My computer was down for almost two weeks. After being infected with a particularly nasty & persistent virus, we had to have the hard drive completely wiped clean and redone. I hadn’t realized, until these past few weeks, just how dependant I have become on my computer for social interaction. Keeping up with far-flung friends through e-mail and on Facebook, IM-ing with my mom, chatting with the other women on my mom’s group’s message board, as well as updating this blog and reading & commenting on other women’s blogs…suddenly I was cut off from much of my world.
It’s been a lonely few weeks.
Remember just how easy, how simple, it was to make new friends as a child? Friendships were made based on proximity — other children in your neighborhood, the children of your parent’s friends, classmates who sat close to you in school. You could strike up an instantaneous friendships with virtual strangers — another little girl who happened to be at the playground with you, in your dance class, or who threw her towel on the deck chair next to yours at the hotel pool while on a family vacation.
Me at age seven. I used to be so outgoing. So fearless. I look back at my childhood self and marvel at how confident I once was.
Last January, in my first weeks of my new life as a stay-at-home mother, I joined a local mom’s group. While I met some wonderful women — women I hoped, over time, to become better friends with — I eventually started feeling as though the group itself wasn’t the right fit for me. The majority of the children were two and three, while my son had just turned one. And while I was active in the group, desperately attending play-date after play-date, I always felt on the outs. The perpetual newcomer, awkwardly trying to break into a tightly knit group who already had existing friendships with each other.
At least, that’s how I tried to rationalize it to myself when I finally bowed out of the group.
In hindsight, I realize it wasn’t the group at all. It was me. I’m too painfully shy. Too self-conscious, too apprehensive, too quick to hang back. I never gave anyone a chance to get to know me, never gave anyone a reason to want to develop much of a friendship with me.
I know I need to work on myself. To learn to see myself as someone worthy of friendship. To become someone I’d want to be friends with.
I eventually learned about another local mother’s group — just a small, fledgling group, with just over a dozen members when I joined. It’s geared towards those who practice attachment parenting, a group where baby-wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding moms can connect. I feel more at home here, less the awkward outsider. The biggest difference is that I’m not allowing myself to fall into that “I-don’t-belong” mindset this time around. I’m hosting playdates, hiding that quivering mass of insecurity behind a smile, and making an effort to cultivate friendships.
Several of us met up at a local play space yesterday morning. We sat together, in a loose circle on the floor, as our children crawled and ran and tumbled around us, and talked. Conversations ebbed and flowed, and tangled around each other as we talked about our children, ski trips, our husbands, local playgrounds, childbirth, night weaning and potty-learning. Sitting in this circle, connecting and sharing with these women, I finally realized that I’m a part of something…that I belong.
I just wish I had the courage and the self-confidence to do this the first time around, with some of the women in the first group I had joined. I feel as though I let potential friendships just slip through my fingers like grains of sand, all because I was too shy to reach out and make something of the opportunities right in front of me.