Happy 2016! I can’t even believe it! Not to sound like an old person, but I think the years are beginning to fly by way too fast these days. It’s hard to believe how quickly 2015 has flown by and, at the same time, it is crazy how much was packed in to one crazy year. Greg and I bought a house! An old house, that hasn’t really been touched since 1955, and doesn’t have AC….in Florida….so we might have lost our minds somewhere in 2015 but I am hoping that 2016 leads us back to them and we make ourselves a snug little home in our time capsule of a house.
2015 was full of a lot of change for me and I learned a whole lot about myself and my marriage and how to live with a 4 year old (very carefully, in case you are wondering) but by far one of the best/hardest/most worthwhile lessons I learned last year was the power and freedom that comes with true vulnerability with those you live life with.
This time last year, I was feeling extremely isolated and alone. It’s no secret that in the last two to three years most of my closest and longest running friendships have found themselves victim to the inevitability of change…specifically a change of locale…for them, not me. Greg and I have said goodbye to far too many of our favorite people these last couple of years and even though the fancy Internetz and technology in general, makes the distance seem not so distant, there is still the disconnect that occurs when you can’t casually run in to someone you love around town…or even not so casually plan to run in to someone you love. Not to mention the fact that all of my close friends are now parents. This makes staying in touch with even the local friends difficult, at best. You have to coordinate nap schedules and school schedules and let’s get real, someone’s kid is always sick, because children are nothing if not little petrie dishes of diseases. So I began January of 2015 feeling the weight of all of this. I felt lonely and cut off and even worse, I felt unknown.
Let’s talk for a minute about the importance of being known. We all need to feel like someone truly knows us. Some of us need to feel like 1000 people truly know and love us and some of us really only need a handful and a very few number of us only need like 1 or 2 people to really know us. But regardless of your extrovert/introvert status, we all have a primal need to be known, and even more so to be known and loved by someone who truly knows who we are and what we are about. Social media is a fantastic example of how badly we as human beings crave being known. It’s more than obvious in my generation and the ones younger than me, but look at how involved on social media even our parents have gotten (Eee Gads, I know). We love to feel like someone knows us, that we count in some way.
So back to last year, I am feeling all of these things and crying about them and feeling all the feels all the way around them and whining to Greg probably way too much about them when I finally decided to take a little action. A few odds and ends facts about my life were also whirling around my head at this time and they became the basis of my hair brained idea. Fact 1: I was journaling a lot. I have written before about how my counselor has been encouraging me to write more and journal often and I was greatly seeing the benefit of her advice and so I was journaling a whole lot. Fact 2: I worship at the throne of Jesus…and Brene Brown…who loves Jesus too, so it’s all ok in the end. God told me so. And Brene Brown is ALL about the vulnerability. She is the queen of find the people you love most in life and TRUST them with yourself. She posits the theory that we feel most emotionally fulfilled and are the most emotionally healthy when we let people we trust in to our lives and allow them to know the good, the bad and the ugly of us. It’s easy to feel valued by someone when you only allow them to observe the best parts of you. It’s a whole other level of love that you feel from someone when you know that they know your big ugly secrets and somehow still love you. You begin to feel truly loved when you are truly known and accepted by those closest to you.
But all my people were far away, or covered in spit up or on totally different nap schedules and so snatching them all up every Wednesday morning, guzzling coffee (coke, for me, please) and sharing my deep bad ugly with them just wasn’t possible. Or was it?
Enter the Internetz. I identified six women in my life at the time with whom I really wanted to dig in and push further into our friendship. Some were local, some were far, some were lifetime friends, some were brand new (those poor, unfortunate souls). I emailed/called/texted/whatever form of communication they thrived with and asked them if I could begin writing to them, once a week, for a year.
This was actually my first step into vulnerability. Do you have any idea how arrogant/self-centered/ego-maniacal you have to be to ask someone who is immersed in their own busy chaotic lives if you can send them your weekly diary entries for a year, that will primarily be all about you and your life and your own chaos? Yep. That was me. It still makes me blush when I think about asking them. And although I think a few of them weren’t exactly sure what I really meant, they are all kind and loving women and they all said yes.
And so it began. Every week, usually on Tuesdays because that’s when Levi hangs out with my mother in law and I can sit in peace and quiet, I journaled to them. Here is where the second step into vulnerability came into play: I literally journaled to them. I forced myself to forget that they were going to read it, I forbid myself to self-edit and I laid it all out there, every sad thought, every angry murderous feeling, every elated moment, every nonsensical, fleeting emotion that I hadn’t fully developed into any sort of language that made sense. I poured it out to them and owned it. I showed them my big ugly.
It. Was. Terrifying. Each week as I would hit send on those emails, my heart would stop for a moment and I would wonder if this would be the week I was too much for them. I wondered if this was the week they were over my drama. I wondered if this would be the week that no one would understand what the mother love I was even talking about. I wondered if this would be the week I would be known and subsequently, unloved. I wondered how conditional my friends’ love for me really was.
The results of this year are still staggering to me. I have never felt so loved by these women in the history of our friendships. It was incredible how, without fail, every week at least one of them, would write back and say, “Oh my gosh! Me too!” My friends cried with me across the miles and they encouraged me to keep fighting when things felt too impossible. They counseled me and they loved me. And most incredibly, they opened up to me too. Friends that I have known for years began sharing stories with me from their own lives that I had never heard. And we were able to connect with each other over our brokenness and our insecurities and celebrate each other’s victories in a way that we have never been able to do before, because we felt truly known and loved by the other. These six friendships have become my safe places. They are my people, no matter how many state lines or babies or school schedules separate us. We know each other. We know the good, the bad and the ugly and we still love each other because of those things, not in spite of them.
2016 is shaping up to have challenges of its own and I wonder how I will do when I won’t have that weekly data dump to these women. I know that when I need them, they will be there and I hope they realize how much I have truly appreciated them returning my level of vulnerability. I hope they understand that our friendship is a two way street…and let’s be real, a part of me is still praying they don’t think I am an arrogant prat.
I read a letter this morning written by one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Derek Webb. He has had a rough couple of years emotionally and he’s letting the world in on his inner turmoil. He said this in his letter:
“The importance of having a handful, or even just one or two safe people in your life with whom you can and do truly share everything, especially the hardest and most shameful things, cannot be overstated.”
I read those words this morning and my heart filled with gratitude in knowing that I have found those people. With all the challenges and uphill battles that 2016 holds, I have complete confidence that I can rest easy in the knowledge that I am known and I am loved.