Life Giving Relationships: Consistent Community
Hello and welcome back to the feminine and wild Midwest dearest Reader!
I am so pleased that you have returned to my little corner of the Internet. I wasn't going to post this today, but I had a weird burst of energy, so here we are!
Today is a continuation of the "Life-Giving Relationships" Series. Life-giving relationships are essential to the life of a thriving and energetic woman. They can help us build confidence, enjoy life, and ultimately, discover the true beauty and the depth of human connection.
So far we have covered toxic people, husbands, and good friendships. Today I want to take a wider view and discuss "community." How can we find life-giving relationships in the wider community, and WHY are those relationships important?
I know what it's like to feel isolated from community: I don't have children yet, and my husband is a police officer who works nights and every other weekend.
I live in a different country from where I grew up, and have almost no contact with my family. I'm new to town and all my old friends have moved to various cities around the continent. My new friendships are still in their budding stage, and it feels like every time I make a new friend, the relationship starts to fizzle out.
So yeah--I'm kind of alone.
I have spent many nights, weekends, days, and hours ALONE. Even as I write this, I am alone: it's just me and my dog.
Now, I love alone time just as much, or even MORE than the average woman. I enjoy my productive nights of writing, cleaning, baking, and surfing the web. And the thing is, this isolation has actually brought me to where I am with this blog. Because of those hours I have been able to pour into my online community and friendships more than ever before.
I am incredibly thankful for this time alone. I really am. HOWEVER, I have also realized lately that the isolation is getting to me. It's starting to feel a little emptier than I would like, and I think I need more routine-community time.
I'm sure many of you feel the same way I do. Perhaps you are in need of real face-to-face connection, or you just feel out of place in your town.
I think this is actually really common: in our modern world, we are experiencing more affluence and financial success on average than ever before. But because of this affluence, we have begun to experience the ripping apart of our social fabric.
Children go to college and university in other countries, our friends move for their jobs, and heck, some people even LIVE in a permanent nomadic state, cruising around the country in trendy hipster buses, united in their isolation with their spouse.
For all the blessings, incredible experiences, and fun memories this transient, nomadic, and evolving lifestyle gives us, it has also begun to tear apart our communities and sense of social fabric. Everything feels much more temporary: subject to change at a moment's notice.
Humans thrive stable social communities. We like knowing a network of people are there for us, and we like to have the support and affection of an established group.
We are not created to live in isolation! Even the most introverted person needs a social fabric. Today let’s talk about how and why we should mend that community so we can step into greater vitality.
So...Why do we need community?
Why do we need a group of people? Won’t that just tie us down and bring drama to our lives?
Well... not exactly. Community, for all the drama it brings, can also bring much needed peace, stability, and joy to our lives.
We NEED community. A lack of community can be strongly correlated to increased unhappiness and loss of identity.
We all know what it feels like to be unsure in a group of people or lonely on a Friday night. There is just something about having a solid community of support around you that adds to life. It brings another level of vitality. Even thinking of a large group gathering with all my cousins makes my brain warm up and my heart smile.
Those gatherings are life-giving because they offer opportunities to have fun with other people, to engage in friendly competition, and to have our voices, stories, and opinions be heard.
Community engagements and social fabric allow us to find our place in the world and to feel loved and appreciated by others.
I remember thinking that the kids in my high school who stayed in our hometown were "lame." But you know what? Now I'm actually beginning to think that those people were some of the smartest of all of us.
They will forever have a deep network and social fabric of people who have known them their whole lives, family members who love them, and a support system that will be there when they have get married, or have children, or have financial difficulties.
I'm not saying we cannot create those ties in a new town, but I will say that it is much more difficult to create it from scratch than it is to already be enmeshed in it.
So.. that brings us to our next question...
How do we create life-giving community?
When we move to a new town, start a new job, or basically anytime we are uprooted and put into a new environment, we can find ourselves on the outside looking in. Often we are not just contending with a new environment, but we are also given the task of trying to break into an already established social fabric.
It can be incredibly difficult to find our place in a tight-knit group, and it can be discouraging to feel like we don't belong. So how can we overcome these feelings? How can we establish ourselves in our community in a positive way?
Well, first I would say that we need to remember that "community" doesn't have to be super close friendships: it just needs to be people who you know and feel relatively comfortable around. Think friends and acquaintances that don't know your darkest secrets, but who you COULD invite to a large barbecue party.
There are THREE areas of community: people we see by default, people we share interests with, and people who we are socially connected to.
Community by default would be people you work with or live near. This would be neighbors or coworkers that you HAVE to see regularly. Say hi and get to know these people! You never know what could come of it. In fact, the relationship with our neighbors ended up being SO life-giving that I actually went on vacation with them a year ago! LOL.
Community "by default" is actually quite effective because we are guaranteed to see these people regularly. Even our coworkers can become some of our strongest support systems in times of need, simply because of the exposure we have to each other! Don’t write these opportunities for connection off.
Next, we have community around shared interests. Examples of this would be church, a hobby club, local theater, local volunteer opportunities, exercise groups, quilting clubs, running groups, dog parks, reading groups, ministry teams, etc.
These types of groups offer great opportunities for community simply based on the shared interests and everything you have in common. You will also probably see these people rather regularly at meetings. This type of community allows you to express different sides of yourself and become more adventurous. Plug into your interests and see what happens!
Finally, we have community through social connections. Examples of this type of community would be family and friends that you spend time with because of social ties. You don't necessarily hang out with these people because you see them all the time or because you have a shared interest.
I have found that this type of community is often the strongest because we share LIFE with these people. As much as you can, try to plug into these connections and create relationships. Let them know when you need help, and try to plan event that include a large number of those social connections. Meet your friends’ friends and always be open to hosting and gathering around food. Establish connection and see what happens!
I want to end with this little tidbit of honesty: community has never been easy for me. I often find myself inexplicably shy when it comes to large groups and new things.
My husband is definitely better at this than I am: in fact, as I write this, he is getting a beer with the manager of our local Mexican restaurant. How did this happen? Well, they ran into each other at the gym. I swear, my husband has no bounds when it comes to new things.
So if you're shy like me, just know that I commiserate with you. Community can be hard: it's not fun to put yourself out there and to try to build connections. Sometimes I feel desperate for community, but then an opportunity to build one comes up and I shrink back in fear.
So as you dive into trying to build deeper community, just know that I'm trying to do it too. You are not alone, and I salute you dear Reader, for giving all of this a chance. You are loved, you are strong, and you can do it.
Sending you love and blessings today and always.