Thursday, June 19, 2014

Making new friends; finding my village

The house is quiet. My Guy is back in Chicago for work, and the girls are at school. I check Facebook – nothing too terribly interesting. I try to concentrate on my work, but without hard deadlines this week, I find my interest waning. Powerpoint, as it turns out, is even less exciting than Facebook.

Back to Facebook again. Still nothing. I “like” several pictures and go back to my own reality. I feel restless. Maybe I should make the bed. Oh, I already did. Dishes are also done. I look outside and ponder working on the patio, but I’m deterred by the 90-degree heat. I fiddle with the things on my desk. I check Facebook again. What am I looking for? Why the restlessness?

I know the answer, of course. For the first time since we moved to Austin, I feel alone. I’m missing my village - the friends and life we left behind in Chicago. When we first moved here, I knew a total of one person. And I have never even met her. Stacia, a fellow blogger, and I became virtual friends over four years ago, when we both had infants and toddlers and we both wrote to process the struggles (and wonders!) of early motherhood. Though we’ve never met, I’ve always felt a certain kinship with her.

She was one of the three bloggers with whom I’d confided when I was going through a hard time with My Guy over three years ago. She had been there for me, through email, and I could never forget her kindness. Here we are now, in what seems like a different lifetime, watching our now preschool and elementary school kids playing together and our guys talking tech like they’ve known each other forever.

Our families met our second week here, and later, she had graciously invited us over for Easter. It was our first holiday away from our village in Chicago, but her family had made us feel at home. It was wonderful, in fact. We’ve since hung out on several other occasions, and I’m grateful that our initial virtual exchanges have transformed into a genuine friendship in real life.
Then there is my ex-Chicagoan friend, who was introduced to me via email before we moved here. She moved here with her family six months before we did. A friend from my Chicago neighborhood had thoughtfully, sweetly decided to make the introductions so this other ex-Chicagoan and I would both have someone we knew once I arrived in Austin. I loved her gesture, and upon meeting the ex-Chicagoan, it made perfect sense to me. Having someone “from back home” here with me means I don’t have to provide context each time I’m homesick for a particular Chicago thing. She gets it, of course. Her older daughter and mine also get along famously together. Both dramatic, both girlish -- another jackpot.

I also met another transplant. This time, it was through a mother runners’ Facebook group. We had agreed to meet for a trail run near us, and we’d hit it off. A mother of two from Boston who also works from home for herself, we trade stories about metropolitan living compared to our life here in a smaller city, we share motherhood and house-hunting pangs, we talk about healthy activities, and we get excited about electing Wendy Davis as the next Governor of Texas. I find myself looking forward to my weekly runs with her.

So there you have it. That’s all the friends I have here in Austin, which puts me at a grand total of THREE. As an introvert who often craves silence, I’m not looking for 8 BFF’s and 125 acquaintances to fill up my time. A few solid, dependable (preferably non-judgmental, because who has time for this shit?) friends are all I need, but the older I get, the harder it feels in acquiring new friends. Everyone has so many different priorities – work, kids, hobbies – that finding the time and energy to cultivate friendships become a struggle. Not only that, we have to make sure our personalities mesh, and that our kids and partners also enjoy one another’s company. SO. MANY. FACTORS to consider.

While I don’t have any issues with striking up a conversation with strangers (because all friendships have to begin somewhere), working from home doesn’t help. On days when My Guy isn’t also working out of the same home office that I am, I find myself going an entire day without a single word with anyone. Except to yell at the cat for flopping himself on my typing hands or hacking a hairball at my feet. I’m not the only one craving company, apparently.

However, I’m not Ms. Social Butterfly looking for endless entertainment and meaningless engagement. Most nights, I’m perfectly content with a good book and some ice cream. Or whiskey and TV if it’s the weekend. But when this solitude that I once craved no longer brings me serenity, but rather, isolation, it can start to feel somewhat claustrophobic.

I remember starting a Meetup group four months after giving birth to Little Miss to meet new moms like myself. I made the effort to organize playdates and events to meet women who could understand this particular brand of isolation that comes with new motherhood. There, I met one of my favorite friends, and she’d become a part of my village back in Chicago. But forming a Meetup group now feels so arduous. After all, when you have to make small talk with a bunch of people you don’t know, it can be downright draining. At least it feels that way to me. Hello? Introvert, remember?

In my last neighborhood in Chicago, I could walk down my street and easily bump into neighbors who feel like family to me, but it took many years of finding just the right mix of people to create this wonderful village.  Now that I no longer get to walk anywhere, not even a convenient store, and I have to get into a car to drive for miles to reach any destination, the isolation feels even more oppressive.

Yet, I’m not completely disheartened. I am fully aware that this is part of the process. The old friends I had were once my new friends too, and look where that took us? I know it will take time for my village here to form. It’s just that patience is so not my thing.

Maybe that’s why gardening is not so easy for me. I look at the landscape in my yard and recognize that some of these plants that appear to be bushes now will eventually become tall, beautiful, Pink Velour Crepe Myrtle trees.

CrepeMyrtle now

The people who planned this knew that it would take years for their vision to take place. But to get there, we have to water them diligently and spend our time weeding and shaping them now. I spent three hours this past weekend in my yard doing just that - weeding and shaping.


Because that’s how the garden grows. And with the same patience and diligence, perhaps my village will too. 


maybe someday

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When was the last time you made a new friend? If you’re a parent like me, how do you make new friends? Do you have a village? If so, how did you find/form yours?