I never used to put much thought into it, but I think always used to consider myself an extrovert. I like to be around people. I like to go to parties, and when I was younger I loved the bar scene. Each time I have moved to a new city, I’ve sought new friends, because I don’t like not having friends to hang out with.
As I’ve gotten older though, I have realized that I’m probably more of an introvert in many ways. I cannot do small talk. Truly. It’s painful. I need to sometimes have time by myself. I much prefer to have one good friend to having a large circle of friends.
I’ve always been this way. I’ve never been the “popular girl,” but more like the best friend of the popular girl. As I look back over my life, this has been true at pretty much every stage. In high school and college, I fondly nicknamed one of my best friends “The Social Butterfly.” She was friends with everyone, and if I remember correctly, she was voted “Friendliest” in our graduating class. My other best friend was the homecoming queen and voted “Most Popular” (I’m pretty sure… it was over 20 year ago!). It wasn’t that I wasn’t friendly toward people, but I didn’t have it in me to cultivate friendships with lots of people. I was voted the girl with “Most School Spirit.” I was okay with that. I’m pretty sure it still holds true today, and I’m still okay with it.
When I moved here and had no friends and no job and was about to have my first baby, I search and searched for a group I could call my own. I joined various mom groups. I went to play dates. I joined the Newcomers Club in my town. I met some nice people and made a few casual friends. But in most play date groups I felt very uncomfortable. I tried MOPS. Awkward. Other than in book clubs (because I can talk about books!!), I never felt comfortable in large groups of people I didn’t know.
It took three years after moving here for me to meet Super Friend, and once I did, I stopped trying to cultivate friendships with other people. I mostly stopped scheduling play dates or coffee dates with other moms. I was perfectly happy to spend my social time primarily with Super Friend (if you knew her, you’d understand). That’s not to say I didn’t have any other friends, I just stopped putting much effort into developing those friendships with others. I’m not really sure why. Because I was lazy? Because I was comfortable (Super Friend!)? Because it doesn’t come easy to me? All of the above, I’m sure.
^^ Me and my beloved Super Friend ^^
One thing I didn’t realize for the first few years of my friendship with Super Friend was that she had this sort of divided friend-life. There was me, the atheist friend, and then she had this whole other group of friends that she knew through church and her (now our) kids’ school, whom I barely knew. She is so much better at developing and nurturing relationships than me (yes, I’m still the “popular girl’s friend”!), and she had this whole community that I only vaguely knew anything about.
When I began my conversion, Super Friend invited me to attend a Catholic mom’s Bible study (you can read about my first time attending here, whoa). And of course, I started attending Mass weekly and going to RCIA eventually. Over time, my perspective on friends began to change. This change has really begun to crystalize in my mind over the past few months. I’ve realized that, in spite of my natural tendency to hunker down and be happy in my little world with my husband, children, family, and one fabulous friend (and her fabulous family), that is really not enough. I mean, it’s enough for me, but it’s not enough. Wait, what?
I need a community.
I go to Bible study every other week with nine other moms and we talk about our study and we learn about the Bible. But we also talk about our kids, who all go to, or will go to, school together. We talk about our fears for raising Catholic kids in this world, and how can we protect them from all the stuff they need to be protected from, and teach them all the stuff they need to be taught, so that they will grow up to love Jesus and our Faith. And they will know why.
I realized that these women, these other moms, are the community with whom I will raise my girls. When my kids get bigger and they go to events, even if I’m not there, there’s a good chance one of these moms will be. And they will tell me if something noteworthy happens or if my kids do something I need to know about. And my girls will know that these moms will tell me what they’re up to. They will know that there is a whole community that cares about what they do and what happens to them, beyond just their parents. And I’ll have spies everywhere…
Just kidding. Sort of.
Even beyond the Bible study group, I have found other sources of community since beginning my conversion.
RCIA was such a wonderful experience the first time, I’ve returned for another year as a sponsor. Through RCIA I gained the lovely Godmother, who is such a source of support and wealth of knowledge, along with my other friends.
And our parish is a beautiful community too. My natural tendency is to go to Mass, shake hands with and smile at some people during the Sign of the Peace, say “Hi” to the Super Family and other friends who might be there after the service, and then go home. I don’t tend to reach out to others. I don’t speak to strangers. Remember, I don’t do small talk. But the Bible says:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” – Hebrews 10: 24-25
This past Sunday at Mass, not one, not two, but three strangers or near strangers came up and spoke to me. It was uncomfortable and wonderful at the same time. Two were women sitting near us who complimented me on my children and my mothering, and one was a woman I met in May at a Mother’s Day brunch, who came up and re-introduced herself and then proceeded to introduce her husband and children and start talking to my husband and children. I would never do that. But how great that she did.
Bible study, RCIA, Mass… A whole amazing community that I need to try to be more open to. I need to nurture my friendships more beyond my dear Super Friend. I need to reach out to strangers more. I should be the one complimenting a mom with little kids or reconnecting with someone I met a while ago at a parish function. I shouldn’t be averting my eyes and hoping that no one sees me, because I don’t know what to say.
It’s nice when life is happy and comfortable, but growth happens when I push myself beyond comfortable. I really love the little community that I’ve become a part of. I’m excited to watch it, and help it, grow.