Last Friday, in response to my call to cultivate community, I received a comment too pertinent to this subject to pass over. Not that they’re not all pertinent, just that this one epitomizes a phenomenon so prevalent in our culture that I believe it merits a proper discussion.
Though “feel good” the comment is not, the opportunity we have to look within ourselves as individuals, to recognize our part in this oft-told story and to respond collectively, not just to Jessica as an individual, but to the truth of modern isolation and loneliness as a cultural wound is a valuable one, indeed.
The feel good part comes in when YOU, as a community, respond — when you add to the story with your wisdom, empathy and experience (below in the comments), and together we shine light for others to see by.
I have bad postpartum depression and wish someone in their community would reach out to me. I know you need to “help yourself” and “be the change you want to see,” etc, etc… but I’ve tried to start conversations, to form friendships with other moms at the park and library and it always seems like they get to a point where — aside from commenting on my baby’s cute clothing — they are not interested in talking and they start inching away (body language) or just take off all together. I’m not pushy or weird, honest! I small talk, give appropriate compliments, ask a few questions like, “So what do you do?” and “How old is your little one?” I don’t know why its so hard for me to make friends with other moms. Maybe they don’t want ‘another friend,’ as though it is just another thing to add to their to-do list. I dunno, but I don’t have a single friend and almost every time I go to the park and see a group of women sitting together with kids all around, laughing and sharing their experiences…my loneliness is compounded. I’ve left many times with tears streaming down my face the moment I turn toward home, and I return to my empty neighborhood where everyone is so isolated that they even DRIVE to pick up their mail. I mean, here your mailbox is no more than two houses away and people STAY IN THEIR CAR and get it, then drive into their garage and shut it before I see an actual person. I must look like a fish out of water because I actually walk with my daughter around the neighborhood and to the park and only rely on the car when I need to. Anyway, I’m not sure why I’m writing other than to share this with someone because I have no one and to encourage all of you reading this to please, reach out to others!!!! Especially middle-aged moms, please reach out to the younger moms! I would love to have an seasoned mom full of wisdom and life experience who knows what the baby stage is like to just share a cup of tea with me. I can’t tell you how much that would mean to me.
We have a tendency to dramatize honesty. I encourage you not to go there. From my many years as a mother, friend and La Leche League leader (lactation and maternal support) I can assure you that this is not just Jessica’s story, this is tale of modernity — a symptom of unchecked social “progress” that falls hardest upon those in vulnerable stages of life and in the greatest need of community. We might, instead, choose to use her example as an exercise in recognition:
- that our capacity to help others is deepest and truest when we first see ourselves reflected in another.
- that so often, those bold enough to tell their stories aren’t asking much, and certainly not more than we are willing to give.
- that each one of us is capable of playing a part in curing the dreaded disease of disconnection.
- that the healers, nurturers, creators and connectors of our times — the natural born and seasoned mothers — are sorely needed for lead roles in this modern tale.
Over the next few days, I’d love to hear from YOU. Is Jessica’s story your story? Have you managed to connect with a strong community of women? If so, where did you find them? On the flip side, are you one of those already connected and too busy to add another friend to your circle or get out of your car for your mail? In what ways do judgement, unevaluated thoughts and personal or societal imbalance feed into this story?
Thanks in advance to all of you for including your voice, and feel free to pass this along to anyone you believe has perspective, wisdom or empathy to contribute.
The beautiful women in the photo above have nothing and EVERYTHING to do with Jessica’s story. Among my own closest circle of friends, each one has nurtured me, healed my wounds, carried my burdens and shared in my sorrows. Each has also shown me the tremendous joy, fulfillment, balance, hilarity and celebration possible within a supportive community of women.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be exploring the ways I’ve come to cultivate community in my own life as well as the barriers and obstacles I’ve run up against. In the meantime:
To The Jessicas of our times: There IS a community out there for you. It may not be the one most obvious to you, you may have to look outside the box(es) to find it and it may take time to cultivate, but it does exist and it IS worth your while to pursue (or create) it.
To all you women with the capacity to connect and encourage and reach out to other women: Your role in community building, and thus cultural healing is truly invaluable and more vital than ever. THANK YOU. You are true heros.
Ready, set, comment away!