It’s five am on Sunday morning. The kitchen is quiet and cold, but I have my monkee hoodie, my mug of coffee, and inspiration to keep me warm. It’ll be one of those days when mommy’s tired and cranky by three – it always is when I get up so early to write. But to me, this precious writing time is worth any price my husband and children have to pay for it.
I know I haven’t written to you about my personal life lately, and that’s a conscious decision. My vision for Momastery is that it’s about Life, not just my little life. I have learned that there is a difference. This might be one of the most important things I’ve ever learned.
Writing about Life instead of my life is a spiritual discipline for me. Remembering and exploring the difference between the two . . . stepping outside of my personal circumstances each morning and writing to and about all of us helps me maintain perspective about the ups and downs in my little life. It reminds me that Life is much too important to take my little life too seriously. It helps me remember that even when my world has stopped spinning, the world hasn’t. It reminds me – G, even when your little life is on hold, Life goes on. Join in.
I do this every morning because when my life here is done, I don’t want to discover that I was so concerned about dropping a stitch in my little square, I never stepped back to soak in the beauty of the entire quilt.
Even so – I know that you’d like an update on our little family. Here goes.
Last April we sold our home, abandoned our suburban lives, and moved to a teeny town on the Chesapeake Bay. I was feeling overwhelmed by the pace required to keep up with our lives. I dreamt of fewer school and social obligations and more family time and slower days, wide open spaces and sunsets on the water. So we sold our home and rented a beautiful old Victorian house on Main Street in a gorgeous old fishing town. It was glorious. We decided to stay there forever and raise our kids on the water. I love the water.
Here is what I learned.
The bay is beautiful, but not as lovely as Manal. The morning sound of the birds on the bay comfort me, but Adrianne’s ridiculous laugh comforts me even more. Watching my kids splash in the bay is wonderful, but not nearly as wonderful as watching them play with their Aunt Christy. There is no substitute for girlfriends. God made some beautiful things – and the Chesapeake Bay is one of them – but I’m pretty sure women were His best work. I was lonely without mine.
I have always been confused about friendship. I have never felt good at it. All of its keeping in touch and actually answering the phone and navigating group dynamics and remembering birthdays and showing up at things and returning emails seemed like overwhelming pressure. I have a reclusive side, which makes it challenging to maintain friendships.
Even so, I have managed to keep a small group of “best friends” from college. They take such incredible care of each other. They make friendship look so natural, so effortless. And I always felt loved by them but also a few steps removed. I couldn’t do it the way they did it. Couldn’t be all in like they are with each other. I always kept one foot out. Partly because I have a very hard time feeling part of any group. Groups are so hard. But also because everything they relied on from each other…advice, help, a shoulder to cry on, shopping partners . . . I get from my Sister. I am ashamed to say it, but I never really thought I needed them. But after a few months in my new town it became clear that it was going to be very, very hard to make friends. And impossible to replace the ones I already had. Marriage and parenting become extra hard without friends with whom to discuss how wonderful and hard they are.
So Craig and I started talking about what this all meant for us. It’s a journey, our marriage. We try one thing, then try another. We see what works and what doesn’t. We get to know each other better with each new try, and then we fix things for each other and try not to lose our patience. We try to be tireless with each others’ hearts. Craig is an expert at these things. I am learning.
In the end, we decided to move back. Back to Northern Virginia. Back to the burbs. Back to our friends. Mostly because it became clear that I needed to. As a recovering alcoholic and bulimic, true loneliness is dangerous territory for me. I don’t know how it works, but being plugged in to others is one of the keys to my sobriety. And there was one lonely night in our teeny little town when I glanced at the wine bottle on top of the fridge – just for a couple seconds too long. That scared the bejesus out of me. And sweet Craig knows…if I go down…the whole fam damily goes down. So listen, here is what we did.
We bought a house in one of those planned communities in which I swore I’d never live. Where the HOA spray paints the grass green and the backyards and closets are about the same size. I know. Big change. But listen.
I live within a mile of Gena, Casey, Manal, and Megan. We can walk to each other’s houses and our little ones are all in school together. And when Craig calls and says he’s going to be late, I call my girls and say come over right away. And our million collective littles run around my house and we mamas talk and drink Diet Coke out of wine glasses because Manal’s mom told her it tastes better that way. It really does. And we make nine frozen pizzas and I burn most of them and Gena looks at me in the middle of the chaos and says, I can’t believe this. I can’t believe how lucky we are. 15 years. We’re mamas together.
And I look at Gena – and all of these Genas flash before me.
I see her in a sparkly gown that she wore to a dance her freshman year in college. And then I see her in a black graduation gown, holding her diploma. And then I see her walking down the aisle in a gorgeous wedding gown. And finally I see her in the blue hospital gown she wore when she had her first child, Tyler.
And I think, we are growing up together . . . kind of like sisters do. We’re friends. And I know we’re friends because I need you. I don’t understand why. I’m just grateful that I do.
And I turn to watch Gena’s little girls chasing mine through our house in their Snow White dresses and I think….Yep. I found my Water. I found my Small Town. My water and my small town are my friends. And I’m all in. It’s like The Alchemist. Sometimes you have to go away to discover that you left everything you needed Back Home. But the journey was necessary.
And is our new (old) life here perfect?
But here’s what I’ve learned, finally. I am not going to be perfectly happy anywhere.
If I live by the water, I will miss the burbs. If I live in the mountains, I will miss the water. If I live in the burbs, I will miss the mountains. If I watch House Hunters International, I will miss Costa Rica. And I’ve never even been to Costa Rica.
The point is that I have done the experiment, I have moved six times in eight years, to very different places…chasing peace and joy. And I stiiiiiill haven’t fooooound what I’m looking fooooor. I am a slow learner. But I do eventually learn. So listen- I am finally ready to accept that there is no geographic location that offers perfect joy and peace. Because, like Bubba says: Wherever you go, There you are. That’s the problem. Not where you are, but that you are. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me seven times…..
There is a scripture that says “quit wearing out your shoes.” And I think I finally know what that means. One of the keys to happiness is accepting that this side of Life, I’m never going to be perfectly happy where I am. So I might as well get busy loving the people around me. I’m going to quit deciding whether they are the right people for me and I’m just gonna take a deep breath and start loving my neighbors. I’m going to take care of my friends. I’m going to find peace in the ‘burbs. I’m going to quit chasing happiness and sit still long enough to see it right in front of me.
Now here’s the important part of all of this. I’ve been thinking a lot about what these discoveries in my little life mean about Life. What does do my discoveries about friendship mean for all of us?
Because I am starting to know you Lovies pretty well. So I know that some of you are reading and nodding and thinking about your own close girlfriends and feeling grateful for them. But I also know that there are many, many others reading and feeling sad because they don’t have close girlfriends. Because they’ve been hurt or ignored or left out by women. I have been, too. I know how that feels.
I’m reading a book right now called The Twisted Sisterhood about all the ways that females hurt each other. It’s making me sad and frustrated and inspired. I want us to all take better care of each other. We ladies need to learn how to love each other better through this tough life. And I’d like to talk about how. What better use of our time here than to explore ways to make more women feel welcome and loved and safe?
How do you feel about female relationships? Do you have them? Do you want them? Are they satisfying? Are you afraid of them because you’ve been hurt? All of the above?
Love You. Take Care of Each Other.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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