Your Culture Study Challenge Update
My friend left academia, and is opening up a jam store. She makes the most exquisite jams - raspberry-lavender; blood orange and amaretto; peach cardamom, so many more - and has sold them at the farmer's market for six years. Now she has an actual storefront, and it's become a community event - friends have painted the walls; her husband has installed all the shelves and a gorgeous counter; I'm working this weekend on the window displays; we're hanging art. Every time I hear a new update about the store I'm reminded of how amazing it is that a) she's brought us all together and b) is doing this brave thing that is so fun and c) how much I love being part of it. <3
I'm in a stepmom Discord. We are scattered across North America, but some of us have met in person a few times and we talk to each other daily. One stepmom's 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer in January, and they've spent many days and nights at the hospital since then. She and her family are local to me.
Mindful that "let me know if there's anything I can do" is just one more burden for the person you say that to, I just Did Some Stuff.
- offered my house, 20 min from the hospital, as a landing pad if anyone in the family ever needs it
- said "you can drop your laundry on my porch anytime" (I'm sort of on their way to the hospital)
- prepped a bunch of freezer meals and dropped them off
- rallied the stepmom Discord and volunteered to be the Receiving House for gifts that people were tripping over themselves to send (one stepmom's mom made and sent a GORGEOUS quilt!) -- then delivered gifts on a staggered cadence so we didn't overwhelm the family
- stopped by one night when my friend was "on duty" at the hospital and brought dinner
- donated to her husband's annual charity ride
Things seem to be going okay. They have support and resources and money and the best medical care. It's still awful, like a weird nightmare that has now become normal, and I say that even as, like, a tertiary-level acquaintance of the family. I can't imagine what it's like for them. I keep saying to myself, "I can't do a lot, but I can do this."
I’ve started working from home since October and it was really getting to me being at home everyday. I started going to a franchise coffee shop in November but always wanted to find somewhere local. I drove past this place by happenstance but the local coffee place near me was also a comic book store and board game community space. Not my normal place, last month I decided to give it a go. Now I’m a frequent patron, know the staff by name, and rent boardgames with my husband on our days off. It really feels like my third place that I’ve been looking for the last few years. Hoping to do more with my local library this year too!!!
Oh I feel this. I wrote recently about volunteering at a local Nordic race. I had this vision of pal’ing around with the other volunteers, checking people in and learning local names... but the reality was everyone else there knew each other already and because we’re all mountain town weirdos, they weren’t as keen on getting to know me. I was relegated to the one solitary task of taping up course signs. But I still introduced myself to everyone I could, and at the very least made it known to the Nordic association that I’m a person who shows up. Ideally if I show up enough, I’ll become part of that fabric of everyone who already knows each other.
For me, the challenge continues to be reminding myself that this work takes time. I struggled with so much self doubt when I didn’t immediately have bff level friends when I began my own community building journey.
This year, I’ve been focused on quality engagements that bring me joy vs trying to stand up a whole village overnight. It’s humbling and rewarding to connect with people who want this same thing AND are willing to put in the work of showing up to make it happen 💚
This challenge couldn’t have had better timing. Recently separated and I (think) I committed to a community dance party/yoga class on Sundays. Well, today I am going for my 5th time! I’ve also made a handful of new queer friends and that feels good. Haven’t made moves w volunteering quite yet, but it’s coming.
Love this. So much about making new friends and building a new community is showing up. After I got divorced I was grieving. I went to an axe throwing party and got a particular delight out of plucking the axe out of the wall: it felt primal and powerful. I decided to sign up for an axe throwing league in an effort to meet new people and build a community. Wow. I have never felt more welcomed by a group of introverts. I met so many interesting people I never would have met other is. My community building tip is to join a group about something you don’t know anything about. Let people surprise you and surprise yourself.
At the beginning of the year I was invited to join in on a weekly swim club. There's a small handful of people that are there each week and a rotating cast of others, most everyone is new to me. I've been there most of the weeks, even in the colder days. I love the commitment to ritual, we mostly hang out and take a short dip in the water then sip on hot tea (the real kind, not the gossip kind ;) ) Attending has required me to move around my schedule some and be a bit looser with myself on those mornings. The group is full of queers and artists (of which I am both) and through the group I've found out about events and activities to get me out more after a personal dark season. It really fills my cup.
Oh my gosh, ever since the newsletter where AHP debuted the form for better understanding the needs of your community members as individuals, this has been at the front of my mind. It was so damn awkward, but I circulated a form of my own creation with my community people and I learned so much AND I could tell from the responses that I would have to get the ball rolling for others to feel comfortable asking for help.
So I challenged myself to be pushier and more specific with my community building and help offering. A friend with a 3yo and 3mo was feeling overwhelmed with the state of her closet and after I pushed on what she really needed, I learned that it was eating her up to see it getting worse every day. So I packed up my baby and went over to help her for an afternoon. We didn’t even finish, but we made big progress. I would have never done this in a million years if the call to be intentional in my community building hadn’t happened.
So I did it again this month too, I pushed and found that another friend was really stressed about a doctors appt and whether her baby would nap during it. So I packed up my baby again, brought lunch, and watched both babies during the appointment. Seeing her so relieved made my heart soar.
This feels so braggadocious to write, but I mostly wanted to share because the challenge itself was what helped me overcome the awkward and push to find specific ways I could help my community. You’ll also notice where I failed the second half of the equation, which is not asking for help myself!! Another important thing we need to all keep in mind when investing in our community, is reaching out to our community when we need help for ourselves. That’s honestly the harder part for a lot of people.
The way that I felt helping out my community of people (and the way those on this thread felt when investing their time and energy in their communities) is how others want to feel by serving you too!! Offer the help, but ask for it too 🤍
I was recently appointed to the Board of Parks and attended my first meeting as a board member. Surprisingly interesting and I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the new skateboarding park expansion. Also had two coffee shop meetings with parents interested in Safe Routes to Schools (I’m on the city’s bike & pedestrian advisory committee and am trying to get the city, police department, and school district to think at least as much about kids’ ability to walk or bike to school as they do about traffic complaints but need more parents’ voices on it. I think the city’s tired of me.)
This is not something I initiated but enjoy and am passing along the idea: two different groups of friends (with some overlap) have started having dinner together maybe monthly, maybe less. One wanted to have international dinner night, just a few friends. And another just wanted to get together with a few friends in a way that wasn’t a book group, so we rotate houses and cook.
I challenged myself to reach out to more teachers at my school in the hope of finding more professional community and I have done that! I’m starting to spend one of my prep periods working in the library instead of my room - doing the same work of prepping, grading, etc, but in a bustling place. I equate it to working in a coffee shop instead of at home. I actually asked two teachers if I could observe them too and both said yes instantly. This is still a work in progress but I’m getting there! But also, I want a kaffeeklatsch in the community in which I live!
I did the thing! For folks who don't remember, on the original post I mentioned that a friend had invited me for a grown-up Lego playdate and I was getting all nervous about it but I did it and it was GREAT. We agreed on COVID precautions together (I wore a mask since I was entering their house; they tested that morning to reassure me that I wasn't entering a germ-zone). We each worked on our own set and shared so many laughs. Y'all, the Majestic Tiger from the 3-in-1 set truly is a Majestic, and also, it has a surprisingly realistic cat butthole made out of a pink flower piece, and we will now giggle forever at the thought of a Lego cat butthole.
I'm also reaping some of the benefits of the work I've been putting into community-building right now, because my kid brought COVID home from school and spouse and I both got it from her...after 3 years of being the most cautious, careful people we could be because spouse and I are both high-risk, all it took was a kid bringing COVID back from "midwinter break" and sitting next to mine at lunch, the only time she's not masked. So frustrating. Anyway, I'm pretty darned sick (please cross your fingers for me that this does not progress to pneumonia!) and I put up the "bat signal" and several friends (some from church, like my aforementioned Lego-friend, and some from work) jumped into action and made sure we had groceries and soup and even a new furnace filter (because of course ours crapped out in the middle of all of this). And of course I'd do all of that for any of them, too, but somehow I've never felt like I deserve care like this. I'm just so grateful.
I listed like 8 things in my response to the original post, and then took a screenshot of it as a reminder. I’ve been struggling a fair bit with feelings of isolation (recently single, childless, remote worker with some pretty slim family ties and many acquaintances but nothing approximating a close knit group of local friends) and needed this push to find things to get me out in the world again.
Some things haven’t worked out yet: I haven’t made it to the hiking group I’ve been stalking on Instagram (still too intimidated), or to any of the tech or political meetups (not sure what happened to these invites) or started the dinner group (current excuse: new dining table is stuck in the supply chain somewhere and it simply must be here before we begin!).
But I did manage to:
-attend volunteer training with the local mutual aid group, and I’m signed up for my first shift with them today!
-apply to be on the board of another community organization (fingers crossed that even if I don’t get it this at least puts me on their mailing list or radar for other things)
-find a gym/trainer that seem like they’ll be my speed.
The hardest part is always starting, glad we’re all in this awkward bit together.
LOVE this! I've developed a whole new respect for IRL connections. I'm a new subscriber, but this is my step-up goal this year. To push myself to reach out more and connect with people in my day-to-day life. The thing is, I'm always a bit tired and have stuff to do. So I tell myself, if it's always that way, then I can't use it as an excuse. Don't overthink. Just do it.
Right now I'm trying to maintain a friendship with another mom friend. The thing is, our kids aren't friends anymore. Kind of awkward. In the past, I would've just moved on. As I get older, I know I shouldn't take friendships for granted. Because they're hard to come by.
And anyways, a little awkwardness isn't that bad.
I love that you termed this as a kaffeeklatsch - that’s exactly why my newsletter is called ‘pull up a chair’, because during the depths of 2020 I wanted nothing more than to have a chat and a coffee.
I went and met a new friend from a local online social group yesterday for some cafe coworking time, both working on our novels. It was really convivial and easy and I’m so glad I reached out to set it up!
My challenge was to call a member of a committee I work with and get to know her better; she had done some amazing work that deeply touched me. What I anticipated would be a 10 minute call lengthened to nearly an hour as she shared about her recent move from VA to WA, her grief on the loss of her son and the work she and her husband do in his memory. I offered my services and she’s considering ways I can join in their project. Even if that doesn’t work out, I feel a deeper connection to someone in my community.