The Sisterhood of the Salsa Bowl

I love the ways God works when we aren’t even looking. Like today, for example. 

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for eight years, and while the people here are LOVELY and I have made lots of friendships that I treasure, I have really struggled to find my tribe, my friend GROUP. I have lovely friends, but I lack a “crew” if you will. I have college friends and childhood friends and work friends and neighborhood friends, but they don’t seem to overlap. I love that because it keeps things tight for this introvert, and then sometimes — like this week, I don’t. Everywhere I look I see friend groups and walking buddies and dinner buddies and workout buddies and vacation buddies and groups of people who all seem to be dialed in to the same channel, and a lot of days I feel like “square peg – party of one…” (For the record, I am aware that I tend to have a flair for the dramatic, but this has been my headspace this week.)

Part of that is because I have friends all over. Some of it’s that my girls don’t play sports and many friend groups are forged sweating it out on the sidelines. Part of it is that we pulled out of the neighborhood school for two years, so two years of friend-group building time was lost to location and circumstances. A large part of it is because I’m an introvert and probably didn’t work hard enough to get outside my comfort zone early on in our residency here. I’ve also been much more guarded with my thoughts since we did the school shuffle because it doesn’t take my mouth very long to find the wrong thing to say. But mainly, I think it’s the fact that I don’t ask to be included in things because I have a middle-schooler’s tendency to sit back and wait to be invited. 100% of these reasons are up to me. 

So, for those 100% of self-made reasons, I’ve been feeling physically lonely lately. I am aware this is completely ludicrous as I know lots of lovely people who I like and who like me back and who are warm and loving and lovely — but nonetheless, I’ve been craving COMMUNITY and feeling lost as to where to find it. 

So earlier this week on an impulse, I picked up my phone and sent a group text to my favorite group of mom friends from Briarwood suggesting a dinner meetup. Before 20 minutes were out we had all agreed and nailed down a day and time. Quick “yes”s as easy as breathing. That’s something I would never have felt comfortable doing with any group other than them, and believe me when I say that I’ve been unpacking that realization all week too. And as I sat there at dinner talking and laughing and enjoying easy time with these women I realized that I hadn’t been lonely at all — I was just looking in the wrong direction. 

There’s something beautiful and brutal about being the mother of a child with a learning difference. It’s not the same. We have no idea what it’s like to have an “easy” school experience. No clue what it’s like to have a child who doesn’t struggle in some way with situations most other kids don’t. No clue what it’s like not to walk on eggshells at 3pm every day waiting to see what’s about to walk in the door. I like to think it makes us scrappy, less tolerant of time sucks, more focused on solutions. Positive, resilient, open. And when we meet another mother of a kid like ours it’s like meeting someone who speaks your exact same language, and suddenly you can breathe more easily. It sounds crazy I know, but it’s the truth as I have found it as we’ve walked this path over the last six years. 

This group of women and their friendship is so very precious to me. It’s a different breed. Not better or worse, but different in a “they all get me the same way I get them and we all get each other” kind of way. It’s COMMUNITY. They are my walking/dinner/vacation buddies — we just live all over the city and don’t actually do any of those things. They are my crew. Silly me. I had one all along! And while I am grateful for my friends who live closer, I am so very cognizant of the gift I have in these women also. 

Friends. They are everywhere and come in many forms for many situations. And they are good. All of them. All the time. And I am a very lucky girl. 

I wonder if I’m the only one who needs to be reminded?

Bathroom Wisdom

It’s crazy how places will trigger memories. For me, it’s the rim of the bathtub in the girls’ bathroom. For some reason that’s where the substantive stuff of my life seems to happen. It’s where Jane and I sit in the steam when she’s sick. It’s where Reese and I sat and sang and rocked in between bouts of throwing up one night. And it’s where I sat – frozen, for three hours this very night a few years ago when the text came. At the time I thought it was because it was the closest place to sit down, but now I wonder if that narrow ledge was where I sat because it was the place where my important things happen — my safe haven of sorts. 

January 17th is indelibly etched in my mind as the day I realized that I don’t actually live in the bubble that I thought I had carefully constructed for myself over the years since my mother’s death. Find the stable guy, have the stable kids, live in the stable neighborhood, go to the stable church, make the stable friendships — live the stable life. Except that if you can get a text at 11pm telling you that your sister friend’s husband was involved in a horrible wreck and did not survive, there is not one single thing stable about that life at all. There is just the realization that there are no walls capable of keeping the bad out — that it finds a way in no matter how safe you think you are. Not because it’s scary, but because it’s necessary — without the bad, there can be no good. And while it was a terrifying realization, it shook me out of the lies I was telling myself – that if I did the right things that life would be smooth. Clear skies. Smooth sailing. 

What a silly girl I was. 

What happened on the 17th changed my sister’s life in ways I cannot begin to imagine. It also changed me. I like to think for the better. Beauty from ashes, isn’t that the saying? I learned how to be a better friend to her. I learned that you can take nothing for granted, ever. I learned how deeply interconnected women can be as friends and that when one hurts, the herd comes running to surround her. I learned that communities will rally in ways that you could never predict. I learned that my sister is strong. And weak. And vulnerable. And beautiful. I learned to be inspired by her resilience and by her raw emotion and gut-wrenching honesty. I was reminded that life is precious. I was reminded that we can do hard things. And I learned that the bubble is a lie. 

I think as Christians we can insulate ourselves like that sometimes. We can forget that even though you do all the things — God’s plan was never about your bubble. It was never about your insulation. It was about your growth. Your understanding. Your hurt and fear and pain and grief and your willingness to rage and then be still. To find the good after the storm. To find the strength that comes from letting go. 

Tonight, as I put away towels and walk by that ledge I am reminded of that night. That pain. That disbelief. That grief. Of my sister and the burdens she carries every day. Of the deep gratitude I feel for being allowed a friendship with her. Of that growth in understanding. And I am grateful for the lessons, and for the unassailable fact that NOTHING IS WASTED. Ever. 

Beauty from ashes — on the edge of a bathtub.