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I had to kind of laugh at myself here, because my instant response to this was remembering how many years I’ve tried to cut back on these small things. Which might sound odd, but I’m: incredibly introverted while being dedicated to community in so many ways, including as a form of citizenship that I wish many more people would understand the need for; and a person who consistently brings soup to a friend who’s sick or other things for someone going through trauma and always, always follows through on what I’ve committed to no matter how draining I’ve found them. I am constantly out of time and overcommitted and sacrificing a lot of my own needs.
The more people who do these small things, though, the more it all gets spread out in the community and the less pressure there is on a few people who always show up. AND it builds community bonds, social capital, and healthy interdependence.
My strategy has been to choose two areas I really care about (for me it’s walking and education) and do things that serve those. Show up at school board meetings now and then (this is something I’ve let slide during Covid, but I also pair up with some other people and we trade off), find ways to talk to city staff or city council about missing or impassable sidewalks, play math games with elementary school kids, try to build momentum around creating a community where kids can walk and bike to school safely (this seems to be taking the rest of my life). And just be there for people.
I keep trying and failing and trying to cut back. But one thing I’ve learned is how much time and showing-up-ness it takes to make change in a community, or make things happen. It’s very inefficient while also building connection. Maybe the more people who can give these things a tiny bit of time, the more things can shift for the better.
Going for walks with people is never a bad move, IMHO!
I have one that I will not need help or support on because it's going to happen. In a word, it's stairs.
As I've mentioned a couple times, I live in a cohousing community. Well, starting probably next month, our single elevator will be being replaced, a seven-week process during which all of the most elderly and frail people who live in the elevator building part of the complex (where I also live) will be needing a lot of help just doing stuff like getting groceries or mail up to their front doors. And I'm right here and work from home. Our community is organizing more than an ad hoc call your neighbor, but outside of the scheduled times when people will be available to do that stuff, I would expect to be getting a lot of calls for help, as I have during the recent elevator outages leading up to the replacement project.
Oooh, I have a thing: a Lego playdate for myself and a friend.
I've got this friend who I met through our UU church and we get along super well and I'd like to be even more connected, and anyway we were chatting recently about how we both really enjoy Lego as adults but our kids are the ones who are always getting Legos, and she invited me over to her house for a grown-up Lego playdate. And my anxious self has been trying to nudge me towards finding some way to avoid it, reminding me how scary it is to drive unfamiliar routes (seriously, this is SO scary to me) and how weird it feels to be in someone's house that isn't mine, and how COVID precautions are going to work (even though friend and I are both super cautious and also we can just talk about it!), etc, etc...but dammit, I'm going to say yes.
I am very recently separated and this challenge is timely. I am going to commit to Sunday community yoga (that is followed by a dance party - gulp!), reaching out to a local org that help support the unhoused and go to queer event at my local coffee house. Scared and so ready.
I love this gentle push, but it also feels so hard. My kid is now a teen, so finding friends via him is a no-opt. But we aren't empty nesters or retirees, so finding other adults to hang out with is a challenge. Maybe it's a function of where I live, but my peers aren't particularly welcoming into their friend groups. They will make polite chitchat, but there's a coldness, a lack of inclusion, a distance that exists. So. It becomes harder and harder to try. It becomes easier to believe the a**hole brain's lies.
But! I appreciate this gentle call out as a reminder to keep trying, channel Stuart Smallery (I've likely aged myself with that reference 🙃), and keep going.
Also, if anyone reads this and feels the same heaviness, let's connect. Maybe we can find some lightness.
I'm having some fellow moms of first-graders over for drinks (and a playdate for the kids) on Friday after school. We've always generally gotten along when we see each other at school/kid events, but at one of the kid's birthday parties this weekend we talked about how fun it would be to get together. And then I ACTUALLY FOLLOWED UP WITH A TEXT WHAT IS THIS LIFE?!? That in and of itself feels like it's own small victory. (Cue me now worried about what to serve. I should have snacks! What if they think my snacks are weird? What if they hate my house and notice all the crumbs/upholstery stains/whatever? To which I keep reminding myself that NOBODY ACTUALLY CARES and if they do they're total assholes.)
I've been in my new community since May, and haven't attended any AA meetings. I was very active in AA in my old community, and most of my work and social contact still happens in my old community (working remote). I need to start making friends here, and making a life here, and start letting go of some stuff from there. I'll go to an AA meeting this weekend.
The "theme words" I've chosen for this year are calm, creativity, and connection. I'm really grateful for this post, because as a woman nearing fifty, it's difficult to make connections with other people. I'm really good at long distance friendships, because I enjoy writing letters, and in-person things are few and far between (and are special occasions). But the prospect of regular, day to day connections seems so much more daunting.
I've been fixing to attend a UU church service, because I know and like a couple of people there already (and when I lived in New Orleans, it was a wonderful center of connection for me). I'm taking your post today as a challenge to actually go to a church service this Sunday.
This challenge is so timely: my wife and I just moved to Montreal so that they could take their dream job, and I'm struggling a little bit with the transition. Part of the challenge is that I lived in my old community for over 10 years and was pretty firmly entrenched in a couple local scenes; part of it is just the regular challenge of making friends in a new city your 30s; part is that I'm working from home and don't really interact with anyone besides my wife during the normal course of events; and part is that my normal levels of social anxiety are amplified a hundred-fold by the language and language politics. My French is mediocre (I'm working on it!), but I'm not yet confident starting conversations in French and don't want to get stuck in an Anglo silo.
What a great idea! Before I share my to do item, I am a deep believer in this. My then- boyfriend (now husband of 30+ years) and I moved from the east coast to Seattle in the late 80s and immediately settled on a different island south of yours. We were in our early 20s and it was a super strange thing to do: there was nothing to do here, and we were the only young people without kids. But I had a studio practice, back then it was all affordable, and it suited us. We made friends from a bunch of generations (a kid I babysat for is now a dear pal!), and stuck around. We eventually had kids (not a foregone conclusion!) and now the kids are leaving for other places. All very circle of life, but together those experiences mean that even tho the place has grown (more than doubled), and there have now been so many chapters, I’ve mostly felt a sense of community, and a compulsion to do my part to welcome new people. Putting yourself out there is hard, especially for introverts and especially in the winter (I too meant to bake cookies and didn’t). But you can do it in small ways that are comfortable for you, and those gestures amplify over time. This is home to me, I have a deep community here, and I’m grateful for that.
My to do is simple: we have new neighbors, a family with a young kid. The mom stopped working because… pandemic childcare. She seems lonely. So I am going to introduce her to my awesome friend who has a kid of a similar age, and see if she and another neighbor (who I adore and rarely see) want to go for a walk.
This is somewhat dependent on outside factors beyond my control (someone volunteering to carpool), but I reached out to the local UU congregation and asked about how I could attend their full moon labyrinth walks! The director is connecting me with someone else who will, hopefully, be able to coordinate that.
This is the real problem with not being able to drive. I miss out on so many social opportunities because I can't get there, you know?
I’m living in a small beach community near my hometown for winter and I’m ping pong-ing between isolation/WFH and host-mode. This being Florida, people talk to each other casually a lot more than DC so I’m challenging myself to overcome my learned reaction of big city avoidance and instead engage back with chatty folks in the grocery store, on the pool deck, walking along the beach, at the community yoga I’ve been going to, etc. It’s almost a culture shock despite growing up here.
The yoga class was a big one for me- I try to coerce myself to try new workout studios/yoga classes often when I travel but group exercise is FRAUGHT with opportunities for embarrassment. Which way do I orient my mat? Where do bags go? What if I don’t know how to do the flow the way everyone who goes to this studio does? What if (god forbid) I knock my water bottle over? In community yoga here, I committed multiple minor embarrassments including asking the woman who was paying for the class if she was the person I should pay because she was interacting with the cash pile. The horror! Not to mention I flush with embarrassment very easily. But generally no one else remembers 2 seconds later (even though I’m sharing on the internet 3 weeks later). It’s usually worth it. Good luck to everyone with getting out there!
The bulleted list here has so many good ideas. I'm bookmarking this for when the pandemic is over (or at least better) and I can try them. I think I finally have enough of a handle on my social anxiety that I could at least try some of these things and not feel so awful after that I'm demotivated to try again.
With two kids in college, my schedule has begun clearing enough that I actually am bored on my days off of work (I work retail, so days off change weekly, shift times change as well) with fewer errands, no school events to attend, etc. So I've begun volunteering at a local food shelf about three days a month. They make it easy, they send out a weekly email with open shift needs, or you can sign up in advance online. It's about four hours a shift, anything from checking in donations and stocking shelves to helping clients choose food to packing for home delivery. And I can get my errands done before or after, and still meet a friend for coffee or a walk depending on the shift. Now, I'm going to get back to volunteering for Dress for Success and once I'm on a rotation there, see about adding a third!
In early 2022 I moved back to Chicago after a long time away (10 years), and have struggled to get involved with my friends and community again. Part of it is definitely laziness/social anxiety/it's easier to stay home and watch tv, but it's also the fact that my partner and I still take covid pretty seriously (he has a chronic illness), and I'm afraid to put myself out there (on Bumble BFF or something) and then be seen as some ~weirdo~ who still takes covid tests, masks in crowded spaces, and avoids indoor dining when most of the world appears to have moved on. I feel like that might be a lot of rules/requirements for nascent friendships, even though I don't think it's a big deal and would totally do these things for someone else. Anyway, it's hard! It doesn't help that we moved from California where there were way more options for outdoor activities (hikes, neighborhood walks, beach walks, outdoor dining, etc.) than Chicago in the winter.
I signed up for a weekly painting group at the local church. That is terrifying because I am a word person, not a design person. Also, I am not religious. But the social activities in my central Swedish town seem to be limited to the university, the senior centers, and the church. I start next week. The suggestions are good. I would modify the following one slightly: "Reach out to someone in your peer/friend group who’s dealing with chronic illness or disability and ask how you can support them this week — and make a plan for more consistent, weekly support."
As a codependent with ADHD and not that much free time, I would also encourage folks to reach out to someone with chronic illness or disability and ask to support them this or next week. Then do the thing. Then see how it feels. If all systems are go, ask again in a few weeks and see how that goes. You don't want to damage a new or existing relationship. Consistent support is probably more important than weekly support. Experiment to see what is sustainable for you personally before making a long-term commitment that you may not be able to honour.