Posts tagged Village
Finding Friendship

Growing up I wasn't great at having friends. I never had a proper model from either parent of what a good friend should be. 

Throughout elementary, middle school, and into high school, friends came and went and I never really understood during those different phases of my youth why it was that my friendships easily dissolved. Why friends slowly began to distance themselves from me while I just sat back and let them, never actually thinking twice about the importance they had in my life. Looking back it all is so plain and clear that the way I knew how to be a friend was no friend at all.

My mother especially didn't possess the ability to be selfless and to consider others before herself so this was something I never understood was a deeply important part of being a friend. She modeled to me from an early age how to use relationships for your own advantage, getting what you want from the people in your lives and then casting them aside. While I never consciously hurt my friends, I certainly didn’t understand all the subtle ways I did. Not taking the time to consider their feelings or helping foster friendships and keep them alive.

Not only did my lack of role models for a proper friendship influence me but the general instability of childhood made me into a fiercely independent person dead set on showing the world that I could handle whatever life threw at me using only my own devices.
Through those years I denied that friendship was something that was even important in life, while at the same time deep down I know deep friendship was something I longed for. 

Maybe it was that I didn't have a decent role model of tangible friendships to look to and much of my idea of friendship was based on unrealistic interpretations on television shows, movies, and even in books. I longed for a friend who was exactly like me that I could connect with on every level. We had similar childhood struggles, and dreams for the future, we liked the same activities and the same kind of boys, and the same kind of clothes. And if they didn't have all these things in common with me than they would never understand me, not only that but they would judge me for being different. 

As I got older, I met my husband, friends again came and went through my life never feeling too strong of a desire to keep anyone too close, it wasn't until motherhood that this all changed. It’s easy to say that this transition was what changed everything, it was a catalyst, yes, but it was also a long time coming, years and years of self-reflection, of learning to look within myself, see how I evolved into who I was, learning to be mindful of the reasons I approached life and social interactions the way I did.

But at the same time there is nothing like the birth of a mother to set all that self-reflection and mindfulness into hyper speed. Becoming a mother transforms you.  In those early months when you haven't yet met this unfamiliar little life making a warm cozy home in your womb, and you have all the time in the world to dream about what their little face will look like and who they will be but also what you will look like and who you will be as their mother. 

Motherhood makes you look deeply at who you are, what you've been through, what you value, and what you want to instill in your children. As mothers we worry if our struggles, our fears, our flaws, will negatively affect them. We worry how we can raise them to be good people in a sometimes scary world of hidden dangers. Motherhood more than any other life change really makes us look deep within ourselves and out into the world at who we are, what we want, and who we want our children to be. During those hugely transforming months of pregnancy it becomes easier for many to embrace their inner goddess and the sensitive nature that comes along with being a woman. We yearn for others who understand the deep ocean of thoughts and emotions we are faced being a vessel for new life. We somehow feel closer to all women, across countries, and generations. Understanding our own mothers more, and each person we see we may for a moment see a glimpse of them as someone's child, or someone's mother. We begin to realize that in motherhood, we are all sisters.  


When that new life is finally on the outside, in your arms, eyes open wide and looking to you for everything, this can be a terrifying and isolating experience for many. Not to mention caring for your newly birthed baby is undeniably hard! Those first weeks with your fragile unfamiliar newborn, trying to nourish them and not forget yourself. Trying to heal your body and keep theirs safe; on little sleep, with tired eyes, and sore nipples, and so many questions.
This is the time we need the most support. This is when we truly need a friend. This is when we truly need our sisters. Not just to give us guidance or advice but for encouragement and just to know we are not alone. 

Motherhood can transform a woman in a multitude of ways. For me even between my weakest hours it gave me the strength and eagerness to allow myself to start the journey to be the woman I had always wanted to be. Having a child of my own felt like the ultimate incentive. With her by my side, I felt like I could do anything, or at least be satisfied with the fact that I tried. I always knew having a child would jump start my soul and give me the push I needed to realize my dreams. Something about being needed, being the role model, being the mother, gave me the strength and the drive to finally be the woman I wanted to be. No excuses with her in my life. I would do it for her, I would do it for me. 

And now was the time to be the woman I wanted to be. And a big part of becoming that woman was finding woman, sisters; who could help me find who that was. Who could challenge me, inspire me, and support me. So I did something I hadn't really done my whole life.

I put myself out there. 

I opened my heart and I swallowed my fears and my anxieties. Of not being accepted, of not finding anyone who I liked, who liked me, who meshed with my unique personality. I joined a group for new parents and I went multiple times a week for months. I chatted with people I thought could be friends, and who I knew I wouldn’t ever see again. This in itself was unbelievably cathartic and helpful for me in those first few months to feel I wasn’t alone in all my daily struggles as a new mother but most importantly after a few months, I had made connections, real connections with real woman.  Some I may have written off years ago because we didn’t have enough in common, because they came from different backgrounds, had led different lives up until our paths crossed as mamas. 

But what I would have missed if I continued down that path thinking that all friends needed to share so many similarities. I would have missed out on a true sisterhood. For the greatest thing I’ve learned through the beautiful friendships I’ve developed is that friends don’t have to have the same style, the same religion, the same struggles or achievements. 

What I found is that our differences is what makes our friendships mean something, it is what teaches me lessons daily, what expands my mind and my heart in ways I didn’t know possible. Each one of my friends is different, each with their own personality, their own quirks and strengths, and each one teaches me more about myself than I could ever learn from someone who was a match of me. 

I have believed that this wild and crazy life we are given was meant to learn as much as we can, about ourselves and this world, and about each other. And with each friend, with each conversation I am given the opportunity to see the world through a different perspective, through someone else’s eyes. To understand the way they view the world through the lens of their life. Through all their experiences that have molded them into who they are today. 

What I discovered to be most important is to find genuine people. Real people. Who don’t want to hide behind who they are supposed to be. That don’t apologize for who they are or what they believe. People who you can be yourself with, even if it’s nothing like them. Ones where you can bare your soul without feeling judged, friends who you can whine to without worry, ones you can share your triumphs with, ones you can share laughter with and tears. That is what truly matters in the heart of a friendship and what every one of us truly needs.

Journalist: Holly Klisak

Comparison

You enemy. You trickster. You thief. The lies tangle our minds like a web, sticky and endless. Wrapping us in an unseen but felt presence, like the spider’s trap. Joy is sucked out of our lives like a vacuum when you dominate our minds. We know it's a choice, but your voice is so loud it feels overpowering at times. You beat us up and leave us for nothing. You’re subtle, yet powerful, whispering your lies. Comparison: you are a distorter of truth, a tidal wave of unwanted emotions and a distraction from our deepest desires. You prey on our weaknesses and blind us of our strengths.  Our value of worth does not lie in your measurements. We do not fit in your box, in your false assumption of perfection. Comparing ourselves to anyone else is futile, ineffective, and painful.

I would take a guess that many of us fight this battle regularly. We know it produces counterproductive results, and yet, there we are again dreamy eyed, staring and thinking of that person or life we measure ourselves with. I don't know about you, but these wishful wanderings leave me at a bottom of a pit unsure how to regain solid ground. It's a mental beating that kicks me down, hindering my progress forward.  

So, can I just say this? 

There is no such thing as perfect! I'm a recovering perfectionist who had a child and realized this profound truth. Yes, the mom in the MOPS group may seem stylish, fit, organized, showered, and all in all the incarnation of a life-sized Barbie, but that's only one side of that coin. No matter how hard people may work to appear put together, we all have crap going on.

Perfection is a mirage. It feels good, but is as fleeting as the wind. We may float on it for a while thinking we've achieved it ...but like the wind it moves on, always it moves on, dropping you back down to the ground. Take it from me, don't float yourself up that way, then crash back down to earth. It hurts. It's not a lasting sense of self or joy trying to be a picture of perfect to the world. Seeking perfection turns us, especially us moms, into competitors rather than teammates. We laugh at our children for playing with imaginary friends, but isn’t living life secretly desiring to be more like someone else just as silly? The damage it does to us is not laughable though, is it? It hurts to feel like you are not enough, to believe other moms are better, more scheduled and put together, more conditioned, and successful than you. It hurts to feel that somehow you are the only one missing out on a full life. I battle these thoughts daily even though I know the ancient truth is that my heart will follow what my mind consistently dwells on. 

Can I just say this? 

Your ability to mother well does not have to do with how your neighbor or friend is choosing to mother.  Showing up each day, intentionally finding connection and creating a safe place for your children is enough of a job to do, without adding to the burden by looking around and seeing how others are reaching their goals.

You are the parent that God gave your children. While a cookie cutter mold would be much easier to achieve desired results, with this job it's a unique task for you to creatively form for your family. It's a living breathing organism, not lifeless dough to be pressed about into a cookie cutter mold. Looking over at Mary or Betty sucks confidence and joy right out of our lives. She may be organized but struggles to find times to play, while you are spastic and messy, but playing comes naturally to you. You will not succeed as a mom if your efforts are going from trying to change your design as a frying pan to be more like the teapot because your think brewing is cooler than frying.

We are all uniquely talented, and cannot spend our time envying others for their strengths. Please know, this world needs you. Do not allow these sneaky lies to sit you down and disable you from your vital job! Your potential can never be reached in the efforts of throwing off your original design in attempts to become a copy of another original.  

Can I just say this? 

Comparing ourselves to others hinders as our ability to learn and grow. Sadly, I've spent far too many years focused on those around me than where I want to head and develop. When you look at someone for approval to see if you are not totally failing at life, you lose the ability to glean knowledge and new "tricks" from the differing people in your life. Comparison breeds insecurity, and insecurity immobilizes and destroys. You cannot gain new information and apply it to your life when you're in a place of insecurity. Existing in an insecure life creates barriers against newness because you do not want anyone to affirm what you already believe, "you are failing" "you are not good enough" "your life sucks" etc. In this place of existence, you keep everything similar so as to not crash your already weak state of being. This is the result of allowing a false measuring stick to preside in our life. Comparing ourselves causes us to shut down in a disabling way. When we focus on another's life, whether that be personality, things, or a season of life, we cannot learn and appreciate the differences we bring to the table that are complimentary additions to each other’s lives.  "Comparison with myself brings improvement, comparison with others brings discontent" (Betty Jamie Chung)  

Can I just say this? 

If you are in a valley and it seems you are the only one not on the mountaintop "living it up" know you are not alone. I love my child and my husband, but I'm in a valley at this time in my life. I’m tired. I’m not in an overly blissful state of being. I have so much to be thankful for and I truly am blessed by God. But this mothering of a young sleepless babe, while keeping up with "outside life" is hard work. Job situations for us is hard. Fighting continued sickness for the past 6 months is hard. But comparing myself to others around me made it harder than it needed to be.

The refining valleys of life make us into diamonds, but we cannot fight the process. Comparing your valley to another's time of refreshment on the mountaintop is even more painful and depressing. You are not alone in hard seasons. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and God does have a purpose for the pain. Embrace the hard times with the good and you will come forth as gold! If we experience only the refreshing tranquil beach seasons, we would remain an unchanged and immature individual. Allow these times of hardship to do their painful but necessary work.

During this season I have had many weeks of social media "breaks" because I was not strong enough to fight against the desire to compare my life to the glorious existence of those around me. Tuning out and turning in freed me to slow down and removed the pressure to stop trying to turn the winter season into spring when it wasn't springs timing yet. In doing so I learned this: even dreary winter has beauty like sparkling snowflakes. My snowflakes have been that I know God will never leave me, my husband’s unfailing care for me during my struggle with some health issues, and the joy of focusing on making my daughter laugh everyday no matter what silliness it took to achieve.  

So can I just say this? 

Stop. Join me in refusing to allow yourself to measure your worth by anyone else's life. I'm preaching to myself over here. Right now I'm telling myself to stop! The mind is the battleground. I remember I once heard a story that helped me better understand the power of thoughts. You have two wolves fighting. Their names are Truth and Lies. Whichever wolf gets fed the most will be the one nourished enough to claim victory. Your thoughts are the food and whichever one you give most of your time and effort to is the wolf that will win. Which wolf are you feeding? I know it's not always that simple. Lies and truth get muddled so easily. But, the truth will set you free. Lies entangle and imprison us while we sit in jail with the keys.

We have the power to free ourselves with the keys in our hand, but as long as we choose to believe what is untrue we will remain caged. It is silly, but challenging. We were never meant to compare ourselves to each other. The person and life next to us is not the measuring stick for which we evaluate our success. We will never find purpose in throwing out the original in order to copy another. Or in stomping another person down in order to feel closer to that imagined measuring stick looming above us. Free others to inspire you rather then conquer you. "Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid" (Albert Einstien).  So momma, you are not stupid! You just need to stop climbing and start swimming!

Journalist: Megan Gutierrez