Community is good. It’s usually a good feeling to belong. And when my life imploded a few years back and I had no more husband, I reached out and let more people in than I normally would. A while back I used an app on Facebook to graphically display the connections that I had with my friends. And the result was fascinating. The heart-shape was purely coincidental but a sweet sentiment and probably true. I’ve received a lot of love from the connections I’ve made throughout my lifetime. The red names are people who I know from my old job and my church that I attended for 10 years. The green names are people I’ve known or barely known since childhood and who I went to school with. The blue names are my family. While smaller in number even their color suggests the power they have in my life. And the peach names are work colleagues from my present job.
Who I am depends in part who I listen to. And I have done a lot of listening in the past few years. I’m a sharer. I share my life, my struggles, my problems, my triumphs with people I care about. I say something like, “What do you think?” And then I listen. Most of the time I get very good, helpful, loving advice. I chew on what they say and decide for myself what to do. But sometimes I feel immense pressure to conform my thinking to theirs. I was kind of spinning for a while not knowing what or who to listen to. Trying to decide who I was again.
But this past year has changed much of that. I dumped my significant other. I switched churches. I stopped sharing my personal life with my family. I stopped sharing as much personal information on Facebook where I would get people’s opinions about things. And recently I got a new significant other.
Much of the changes that have taken place in my life since has felt like they were taking place in a vacuum. I’ve somehow managed to get away from the chatter long enough to ask myself some hard questions and listen to my answer and not anyone else. And the results have been interesting.
I have two close friends who I’ve bounced things off of a time or two this past year. And I have Harry, who is the type of person who can and will talk to me about anything. So whatever is going on in my brain he’s okay spending time there chatting about its implications. He has the uncanny ability to listen without making me feel like there is only one right answer. And that has been very freeing to me to be able to react to things life is throwing at me, process them, and then decide what to do about them without those spheres pressuring me in one direction or another.
Short of moving away and starting a new life somewhere else. I’ve pretty much charted my own course this year. It’s my first real year being single and embracing what that means. I’m my own person.
As much as my Christian friends would like to help and give me godly advice, most of them are not interested in really trying to understand who I am, they just rattle off the platitudes. In Christian circles we like to say that we have an audience of one. There is only one person we need to please and that’s God. But in Christian circles we usually mean in addition to that, “And if you agree with us, you agree with God.” It’s certainly not everyone, but most people don’t know me well enough to give me a real answer. It’s just this giant group that thinks alike and if you do, you are part of the club. I belonged to that club by default for 10 years because that is where I worked. But it really was not “me.” And it has nothing to do with how close I am to walking with God.
It might be petty to describe, but on Facebook I saw a song that some friends of mine wrote, performed and produced a video for. It was well done but I didn’t like the song. And it was so freeing to realize I didn’t have to pretend to like it because everyone is supporting their careers.
I went to my massage therapist who attends my old church and she started talking about this 50/50 shake that everyone is doing to be healthy and lose weight. I’ve seen rumblings from folks describing it on Facebook too but I thought in my head. Yep…everybody is doing that, growing moustaches, and buying really ugly thick Elvis Costello glasses. And I was struck by the vanity of the group as a whole. I never got sucked in to that stuff but I see it from a distance in a very real way and it reminds me of high school. Everyone who belongs to that group is SO HAPPY in it with all their inside jokes, barbecues, and shared experiences. But it feels very clique-like.
I’m now on the outside of all that looking in…and some of it really makes me scrunch up my nose and shake my head. Like I said before community IS good. It’s just really interesting viewing it from the outside and realizing patterns and things you don’t really like about it.
Most recently I asked a leader who I worked with for ten years and who vacationed with my family to write a recommendation for my daughter to a college. He politely declined because he said he doesn’t really know her anymore. That one hurt, and while it was true all he had to do was ask her to come in for a short interview and give her a half hour of his time.
While sometimes it makes me sad that I don’t “belong” anymore. Most of the time I find it very refreshing for some reason. I feel more authentically me. I never belonged to a group in high school. I did my own thing. That’s probably why I don’t remember most people who remember me. I never conformed to peer pressure when I was a kid. I did for a while as an adult because I belonged to a very large group of like-minded people. Now, I’m more relaxed and I have more peace about the direction I’m headed. I’m more me.
And it’s not just my church group, but my family too. We moved away to remove their influence on our lives when I was first married. During the break up of my marriage I felt horrible and processed much of what happened with them. I parroted to them what my ex told me as his reasons for leaving and much of it had to do with how horrible I was. I talked myself down just like I talked myself down after my most recent break up in my blog. I was like an open book spewing all my shame and guilt all the while calling my ex a prince, and perfect, and now I know that wasn’t at all the case. But that is what they remember.
In my past relationship I looked to him to convince me of my self-worth and I desperately wanted the approval of my family. I think that was true because I was so unsure of it myself. If they were behind it then it must be ok, right? But they weren’t. They opposed it and that brought even more confusion to my world.
But this time with Harry, I seriously don’t care what ANYBODY thinks about it. I’m confident I’m exactly where I need to be at this point in my life. And that tells me something.
I feel like I’ve grown so much in this area of self-confidence and feeling grounded by the Lord in my decisions that are made for me, by me alone, that I told Harry that I’m ready to go public on Facebook with our relationship We have 127 mutual friends. And while that may seem like a step backwards as if I care for all of them to know. It’s really the opposite in my mind. It’s me not hiding anymore because I’m afraid of what people might say that might influence me. It’s me telling my family…my church friends…my work colleagues…and anyone else I know that this is my choice. Harry is my choice and I don’t care what you all think about it. I know who I am, and I know what I want and this is it. Because this man is the most important person to me on the planet besides my children. And this man is going to be the most important thing in my day-to-day life for the rest of my life. And HE is MY choice. MINE. All mine.
It’s like a declaration of independence ever so subtly spoken. And when it happens – Harry’s name will be with my name – together in the center of that heart. We will belong together by declaration and definition. We will have our own inside jokes, backyard barbecues and shared experiences and we will create safe, helpful and loving spheres of influence around us to form a new heart-shaped amoeba.