bet you miss your friends

It finally caught up with me. I’ve been so busy setting up house, getting the girls into school, volunteering for the Clinton campaign, and hanging out with family that I haven’t actually had a chance to realize I’m really effing lonely.

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Until Saturday. There was a cool kid event going on, so I took the girls. It was a “pop-up free-range playground” event where tons of boxes, tape, tubes, fabric, wheels, ropes, and other recycled materials were out on a playground and no parents were allowed in while kids played and obeyed the only rules “have as much fun as you can and try not to hurt yourself or others.” Volunteers supervised and helped with scissors, but NO PARENTS ALLOWED. There was free coffee nearby in the area for parents to hang out.

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If I were still in Little Rock, I would have rounded up my parent-friends and we would have been drinking coffee and chatting while our kids played. In fact, that’s what all the other parents there seemed to have done. They were chatting in groups, rocking younger siblings on hips. I got myself a coffee, sat down, and tried to figure out how to make friends. The longer I sat there, the more I felt like the odd kid out at a middle school dance. I wanted to burst into tears.

I miss my friends. I am so lonely.

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When I got home and finally did let the tears flow, Jon reminded me of my freshman year self, bounding up and down the halls of my dorm, basically insisting people be my friend. I don’t know where that girl went, but I am not her anymore. I certainly wish I had her energy. I know I’m good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like me, but I just don’t have it in me to walk up to a group of people already engrossed in conversation and attempt to say hi. Hi. I am so very new here. Hi. I am desperate to make some friends. Hi. Can you please talk to me? Hi. Can you see me over here just wishing you would break the ice and let me into your circle? You seem really cool with your rad glasses and your star-embroidered Ergo. You said you’re from Birmingham and I’m eavesdropping but I’m a displaced Southerner too. Oh, wow, you have twin boys and I have twin girls, and OMG your new baby is so cute and please let’s be friends.

I know eventually, we will have friends. It’s going to happen somehow. But it really sucks in the meantime.

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Update: after I wrote this mopey post, we visited a church, and I really liked it. I also found out they have a moms group that meets on Fridays, and the one this coming Friday is about tapping into your creativity. So I’m going to go and try to be brave and try to make some friends.

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the wonder of opening up

Me and one of my sick, sweet babies. Still smiling!

The other day, I wrote a really honest post about the exhausting hardness that is being a parent to two small children and trying to do just about anything else. I was feeling incompetent at life, and because I’m a writer, because literally that is who I am, because even the code of my DNA probably spells words, the way I worked out those feelings was to write them. And cry.

And then something amazing happened: that post got (as of this writing) 21 amazing comments. And on Facebook, where I also shared it, I got 12 other amazing comments, plus a couple of supportive private messages. And the support continued on Twitter. And this morning, a lovely friend took the time to send me an email that warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. While one commenter called me a downer, every single other woman who commented did two things: they affirmed that my feelings were normal and OK, and they assured me, things do get better. Time passes. Nothing stays the same. It was an amazing experience of the best of the internet and its power to bring us together and let us know we are not alone. I am beyond grateful. Today, even though I’m home, still in my pjs at 3 pm with two sick babies who have croup and are just beyond pitiful, my heart is lighter. And I feel strong and confident.

Buoyed by this love and more than a little indignant at the downer comment, I posted this on Facebook:

And while I’m actually kind of proud of that line and think it really says it all, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to be a woman, a mother, and a writer, and what it means to put my heart out into the world through my words, and I’ve found (shock me shock me) that I still have some more to say.

Despite a comment that would minimize and silence my giving voice to my experiences with the more painful side of motherhood, I will not be minimized and silenced. Tellingly, that comment, the only one that wasn’t encouraging in some way, came from a man. I’m taking a course on women writers this term, and over and over in the works I’ve studied, women writers depict women writers with men in their lives who don’t understand why they can’t just be content, grateful even, with their lives as wives and mothers. Why they feel a yearning for more, why they simply must write. Any woman who, like me, attempts to express anything but sweetness and light concerning motherhood feels the need to qualify it with caveats about how much they really do love their children, husbands, and homes, for fear of being criticized by a society that constantly tells us to be grateful and enjoy every moment.

All that does is leave you feeling guilty when you inevitably fail to live up to that standard.

Based on the love that was poured out to me when I poured out my heart, I have to say: it is worth that risk. Because when you pour out your heart, you invite others to do the same, and they will, and you will feel less alone. The great Flannery O’Connor wrote in one of her letters: “In the face of anyone’s experience, someone like myself who has had almost no experience, must be humble.” We don’t get to tell other people how to understand, frame, or feel about their experience. But we can let them know that they’re not alone in having it.

I’m so thankful to all the folks who let me know that I’m not alone this week or in this life. You have been a model for how I hope to respond the next time the shoe is on the other foot and someone opens themselves up.

untag!

sarah cracks upUntag! Untag!

Have you ever seen this, written by someone on Facebook, as a comment on a photo of herself?  Have you ever WRITTEN this on a photo of yourself?  Have you ever snatched the camera after a group photo, checked out the photo on the tiny screen, and either deleted the photo or insisted it be retaken because you don’t like the way you look?  Has a friend ever shown you a picture of yourself, told you how great you look, or how funny, or what a great moment it was, and all you’ve been able to see is how weird your nose or chin or hair or ears or *insert pet insecurity here* looks?

I have.

It’s because we’re completely irrational about our own appearances.  I think most women go through life with NO IDEA how beautiful they are.  And I’m not just saying that in a completely naive, kumbayah sort of way.  I mean it.  I have friends who look all sorts of ways, and there are moments with each of them when I just think they are heart-stoppingly beautiful.  And as I have begun to realize this about them, about all the people I know, in all their shapes and sizes and with all their hair textures and nose shapes and smiles, and with all their beauty, I have realized that this is the way they see me too.

All of this comes to mind, NOW, because of a post I read over at The Rotund (for friends who have enjoyed Shapely Prose, the Rotund is a site by Marianne Kirby, who cowrote a book with Shapely Prose’s Kate Harding), about Marianne coming to accept having her picture taken.  She writes,

Every time a friend comes to me and says, oh, I have this great picture of you, it is a chance to see what they see….it’s beautiful to have these images of everyone. Different bodies, different people, different lives.

When I hid from photos, I stole that from people. Every time I dodged out of a photo, well, that person might remember I was there but they can’t share it with anyone else the way I can share these images with you.

When I really think about the way I see my friends in pictures, the way I love captured moments, and laughter, and smiles, and the way I am not in any way thinking about their ears sticking out or their chins looking “fat” (this is a common thought of mine, and yes I know, it’s ENTIRELY INSANE), when I really think about that…then I have to think about pictures of myself differently too. Even pictures in which I am making insane facial expresses (I tend to overdo it with the facial expressions) or have horrible posture or just generally look less-than-stellar. When I think about the way I see my friends and loved ones in pictures, I have to see pictures of me differently. I have to be a little bit kinder to myself.

So tag away.  Sure, frame that group shot in which I look gawky and slightly deranged but am laughing my head off.  Because you know what? Maybe a lot of the time I DO look slightly deranged while laughing my head off.  And I can’t just give up on capturing memories because of silly insecurities.  I don’t want to steal that memory from myself or anyone else.  Because I’m learning to look at myself the way I look at others, with a more loving gaze.  I’m sure in 50 years all we’ll be thinking when we look at them is how beautiful we were and what good times we had.

sarahandtree

insane sarah

(To test my own courage, I’m showing my full face on this blog for the first time, and also, I’m including pictures of myself that I have looked at less than generously, not so that you’ll tell me how pretty I am or try to reassure me– I know most of my fears are silly and irrational, but I hope you’ll realize that maybe I feel the same way about YOU.)