I am a member of a local meetup group for single parents. Technically, I started the group in 2010, then stepped down as organizer a couple of years later. This past October brought with it some of the most challenging relationship hurdles I’ve experienced in my life, culminating in a particularly gnarly de-coupling (more on that to come). Like most of us, in these times, I realized I really needed to engage my social support system – I needed to surround myself with a fellowship of people who would get it. But where would I possibly find a fellowship of people who could understand what life was like to be approaching middle age, with 3 children, single once again, and hurting, afraid and lonely? Oh…duh. I know exactly where those folks hang out! I sent a note to the gentleman who took over the leadership of the group when I stepped down and asked him if he needed any assistant organizers. Thankfully, he greeted me gracefully with open arms. Upon my “return”, I wrote the following and sent it to the mailing list – almost 300 members at the time. I wanted to explain what happened and where I went in an honest and vulnerable way. I received quite a few responses, all of which were so incredibly touching, it warmed my heart. What a powerful lesson in risk and return!
For those of you who know me, you know that I am quite shy, reserved and introverted. While I am one to pour my heart out, I am not usually one to pour it out in such a public forum. It is in the spirit of authenticity and a sincere desire to make positive changes in my life that I deliver this message.
I started this group over 4 years ago on the advice of my therapist at the time. He pointed out that I desperately needed friends, support, and a community of people who “get it”. It didn’t take much soul searching to realize he was right.
Raising children has a way of depleting us of our physical, financial, emotional, and energetic resources more than almost anything else in life – even in households with two adults.
But remove the resource availability provided by that second adult, and life can become an interesting, but never-ending math problem; at least for me, it did. Never enough of anything to go around is all too often what it feels like.
Intuitively, I understood that the mere act of dragging myself off the couch and being in the presence of other humans can help renew these resources, and surrounding myself with other humans who were in the same boat as me might just renew them faster and more efficiently. To be clear, for me, this was never an endeavor to find and replace that missing second adult in my household.
And it worked well, for a while. It worked until I let my baggage get in the way – baggage that comes with being a single parent (failure, insecurity) topped with a heaping dose of other life baggage and introversion (more fears, more insecurity, a tendency to isolate myself). I told myself that I didn’t fit in – in the community that I created!
As the group got larger, the scarier it became for me. I was meeting dozens of new people, which, in and of itself is a terrifying proposition for an introvert, but I was also supposed to be some kind of leader and often in some kind of spotlight? No thank you, I think I hear my sofa beckoning.
I told myself that I didn’t mesh well with the newer members and that the group had become a “meat market”. Looking back, I think that’s mostly bullshit, but even if there’s something to that claim, so what? I know I’m not going to mesh with everyone all the time, and that’s ok. And maybe there are members who are looking to this group with the hopes of finding a partner. That’s ok too.
So why am I telling you all this today? Why put myself out there in this incredibly vulnerable, potentially embarrassing way? Several reasons: first, I do feel some obligation to explain what happened in my life and psyche – especially to those folks who have been part of this community from the very beginning and who took over in my absence. Secondly, because it’s four years later and instead of having three kids, ages 12, 9 and 6, I have three kids ages 16, 13 and 10, and I realized I still desperately need friends, support, and a community of people who “get it”. Lastly, for anyone else out there, like me, whose sofa sometimes beckons them more than the prospect of camaraderie and friendship, I gently urge you to join us.
We all deserve to receive the strength and support of the friendships that we are also uniquely qualified to give each other.
I look forward to visiting and catching up soon!