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Lean on Me

Last week I had the most amazing epiphany, and I am now cured of my grumpiness. I hope.

Let me explain. For the last few months, probably since August, I have felt like something just isn't quite right in my life, but I could never put my finger on it. I felt right with God. I was talking to Him, I was praying, I was listening.

My family was going great, and I was spending a ton of time with my girls' friends. Our house was becoming the hangout, and I had no problem with that.

My marriage was great. My speaking & writing ministry was positively taking off. But something was just nibbling at the edges of my heart, and I could never get really excited about anything. And I often fell into quite negative moods, even when there was no apparent reason to do so.

Then last Friday morning I was getting ready to take my youngest to our homeschool skate social, which happens every week. For an hour and a half, the kids skate, while we parents watch. And talk. And I realized that morning that I was seriously looking forward to it. I was counting down the hours before we could go. And I started asking myself why, because while I enjoy the people at the skating rink, it's not like we're best friends.

And then it hit me: they may not be my best friends, but they are friends. And for an hour and a half, I get to do nothing but talk.

For the last several months, I have talked to my mother, my husband, my best friend, my kids, and then a whole pile of their friends. But I have not talked to anybody else.

Usually, in the summer, we go camping with another family and have a great time. But for the last two summers, we've gone camping just the four of us, and while it's been fun, it hasn't been the social outlet it once was.

At church, one of my very good friends, with whom I used to split the responsibilities of running of our youth program, moved away. And so now that program is entirely on my shoulders. While Sunday morning used to be a social time for me (I was teaching the youth, but I was also hanging out with my friend), it now has become almost entirely about kids.

And while we used to have people over for dinner quite frequently, that's become harder this year, because I'm away almost every weekend, and my oldest daughter now teaches piano several nights a week. Juggle in youth group, and we don't have a night to socialize.

So last Friday it finally hit me. I'm lonely.

I was able to get by for almost six months without something cracking, but it finally did. I have a wonderful relationship with my husband, and a great one with my best friend, with whom I talk on the phone several times a day. I talk to my kids all the time. But I do need other people.

Ironically, I had others more when the children were young. We went out almost every day just to keep ourselves active and amused. I went to a women's Bible study, where I talked to a whole bunch of women every week. We went to play groups, where I talked to other women almost every day. They weren't women that I would have chosen to be friends in other circumstances, perhaps, but because we were at the playgroup, we formed a bond. So I talked.

And when children are young, I found I had people over more because then the kids are entertained and it's not so much work for you. They have friends to play with, and you don't have to play with them constantly. You can get adult time.

Now my kids are at the age where not only do they not need to be entertained, they're actually quite entertaining themselves. So it's very easy to cocoon. And that's what I've been doing.

I've never been one who needs a whole pile of best friends. I've usually only had one or two, and that's been fine. But I have had other social outlets where I get to talk to other adults, and lately I feel as if I lost them.

Humans are very interesting in our need for friends. Some of us are introverts, and one of our greatest needs is time alone to rejuvenate. Others of us are extraverts, and we desperately need friends to bounce ideas off of or to laugh with. We don't relax well unless we're with others. And then there are those of us who are in between, like me. We like having friends, but we like our alone time, too.

I guess I thought I was okay, and I didn't need anybody else. But I was wrong. And so yesterday at church I asked a woman to have lunch with me on Thursday, and I'm very excited about it. I get to talk to someone else, and even though it's going to cut into my writing time, I think I will end up being a better writer for it, because it's something that I need.

Having a social outlet is a legitimate need for all women. Some of us need it more than others, depending on our personalities. I don't actually need it as much as many do, which is probably why it took a good half a year for me to finally get so grumpy that I realized what was wrong. But God did not make us to be alone, and we should seek out friends and companions. Our husbands are not supposed to be our only outlet (though my husband is really my best friend, and always will be).

My husband doesn't have a lot of time to socialize, either (and he's far more extraverted than I am ), but what he does have is people to talk to constantly during the day: nurses, other doctors, his secretary, even some of his favourite patients. He gets to joke around, even just for a few minutes with each person, and he can grab lunch occasionally with a colleague.

When you're at home, you don't get that. And it really wore on me.

The funny thing was that while I was feeling out of sorts I started to question whether it was my family that was bothering me. Was I upset at my husband (I didn't think so, but that's always where your mind turns first ;) ). Was I upset at my kids? And you start to question your family commitments, even if you totally love your family. When something is wrong, you immediately turn the blame on those you love.

And that's one reason why I think it's so important that we do get this social outlet. When we don't, and we becoming vaguely unhappy, we'll often blame our family for that unhappiness, even when it's not their fault. Be careful of that tendency. If you have legitimate needs, it is important for you to get those met. If you don't, it will jeopardize how you act with your family, and how you think of your family. That's when the danger in families starts.

So I am going to make more of an effort once a week to actually talk to some adult women. I think I will be better for it. And I'm very happy that I finally figured out what's been bothering me.

What about you? Do you have adult conversation in your life? How do you deal with loneliness? Let me know!

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11 Comments:

At 9:25 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

But what do you do, if those "friends" to talk to are not readily apparent?? I am one who doesn't have friends to go out for lunch with or to have over for coffee. I have longed for "friends" like that for a very long time. But since I have a Kindergarten kid (but I'm 48) there are not those Mothers to relate to! The rest are all 20 or 30 somethings... and we live in a small town so limited possibilities. I talk to my husband, my own Mother, etc. but it would be nice to feel like if things weren't going well, there was someone there to chat with. Even when going through major domestic crisis (ex-husband used to punch me regularly) I didn't feel there was anyone to talk to about what was happening. I've already tried reaching out to some of the women in our church but they seem to be totally wrapped up in their own clique and not interested in letting others in to their circle!

(You should edit your second last paragraph as the sentence "When we don't, and we becoming vaguely unhappy, we'll often blame our family for that unhappiness, even when it's not their fault" doesn't flow well.

Anyway, that's my problem and why I feel personally isolated...

Denise in Saskatchewan

 

At 9:38 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

That's a good question, Denise. Maybe some other people can chime in in the comments here.

What I would say is that for three years when I lived in downtown Toronto, I had four friends that I saw almost everyday at the kids' playgroup. We talked about everything.

But honestly, it was a friendship of convenience. We were together because our kids were the same age and we lived in the same place and we were lonely. In other situations, we probably would not have become friends, and yet I enjoyed them very much.

I have one friend with whom I can share everything, but that doesn't mean I need ten the same. What I could use is just some women to hang out with and laugh with occasionally--even if they're not necessarily kindred spirits.

Not everybody has to be a best friend in order to make you feel a little more human. What I would do, I would think, is just look for women in similar circumstances to you and get together for coffee every now and then, especially in groups. Maybe you won't be bosom buddies, but you'll still have somebody to talk to.

Those are just my initial thoughts, but I'm curious as to what others have to say!

 

At 10:04 AM , Blogger Mrs.C said…

I've been a home-school mom for 15 yrs. This is my first year out, and boy do I ever feel isolated.

Recently I've REALLY sensed my need for social interaction, especially after I stated it more than once to an acquaintance I ran into @ Wal-Mart the other night. I don't know her that well, but WOW did it feel good to talk w/ another adult.

To the first "commenter", I've been there, trying hard to break through the "clique". I started seeking out ladies in our former church, those who it seemed had not been included, and found some of the most wonderful, friendly ladies ever. Maybe try seeking ladies out yourself, that's what I had to do, and was greatly rewarded in that season.

Looks like I need to do that again. I'm lonely!

 

At 1:02 PM , Anonymous Sherry said…

To Denise-
I know that sometimes it may seem that being older than many of the moms around you is a stumbling block to friendships. I would encourage you to look past the age of the other moms. I have always been on the young side and felt for many years like I wouldn't fit in with the "older" moms. The thing is though- we are all moms and right there is enough of a reason to bond. I am now 34 and my best friends are 43 and 26. Our ages just don't matter anymore. I imagine that your age is perhaps holding you back more than holding the potential friends back. I pray that God will send you just the right friends- whatever ages they are!

 

At 4:42 PM , Blogger Angela said…

Oh, I totally understand! Going from a full time teacher in NY to a stay at home wife in Candada, i am starving for girlfriends!

 

At 8:05 PM , Blogger sewinggeek said…

I understand completely about feeling isolated. I felt this way very much when we were going through some very difficult family times.
Now I have a part time job and I am out alot running errands and caregiving as the sandwich generation.
I miss my friends because I am running around so much. I miss being at home doing the things that I have been doing for the past 25 years.
When I was having trouble connecting with people due to cliques I started getting to invite random people over who seemed not to belong as well. Now I have a great circle of friends. We associate sometimes as couples but also times just as girls.
We have girl nights and invite people who are not in our circle. We have had a few cottage weekends where a couple of us decide to invite various people to our weekend. They were not all friends but I knew most of them. We had a great time. And now a few people who didn't know each other do. One friend was so greatful because she is relatively new to our church, works shifts and is alone. Our ages ranged from in the 30's to later 50's.
Some times we have to not wait for people to come to us but to reach out to others. Join an interest group and meet someone new. One of my most enjoyable new friends is in her early 60's. Full of fun and wisdom.
I lost my very best friend to cancer a year and a half ago, she was only 48. I am fortunate to have a couple of other good friends but even so I felt off for quite awhile.
I don't think age should enter into things as much as interests. My sister is a mom of a 9 year old at 52. She felt out of sync until she got involved at her son's school and in sports with him. She felt isolated when he was young because she also worked full time.
She also lives in a small town. She joined a book club once a month and felt better to get out and now has some good casual relationships. She does not have as high a need for people as I do.
I encourage Denise to keep on trying. We as women need to share with other women.

 

At 8:05 PM , Blogger sewinggeek said…

I understand completely about feeling isolated. I felt this way very much when we were going through some very difficult family times.
Now I have a part time job and I am out alot running errands and caregiving as the sandwich generation.
I miss my friends because I am running around so much. I miss being at home doing the things that I have been doing for the past 25 years.
When I was having trouble connecting with people due to cliques I started getting to invite random people over who seemed not to belong as well. Now I have a great circle of friends. We associate sometimes as couples but also times just as girls.
We have girl nights and invite people who are not in our circle. We have had a few cottage weekends where a couple of us decide to invite various people to our weekend. They were not all friends but I knew most of them. We had a great time. And now a few people who didn't know each other do. One friend was so greatful because she is relatively new to our church, works shifts and is alone. Our ages ranged from in the 30's to later 50's.
Some times we have to not wait for people to come to us but to reach out to others. Join an interest group and meet someone new. One of my most enjoyable new friends is in her early 60's. Full of fun and wisdom.
I lost my very best friend to cancer a year and a half ago, she was only 48. I am fortunate to have a couple of other good friends but even so I felt off for quite awhile.
I don't think age should enter into things as much as interests. My sister is a mom of a 9 year old at 52. She felt out of sync until she got involved at her son's school and in sports with him. She felt isolated when he was young because she also worked full time.
She also lives in a small town. She joined a book club once a month and felt better to get out and now has some good casual relationships. She does not have as high a need for people as I do.
I encourage Denise to keep on trying. We as women need to share with other women.

 

At 8:06 PM , Blogger sewinggeek said…

I understand completely about feeling isolated. I felt this way very much when we were going through some very difficult family times.
Now I have a part time job and I am out alot running errands and caregiving as the sandwich generation.
I miss my friends because I am running around so much. I miss being at home doing the things that I have been doing for the past 25 years.
When I was having trouble connecting with people due to cliques I started getting to invite random people over who seemed not to belong as well. Now I have a great circle of friends. We associate sometimes as couples but also times just as girls.
We have girl nights and invite people who are not in our circle. We have had a few cottage weekends where a couple of us decide to invite various people to our weekend. They were not all friends but I knew most of them. We had a great time. And now a few people who didn't know each other do. One friend was so greatful because she is relatively new to our church, works shifts and is alone. Our ages ranged from in the 30's to later 50's.
Some times we have to not wait for people to come to us but to reach out to others. Join an interest group and meet someone new. One of my most enjoyable new friends is in her early 60's. Full of fun and wisdom.
I lost my very best friend to cancer a year and a half ago, she was only 48. I am fortunate to have a couple of other good friends but even so I felt off for quite awhile.
I don't think age should enter into things as much as interests. My sister is a mom of a 9 year old at 52. She felt out of sync until she got involved at her son's school and in sports with him. She felt isolated when he was young because she also worked full time.
She also lives in a small town. She joined a book club once a month and felt better to get out and now has some good casual relationships. She does not have as high a need for people as I do.
I encourage Denise to keep on trying. We as women need to share with other women.

 

At 10:54 AM , OpenID nebby3 said…

I do find I need social interaction beyond my family. But I also need to not interact constantly. I went a little crazy over Thanksgiving weekend and my 4 kids and mom and husband and I were all in the house all weekend. It was just too many people for too long for me.

I moved two years ago and though I have some friends I don't feel as connected to them as my old friends that I had had years to get to know. It is hard to build up those relationships. I do try to reack out to others I meet at homeschool gatherings and things. But I find that for every one who responds positively there are many who just don't seem interested in another friend or who say let's get together at first but then never follow up. I can't imagine how those who move every few years for a job or something manage.

 

At 1:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

When I was in college my discipler and I were discussing my friends and my need for ones who would really lift me up. So, at her direction, I considered all the women I knew and which ones might I want to be better friends with. Then I prayed about it. God began to put us together (we had a class together every quarter for the rest of college), we ended up moving home to neighboring towns at the same time and supporting each other through the search for graduate school as well. Now that I am in graduate school I prayed again, it took months to feel like I knew people well enough for them to be friends and years to feel like I was a part of established social circles, but I looked at who was available and decided who I wanted to be better friends with and began investing myself in them. Now I have some wonderful girlfriends here who I will be loathe to part from when the time comes.

 

At 5:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I have found the mom's group at my church (thankfully informal and no fees associated with it) to be a huge blessing. We just get together once a week and basically hang out and pray for each other.

(My job tends to be rather solo, so I also miss interaction with others--although I love my husband dearly and he is my best friend).

Nurse Bee

 
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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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