We all hope to find those friends we can call in a crisis, vent to at our worst, and raise our glasses with at our best. This hope (back in middle school when I wondered where all the nice girls were) was fulfilled bit by bit and more and more as I progressed through my twenties.
And you guys, I now have at least twenty people in my contact list who I can call at any time. No situation is out of the question. I could call them for a ride, for advice, for venting purposes, to tell them a really bad joke, or to ask for prayers.
This number started out small – my sisters and parents were at the top of the list. Next came a small handful of trusted friends. Then life happened and that list changed, lost members, gained members, and looked completely different by the time I was 25. Then the most amazing thing happened.
I went somewhere where the number of good friends who lived within driving distance of me shrank down to zero. But it’s here that the number grew exponentially and a large handful of women (and a few men) reached out to me and “scooped me up,” as I like to put it.
Now that I’ve been living in small town Wisconsin for just over two years, this questions fills my heart up as I think of the answer to this next question in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.
#11 Who is my community?
The answer is simple, and they’ve welcomed me since the first few months I was living here.
Let me tell you a short story about how amazing life is.
I was ALONE, I knew no one, and wasn’t sure what I was doing in the tiniest town I’d ever been in for more than a few minutes, with about one other single person my age. I moved to a “bedroom community” filled with families, and I’d come from downtown Albuquerque, surrounded by my peers and living quite the life. There, I was in walking distance to my favorite bars, lived within blocks of my best friends, and making all of the mistakes and living all of the adventure that a newly single gal in her mid twenties could have.
Then I mysteriously felt called to leave that life and move North, across the country to a place that felt like a foreign country. And it’s here I met my community.
It all started with a church group’s visit to the farm where I worked. I didn’t even want to come down to participate. “Where are all the people I’m supposed to meet?!?!” I’d been wondering that very day. “I feel so alone!!”
A friend I did have already (and my coworker) convinced me to walk down the stairs. Low and behold, the very people who would solve the sad void in my extremely social soul were waiting for me just down the wooden staircase. The conversation(s) went something like this:
“We are from Torrent Church.”
Oh, what’s that? I’ve never heard of Torrent.
“We volunteer at this farm. We built those hugelkultur beds right there!”
Oh my gosh. YOU GUYS are the ones I saw in the pictures online. I saw your photos before I left New Mexico. My mom and I thought it was cool that a church group had been here.
The conversation continued and it was like my entire future started getting paved under my feet, right before my eyes. I even heard one of the group mention the name “Israel”… and I marched over to find out who that was. Because you see, my same coworker and friend had “forced” me to go to the local middle school adult volleyball night with her as well, and I’d met an Israel there. I never saw him again. I knew he had a unique name and thought, “Welp, lost him forever. Who WAS that???!”
Two months later, and this church group told me just exactly who he was. (A man who was single — just like me — and needed a friend — also just like me — and that’s what happened. We became friends who learned how to love through companionship and pain and conversation and truly knowing one another.)
And these people are the very people who A) became my best friends B) connected me to the man who became my husband C) encouraged me to attend their church and helped me so much along the way to finally finding faith again and finally D) are the reason I’m still here.
Thank you, God, for these people. I have found a solid foundation in my community. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I find comfort in knowing them. They go above and beyond for me, and for each other. I see love in ways I have never seen expressed through these people.
There are more people than those pictured here, but it’s safe to say this is where it started. There’s also Mary, who walked up the gravel driveway on that fateful day with her beautiful baby girl … she later went on to have twins. And guess what? I love me some twin babies. Casey entered my life and we have stories so similar, it’s crazy. Step moms come out of the woodwork, supporting me and sharing their stories. Others became my friends through long, real conversations, through nights of drinking a nice glass of whiskey, and plans of “let’s go for a walk” turning into 8 hours spent talking.
When I think of my community I get chills and I thank God over and over. I get emotional.
Which leads me to me tell you another story :
Well, my parent’s dog died this week. His name was Max and he was one of those magical dogs. He was perfect. He has been with our family for ten years. You could just talk to him like a friend and he’d listen and obey and do everything right. He loved running in the mountains, and because my dad loves the mountains and hiking, Max was out there on the Sandia Mountains almost daily. He was active and lovely until the end. It was only about a week and a half ago now that my dad noticed two big swollen lymph nodes. Turns out it was the worst kind of cancer a dog could have and it spread at a rapid pace. By Easter Sunday Max knew it was his last full day on this Earth. He nudged my parents awake at 4:00AM and they sat with him and watched the sunrise. He died peacefully the next day, surrounded by the humans who loved him most.
I tear up thinking about this. He was my dad’s best companion, the ONLY dog my mom ever truly liked (miracle) and his little foxy face was beautiful. Now, when my dad hikes, he’ll be alone. When my mom sits and reads her books late at night, there will be no clink down the hallway, no warm dog sitting at her feet. I never thought I’d weep over a dog, but I cannot stop the tears from flowing.
Death, even the death of a dog, can bring out a lot of buried emotion. I had to stop crying over Max, so I decided to go for a run. On this run, the song “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks came on. The last time I listened to that song, I was driving in the car with my mom, on the road, moving my entire life to the Midwest. Also, I think anyone my age can admit, that song is just plain nostalgic. So of course, more tears came.
The pain of missing my family became too much to handle. Remembering my amazing childhood and the home my parents unselfishly provided for me was beyond what I could handle in that moment. They put us before everything. There were never selfish impulses or desires that got in the way of their family. They are strong and trustworthy. My mom is exactly the kind of woman I want to be. When I think of my family my heart practically bursts out of my chest.
I broke down, ended my run, and called my mom. I just had to sob on the phone with her and thank her for the love she always showed me. My “adult” heart asked like a child, “Why can’t things just be the way they used to be?” And like the amazing mom she is, she reminded me just exactly WHY. The community I mentioned above, for starters. The husband I now have. The three kids who are in my life. The amazing job I find myself in. The people who have crossed my path and who are dear friends now, unexpectedly. The way even my family has grown since I moved.
I saw this quote recently:
You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free. -Thich Nhat Hanh
This is my goal in every way. I want my friends to feel free around me to share what they want to, be who they are, and to know I care. I want my husband to be free to be himself and never change for me. I want my three step kids to know and feel that my love is free and without stipulations, and that it doesn’t take away from any other relationships they have in life. Love does not take away. It only keeps growing. It only keeps giving. I want my family to feel free to live their lives without me, and in that way, I think we all have succeeded. Those I love are free.
Because doesn’t it take two wholes to make a good pair? AKA, two halves do not equal a whole. Not in romance, not in friendship, not in parents and children.
All that is to say: It had been a pretty rough week. It’s been a rough week for a lot of people I know, and for a variety of reasons. But guess what? I had a community surrounding me. I was also part of a community surrounding others. That has been the light of my life so far. I love people, I love to make my cherished friends smile. I love to listen to what my step-kids have to say after a long day of school. I love to do the dishes so my husband (currently making a BUNCH of my dreams come true) can have a moment’s rest. I love to plant seeds to see them pop up out of the ground and grow. I love to raise chicks and hold them every day. I love to laugh.
I’m a feeler and I can’t change. Thank God he blessed me with a wise girlfriend to guide me through this journey that many ENFPs face…. (Ellie <3)
I am who I am and I tell you this: You are free when it comes to me. And hopefully you will answer when I call you crying ;)
Thank you to everyone who is my community. And a special shout out to those who were there for the cheese spread AKA the funniest moment of my life thus far.
I love you all!!!!