Friday, August 17, 2012

Why I Have No Friends*

I didn't intend for such a long silence when I wrote this post, but the emotional turmoil from which it came, and the subsequent response, was overwhelming. This week, I have needed to take a rest. And let me tell you, my rest has been easy. Somehow, this turbulence that I've been dealing with has lessened. Because so many people responded. And because amazingly, God met me.

Writing does something for me. It helps me to see more clearly. Last week I wrote and edited for hours, and I began to see the foolishness of my thinking. That post was the culmination of many things over a period of days. There was a book. And someone's story that I heard. A sermon or two. And your encouragement and nods of agreement. Friday truly felt like a new beginning for me.

I want to thank you. For responding. As I read your emails, and comments, and texts, most of them made me cry. Some because of their content, but mostly because they were there. Because so many of you cared enough to respond. They have truly ministered to my soul. At first, when I would read a response and cry, Malachi would say, "Mommy set [upset]?" Then after a couple of times, he started to say, "Mommy set again?" And then he pretty much ignored it. Weeping. Just life as usual around here.

In retrospect, maybe I should have turned off the computer and Smartphone so that I could get all the crying done at once, and no disrupt my day and alarm my child quite so frequently(!)

It hasn't been all cupcakes and rainbows. I am normally a private person. I don't post Facebook statuses full of drama. I don't share my business with the world. So to put it all out there like this has been very humbling and scary for me. I am still feeling nervous about it. When I run into people, the sinking feeling I have sometimes, realizing they might have read such private thoughts, is horrifying. I feel exposed. If I'm honest, sometimes I reallyreallyreally just want to pretend it didn't happen. But that would be to look a gift horse in the mouth because this feeling, and this exposure, really is a blessing. It has been a relief to be open about it, to have conversations about it. To know that its not hidden anymore. That I'm moving forward.

I am believing again. I am having understanding that I didn't have a week ago. It doesn't feel very personal yet. I feel sort of like I'm just getting reacquainted with this God who I've been been distant from for years. But I'm taking tentative steps in the right direction. And He is meeting me there. I don't know how much I'll write about this. I really do want close friends who I can live life with. But I don't know how much I can take of feeling like I'm writing my most intimate heart and sharing it with literally anyone who wants to read it. Not everyone in this world is "safe", and it is a hard thing to share private thoughts through a blog when you wouldn't feel like you trusted them face to face. But I also know that it can be helpful, for me and for others, to read and relate to my experiences. So we'll see what ends up here.

One question I've been thinking about as I've started sharing this with people more personally, is "How did I get here? Spiritually and relationally?" Why have I been going through such a difficult struggle almost completely alone?

Spiritually, it was a progression that probably started with a book I read. There were some doubts that surfaced and no one to hash it out with. There was a church situation that totally bummed me out. There was a change from full-time ministry to a regular vocation. I wasn't sure why it all happened, and I wasn't thrilled with the way life was turning out, or how hard it was to live the ideals I thought I believed in. There were more questions and no still no one to hash it out with. And then more life. And more questions. It just seems like the questions never got answered, and resulted in more questions, until I have felt really, totally confused.

Relationally, there is a lot I could say. About how I've tried and how I haven't. I haven't shared this fully with anyone except my husband and its not always because I think other people have it all together. Sometimes it is, and I know that's a lie. It's often because I don't have relationships established to share something so personal. The place I have been in emotionally is so raw that, for me, being real is more than most people are up for at some social event. It's not that I haven't wanted to talk to someone. It's just that you all don't understand the mess that would cause. I'm a Cryer. Not a normal cryer. An ugly, puffy, red-faced cryer that is really...conspicuous. I can't just ask someone to coffee, say, and dump on them my entire history without the ugly crying. And I have a kid. So I can't just "get into it" anywhere. So, being that it doesn't ever seem like the appropriate place or time for all that, and nobody wants to be the needy new friend when the other friend hasn't shared equally, it never happens. For me to be real without it always resulting in a display of my emotional wreckage means that I have to work through the wreckage. Deal with it. Heal from it.

There are times when I have reached out and alluded to this issue in my life. Sadly, the responses I've gotten have been spiritual platitudes at worst, and at best, completely inapplicable to my situation. I've received shallow advice that is supposed to fix it in twenty-two minutes like a sitcom, and "I've been there" statements when they are comparing mountains to molehills. It's so hard to share this and not be taken seriously, that it just makes me resolve to not talk to anyone else about it.

I don't want to seem ungrateful. But where are the friends who will just listen, and not try to fix it? I can't tell you how many advice sessions I have nodded my way through when I just wanted someone to listen. Don't say much. Build my trust. And share your struggles too. No, not those ones. The real ones.

Sometimes I see people, and wish I were like them. I'm sure you do it too. Not the people who have it all together. The people who seem real. The ones who really care. The ones who are warm and open. I am not that person. But I want to be. I want to be the one who can reach out when someone clearly needs a friend, but I'm not in a place where I'm very good at it. I can make a meal, I can invite you over for dinner, but I have a really hard time getting past the surface level interaction that I really wish was out of the way. And so do they. Even when I haltingly make the first move, it is often not reciprocated with equal vulnerability.

I'm hoping this whole thing will be the start of something new in my life. A rekindled faith. And also, real friends. The kind that tell me what's really going on in their lives. The not-so-shareable stuff. And vice-versa.  The kind of friends that depend on each other, and whose kids grow up together. Don't you want the same thing?

Since I wrote that life-changing post a week ago, I have had all these people reach out to me. Ask me to coffee and playdates and who knows what else. And I plan on taking pretty much everyone up on it. But I'm realizing how rehashing the same story over and over will get a little old. And I'm thinking that it would be so much better if I have a new story. Something that goes like this: I was down and out. Then I asked for help. And there you were. Now I'm not down and out anymore. Here's what God is doing in my life. What about you?

*  For the purposes of this post, I am using the word "friend" to mean, "intimate friend". I have friends. Don't be offended if you consider yourself my friend. The feeling is mutual, I'm sure. :o)


  1. This is really true, Sandra. I like what you said about a new story...i have been thinking about that a lot too, with some stuff from my past that I want to become a springboard rather than a wallowing place. Shaana's testimony was so challenging for me. Not trying to give one of those easy "i've been there's," but i went through a serious time of questioning my faith and God when we lost our first two babies.

    Hey...we should get together sometime! :)


  2. Sandy,
    (Or Sandra, but I know you as Sandy!), I think I have been my loneliest in life, as a parent. The needs of my child(ren) have trumped my needs way too many times to count and definitely more than they should.
    When I look back, it seems that in my adult life, the times that major moves or changes are the times that have been the loneliest. When I moved to Seattle, it took a good 3 years to develop deep, meaningful and trustworthy relationships. When I stayed home after Amos was born, that shift and loneliness happened again, mostly because I had to figure out how to be a stay-at-home extrovert. Our move to Indy five years ago was again very lonely, as I sought to make friends, not be on the outside and care for my child. At church these days, I rarely, if ever, go deep because someone is wailing, or lost or needs to eat or sleep, and usually, I am worn out too.
    I think the thing that has really helped me has been regular community in the form of a small group on Wednesday nights and neighborhood dinner group on Sunday nights. It's given me the opportunity to get to know people (AND to remember that it does take time to get there with folks), so that when something hits the fan, we have a foundation. Also, we've supported each other as we've had babies together, kids have started school together, deaths in the family, postpartum depression and gone through other major life changes together. The thing I've found is that it takes time, over a period of time, to establish these, but it does happen, and it's another place to see God caring and loving on us, and working.
    Too, I am extroverted and a verbal processor, so it always helps for me to talk it out. But I know lots of introverts that are great writers, and, that still need to talk things out, so you are not alone! There is something about speaking a thought or even a confession, that lessens the power of that thought or sin over us.
    God made us to need each other, I believe, so I would just encourage you to try to find a small group to meet with regularly, be it at church, a moms group, whatever, and give it time for those relationships to blossom. And thanks again for sharing. It takes real guts to be vulnerable.