share some more face time. Like a dog senses fear, total strangers (which is what this new co-worker is) sense instability. And that scares the crap out of people.
Okay. I won't make lunch again. I'll just offer to buy. But can you give me some examples of what would be considered an appropriately safe gift for this new friend I'm going to have? I want to spend time with her and see her regularly.
Still Convinced She's The One!
No gift. No gift would be considered appropriately safe when you have just met someone. Dear woman, the best gift for the moment is the gift of self control you must present to yourself. You like her, I get that. You can let her know this with a smile, a chuckle at her jokes, perhaps asking her to join you for lunch or drinks after work. In this case, for the safety of everyone involved and my issues with hating the weight of responsibility, limit yourself to group outings only.
I think your answer means I have to take back the charm bracelet I bought her. With the broken heart halves "best friends forever." I don't want to take it back, and she already saw me wearing my half, "Be-- Frie--."
Not Giving Up
Think of a new signature, because NGU? You have to. If the poor target in question has spied this bangle ringing your wrist out of the corner of her eye and you now present the other half to her? Don't be surprised if she becomes the next "like that one girl that was almost my friend that I scared away again," Part II. Bracelet: take it back.
I think I found a newer new friend I'm going to have. Now that I think about it, that new co-worker is nowhere near as special as this new could be friend. By the way, did you know that your address is hard to find? I wanted to send you this necklace I saw that would be perfect for us to wear when we're together, but your publisher was really hedgy when I called and asked for details on how to find you, but that's okay because I think I can figure out where your office is. Pretty sure. Either way, I'll meet you in your lobby in front of the magazine kiosk, around 1ish. I'll bring lunch. I mean, it'd be silly not to, right? As long as I'm packing one for myself...
Would you be surprised to learn that President's Day is 1.) always written with an apostrophe and 2.) a day set aside not only to commemorate Washington's birthday, but also to acknowledge past U.S. Presidents?
As in aaaaaaaaaaaall the presidents?
I've got a few favorite past Heads of State, and I know perhaps a tad too much about this one, because among my many attributes--besides being a still in the closet secret lover of blue grass music--I am also a history geek.
So, after you take a few minutes to yourself to snicker about that little fact, click on over to Aiming Low and find out about a colorful past Leader of our United States: Andrew Ol' Hickory Jackson, aka "If Keith Richards were President."
There are a few things that will stretch a relationship's happiness zone -- how money is spent, style of living, basic morals and values, drinking drugging and sexual behavior. Important stuff, right?
But there lurks within, something so essential, the black and white of it all, the glue that will separate at the slightest variation of degree. And that's exactly what's at the crux of the union:
How do you both feel about degrees?
Warm, balmy degrees. Invigorating blustery arctic degrees. Degrees that require hermitude 300 days out of the year. Splayed outside pretty close to bare nekkid for maximum square inch Vitamin D exposure degrees.
Before saying "Yeah, I could do this with this person for the next 60 years," there's a quiz that needs to be brought out for a topic of discussion.
Point blank out and ask How Do You Feel About Weather?
If someone is bow-and-arrow-struck-determined-to-have-you-as-their-mate, they might worm around your question by answering, "I love it! I love weather!" To find out the environment they really pine for, though, toss this printed sheet at them. Look them in the eye, firmly point a sharpened No. 2 pencil at them, and stand cross armed behind then, while you watch them scribble in the dots. Watch for shifty eyed, brow wiping responses.
The Only Pre-Shacking-Up Quiz That Counts:
1. In the animal kingdom, how do you imagine yourself?
a. Look at me! I'm an elephant, squirting water all over myself with my own hose because I can't take the heat. Is that a cool mud pool over there?
b. Sitting on this block of ice, with this snow flying in my face is my dream life and I am so happy I was born a polar bear. I can't feel my butt anymore and I love it.
c.Just give me a scorching rock and some blazing sun you could fry eggs under. I may get blisters and die but it feels so good because I'm a lizard.
2. When I think of spending time outdoors, I see myself:
a. Indoors in one of those perfectly calibrated sub-zero environments that let you be outside, but still be inside, so you don't have to be outside in that pesky heat.
b.Please tell me there's lots of snow to shovel! And frigid temperatures that leave my cheeks both burning and tingling like they're being stabbed with little ice picks! Please tell me!
c. Was that sizzle I just heard breakfast bacon frying or is my skin on fire? Aaaah, pass that Banana Boat Tan Accelerator 50 this way, please.
3. When considering placement of my SAD lamp, I:
a.Placement? I welded handles on that flippin' thing and carry it with me like it's my newborn baby.
b. I don't have one, but I think I know someone who has a cousin who needed one once that might still have it for me to borrow, if it ever happens that I have to get one.
c.What's a SAD lamp?
4. Cold weather makes me:
a. Grateful for the invigorating change of seasons.
b. Feel so alive!
c. Just bury my body there...
Total up your answers, and sit down for a discussion. Better to head problems off before you hit the impasse. If despite now knowing the truth, you still feel you can't live without each other, let me tell you: there's a lot of consolation that can be found while sitting under a pile of velour blankets that your partner carefully chose for you at Christmas in the middle of a sofa that your SO has tenderly placed right where you can catch the most midday sun, as he fetches you your third cup of hot cocoa sprinkled with mini marshmallows--just the way you like it.
There's also this--while you're in the bathroom crouching down next to the heater in there, smile as you think about what you're going to do tonight. It's what you do every night. Why let resentment build for having to live at this latitude and longitude--just *accidentally* let your ice slabs of feet slide right in between your lovely partner's cozy warm thighs. Oh, let's say, around 3 a.m.?
Thanks to Smacksy, forever, for pointing me to my family's favorite after school website: BoredShortsTV, where this is just one of the many beauties you'll find there. Now we walk around, and the world sounds like a kid snippets clip. What's more fun than shared private jokes with your kids when you quote your favorite video lines?
If movies were written by our children… We asked a couple kids to pretend to exchange Valentine’s cards. This is what they came up with. ~BoredShortsTV
Me and my little man, the one who pulled me through.
Pushing the bright green stroller that my mother had just
given me, my 3-week-old son asleep inside, I circled lap after lap of the closest indoor shopping mall to our house. It wasn't yet 8 a.m., but I was already there, alongside the early mall walkers in their white velcro shoes. I didn’t know it
then, but I was doing the exact thing that I needed to be doing for my
mental state at the time. I was getting out.
Almost 35 years old when our first child was born, I had
worked outside of the home since I was 16. Most of my friends were from work. We stopped at each others' desks every morning before entering our own cubicles for the day, we shared lunch together, on Wednesday nights after work we'd all go out for tacos; then, literally overnight, I
found myself alone.
After years of spending 47 hours a week among voices, laughter, whispered confidences, my life was now one of staying home full time, alone, with a
baby. I had left my friends behind at work--I knew that none of my co-workers had decided to stay home
after their children were born, they had all returned to work after a six week maternity leave. I knew that. But I had been so focused on finally having the baby that I
had been waiting my entire life for, that I never thought about who I would be with when I no longer worked.
Who would I be with? Now, I
can see how alarmingly unprepared I was for the overwhelming floodwaters of change
that came when I went from working outside of the home to just staying home.
I was lonely, and it hurt.
Lonely in the most devastating description of the void and desolate hole I felt I was living in. 4:15 in the afternoon would find me staring out my front window, my quiet baby in my arms, anxiously scanning the road for my husband's car. I was only able to begin breathing again at the sound of his key in the lock. To this day, the turn of the lock and then the push of the door remains one of my favorite sounds.
How would I start to make friends? I
didn’t know how. My social world consisted of one. I ached for someone to talk to, the comfort of community, but I never felt
ready to meet anyone. I looked a mess, unshowered and in my husband's T-shirts. Any free
time I had I thought should be spent in keeping up my home and playing with my baby. Having an
infant with colic who only slept two hours at the most at any one time, and then only if Christmas carols played in the background while he faced the fish tank--left me with no time for anything other than trying to get some solid sleep myself.
It wasn't too long before the emptiness that I felt since I quit working began to creep darkly over my entire life,
leaving me frozen and numb, unable to smile and worsening the isolation that enveloped me. Even if I were to meet someone, I wouldn’t
have had the mental energy to string three words together to form a sentence, much less
manage a give and take conversation with interest and a smile.
But here I was, on this early morning, alone--pushing my three-week-old newborn in his equally
new stroller, lap after lap, along with the mall walkers. I talked to my baby, telling him stories as if he were 35 years old; I talked to the air, telling it about the upcoming TV shows I was going to watch. I was scared that if I didn't practice talking that I'd forget how. I was lonely, but I was out of my house; somehow, my
survival instincts were still intact enough to shout out, “interact,
interact!” And so I did.
On one of these early morning mall walks, I saw that the bookstore at the west end hosted a Toddler Story Time on Tuesday mornings. I decided to go. The first day before walking in, I took a deep breath. I froze when I saw no other moms with newborns there. Immediately, I felt out of place among
the put-together moms with toddlers that already seemed to know each other and were there with their friends. But I resolutely made my way toward the back of the
children’s section and stayed for the entire reading. I was embarrassed, both at how haggard I knew I looked and at how desperate I must have appeared--a three week old at a story time?? Come on. But I knew I had to keep coming, to show up every Tuesday, making my way past the pretty moms who were there with their crew, to my same spot in the back, where I would lean against the tall book cases and nurse my baby, closing my eyes and losing myself in the sweetness of the sound of conversations around me. Interact, interact. Interact to survive, and maintain
I was lonely. The solitude sat like a balled up sandwich stuck in the middle of my chest.
I knew I had to find something, some way, some route out of my suffocating existence. I looked through the self-help book section after a Tuesday morning Story Time, and found a study on loneliness published by The Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of
Chicago. They found that loneliness has a broad and profound
health effect on our overall well-being. People who are lonely have
significantly higher incidences of diabetes, heart related illnesses,
sleep disorders, obesity, and high blood pressure. These are just the
physical tolls, there is a multitude of emotional, as well:
increased occurrence of anxiety, insomnia, depression, and withdrawal from others.
As I read, I felt refueled by this information.
Loneliness was as toxic as it felt. Loneliness was a force that needed to be reckoned with.
There I was, head over heels in love with my new baby, but at the same time, being swallowed whole by one of the bleakest periods
that I have ever lived through. I remember how robotic I felt during this time when I knew no one, as if I were watching my life through a video camera--feeling untethered from any identity I once had. I was alone, so alone, and when my husband traveled, days could go by without the sound of another human voice in my life. The silence around me so deafening that not even every radio turned on in the house could drown it out.
Clearly, changes had to be made, for me and my new family. I had a child now, and he needed a happy mother, and I needed to
be a happy mother. And so one morning, as I held my infant close to me, my silent tears wetting his little cheeks, I planned a path to dig myself out of the dark tomb that was choking me. I began by looking through church bulletins and joining their moms groups. I then checked the newspaper for diaper bag clubs at health clinics, and joined their morning sessions. I joined a stroller walk club from a posting I saw up on the Y's community board. Since I was breast feeding, I looked for a La Leche League and found one through The Quaker Society.
Whether I made the meetings or
not, it didn’t matter, I was part of something. On my calendar, I had a place to go penciled in and scheduled for every day of the week. When I had had enough sleep the night before to be a safe driver in the morning, I went to whatever group event or activity I had written in on the calendar. Monday through Friday, getting out of my house had become my new job.
I can't say that I felt that I belonged in every group that I tried, because I didn't. Many of the women at the groups I walked into already had friendships in place, and I often felt like a fifth wheel. Were there sparks of potential friendship at some of these meetings? Sometimes. I longed for a smile from someone who knew me, but what had to come first was learning to find my place in this new world that was now my life. When I was lucky, a bright face eagerly awaited me at one of these groups, but more often not, there wasn't.
I never knew what would meet me on the other side of the door when I walked into these places; I was grateful when the atmosphere was an open-armed welcoming one to strangers. But when it wasn't, I kept my chin up and promised myself to return the next week, to try again, despite the disappointment of being the one there without a friend.
I didn't click with everyone at these outings, but I did make the friends I needed to. Women like Anne, from across the street, who come springtime, shared walks with me. And Carrie from The Quaker Society, a single mother who gave me courage to do more things on my own by setting an example; and Laura, from Ireland, who had a baby boy, Devon, on the same day that I had my Alec.
These women, these once wonderfully steady fixtures in my days, have since drifted out of my life. I don't remember how. I get misty eyed at this loss because they were an essential part of the
fabric I was then weaving of my new life as a stay at home mother; they
were the golden threads throughout this new tapestry, holding the loose stitches in place for me when I couldn't.
It took the entire first year of my new life to find people to talk to, to have phone numbers that I knew by heart. It was almost fall when I finally met someone I could call spontaneously to spend the afternoon with me at the park. I had survived what I now think of as the most
bewildering, pathless year of my life.
During this time, I found a book called Lonely; a
memoir written by Emily White. Inside these pages, I had just what I needed then: manageable action items to finding friendship. There was a checklist in the book that I followed like a tourist depends on his travel map: volunteer, create park play groups, start a church
play group, attend free lectures, form a book club. Emily White's book offered limitless ideas for
starting points in looking for friendship.
In the midst of feeling hopeless for myself and for my baby--for having a disconnected mother--there was a light bulb moment. As overcome as I was by my life that was now barely recognizable from what it once was--it hit me, the critical importance of being proactive in
creating a social community.
Passively hoping for people to come into my life was not a plan. I had to find my friends. My mental and physical survival depended on it.
Interactions and smiles with my child depended on it. My little boy needed a happy,
Through that almost unbearably lonely year, I grew to realize that life
should be lived fully, not merely survived. Just existing did right by no one.
Friendships, even surface ones in the form of acquaintances, can tide us over during the changes in life, the transitions to a new being, that leave us stripped of who we used to know.
Some people are in our lives forever, some are our life lines for just that moment that we need them--neither less precious than the other.
If you have to work to find people, to have them be your oxygen during these achingly desperate times, then that, I determinedly whispered to myself one winter morning while my beautiful son and I walked to our Friday morning Moms Club, then that,is
what you have to do.
I smiled with the hope that maybe this time, there might be a new mom there, and she'd be looking for a friend.
are now open for our Sunday, May 5, 2013 Milwaukee show, and we invite you to
read your original work as we seek the poignant, the bittersweet, the funny, the
visceral, the timeless, the moments that happen in the blink of an eye,
as Milwaukee gives motherhood a microphone.
We seek a diverse group of
readers to share their original stories of what motherhood means to them. Listen To Your Mother is a
nationwide collective live presentation honoring Mother's Day across 24
cities, on or around Mother's Day. Our day to shine is Sunday, May 5,
2013, at 3 PM (venue to be announced).
We are looking for people
of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, gender, NON mothers, sons, and daughters.
We encourage you to share your story, by appointment only,
and present your original piece. Auditions will be held at the
Milwaukee Public Library from 12:30 pm to 4:30pm, on Saturday, March 2
Conference Room 2B or from 9 AM to 6 PM on Sunday, March 3 at Bayshore
Mall Community Room, Suite A-256.
To audition, here's what you need to know:
Auditions are by appointment only (see details below). Time slots available are for either Saturday March 2 at the Milwaukee Central Public Library Conference Room 2B 814 W. Wisconsin Ave 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm or Sunday March 3 at Bayshore Mall Community Room 5800 N. Bayshore Dr 9:00 am - 6:00 pm.
Arrive 10 minutes early and ready to read, with three copies of a 3 to 5 minute prepared original work, on an aspect of motherhood.
Take a deep breath and believe that yours is a story that needs to be heard.
schedule an audition, or if you have questions or comments, please
email ltymmil (at) gmail (dot) com with Audition in subject line, or call 414-939-LTYM (5896).
Want to see the type of material we're looking for? This helpful FAQS post on what you need to know to audition for a Listen To Your Mother Show.
Check back here often for updates and announcements, and follow LTYM on twitter, or facebook. We'll have lots more to tell you, like an exciting venue announcement, as the date for our show approaches!
want to hear your amazing words. Come, speak your story OUT
LOUD, and feel the connection that comes with sharing your life.
Listen To Your
Mother Shows, changing lives, building bridges, giving motherhood a
stage. Don't miss this chance to be part of something powerful.
We hope to hear from you!
Alexandra and Jen Gaskell Director/Producer ~ Listen To Your Mother/ Milwaukee
I don't expect miracle cures. A therapist once told me, "you have a right to hope."I told her,I belong in The Pearl because I'll be happy just where the universe has me, just make it a little more doable.
That's me, especially in the winter. I don't expect an overnight fix, just a few tricks of the trade, to help me figure out this life gig.
I'm flattered and honored that the beautiful online magazine bonbon break invited me to post on their site with tried and true methods to Put The Hammer Down to the Winter Blues. It's not rocket science, but these Top Eight on my list make this season a little less grating on the soul.