Building Community

Building Community

I’m not a fan of sad stories unless they come with happily-ever-after type endings. (I’ll make this quick, because it’s not the important part.) A lifetime ago, I didn’t think I had a perfect marriage, but I did believe I had one that would certainly hold up over the course of my lifetime. We had recently made a major move with two young kids to a new city, new jobs, new home, new grocery store, new kinda-friends (because honestly that takes time). All new. He said I think this is best, so we uprooted our lives of 8 years in the same community, and moved to The Land of New. Replanted with really short roots, it was the end of the world as I knew it, and the tried and true friends I needed to lean on were 1000 miles away.

These were friends who knew me–knew I don’t throw in the towel when things are hard, persist when the effort seems futile, and search high and low for a way to work around a challenge. They knew because they’d already hiked those trails of life with me, in some cases literally hiked 14,000-foot peaks. My call-from-the-closet-at-2am-sobbing friends were a thousand miles away, and I simply didn’t have deep-rooted connections with people I could count on in my new locale.

I also knew isolation equated with my becoming the worst version of myself.

That. Was. Not. An. Option.

I needed the most expedient path of healing so we could get onto the Happily Ever After part. I didn’t know how to get there, but I knew I would not find it on my own. Hiking Rule 1: Never head out on an expedition alone. (Remember that guy who amputated his own arm, just hiking along and fell in a fissure before a boulder fell on him? No thanks.)

I desperately needed community–a place with people in the same situation who could identify with the heartbreak of a marriage that was ending, the hurt of commitments abandoned, not knowing how to start the lawn mower, the whirlwind of figuring out how to care for and support my kids when I didn’t know how I was going to keep myself together, much less them. People I did know whom I considered relatively close simply did not have anything in their arsenal resembling my predicament. When the other side of this heart-to-heart conversation consists of either a well-meaning but blank stare or the holier-than-thou “wellIwouldneverhavesomethinglikethathappeninMYmarriage” retort, all of the mustered courage it took to confide in someone evaporates. Reaching out for help requires letting one’s guard down; people simply aren’t equipped to help sometimes, even if they sincerely want to be supportive. Because “Maybe you just need to try harder” is not always the solution.

Not helpful.

I quit bothering with my have-it-all-together friends because they couldn’t possibly produce any empathy when they did not have similar experience to draw from. Instead, I connected with people whose lives had been train wrecked by a divorce who emerged on the other side with all appendages intact. I was committed to finding a way through territory I knew almost nothing about, so I asked successful navigators of similar terrain how they did it. And this was one of the smartest things I did.

I looked lots of places for community because I knew I desperately needed it. Finding that community proved much more difficult a task than I imagined. People are busy, don’t generally run around wearing a t-shirt that says “Proud to be Divorced,” and trust takes time to build. I found a group of friends–9 single men and women with a shared love of grilling, obnoxious music, killer wit, and a penchant for horrible card games and slightly inappropriate t-shirts.

I’m not sure one finds community; I’m more of the opinion that one builds community. Investing time and myself into people who shared similar challenges or could at the very least relate to those challenges changed the game for me. Today, these people are ones I can call out of nowhere and ask which tires I should buy, if they have time for lunch on Saturday just because, or call to keep me company on our drives home from work. This community saved me so many times, but it took a long time to find them and build quality relationships.

An online community like IMO would have helped me had it been around then. If I’d only found a forum where reading the experiences and solutions of other people who had been in my boat and made it to the other side, I would’ve felt like surviving this was not just possibly possible but definitely do-able. Separation and divorce disconnect us from people we loved and strain our relationships with those in the middle. Finding a place with a positive vibe where people are focused on moving away from what didn’t work in favor of growing toward something that does would have given me a life preserver that I would’ve held onto for dear life.

It’s Community Week, so go check our one of the new forums, offer some encouragement and practical knowledge, or just be in a place where people understand the path you’re traveling.

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Teacherwithtude 71 posts

Teacherwithtude - Thoughtful Creative, Single Mom-on-Rollerskates, Educator, What-if Kind of Thinker, Household Engineer, Wannabe Superhero...

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