Wednesday, April 16, 2014

let's talk about friends (again).

One of these days I'm going to sit down to the computer and type out all I have learned about entrepreneurship in the past six months. I am going to give it my best shot, because the Internet deserves to know the truth about small business ownership. (Spoiler alert: It does not have a lot to do with Kathleen Kelly-style cardigans.) I am going to lay it all out, because I need to see it on the screen, typed out before me. 

But before I can do that, before I can tell you about the blood, sweat, and tears I have poured into the business, I need you to know that Friday, I went to tea. And I maybe made my first friend in my new town.

I don't particularly like tea -- not hot tea, not sweet tea, not bubble tea (whatever on earth that is). I am simply not a tea drinker, not really a hot beverage drinker, not really a social drinker. (Please, someone just invite me over for a Coke. Is that too much to ask?) But last Friday, I needed to pick up some books by a local author, and instead, she asked me to tea. 

We sell a lot of regional authors in our store; regional authors aren't huge money makers, but they're a well-respected niche group, and they get a lot of attention in our store. One local woman, in particular, does quite well. Her book, a memoir about growing up in England during World War II, is extremely popular, and we were nearing the end of our stash. This sweet lady doesn't have a way to get around town, so I called her up, and next thing you know, I was examining family pictures and watching turtles sunbathe on her back deck. It was as if I wasn't even in South Georgia anymore, as if Narnia itself had opened up and swallowed me whole. 

And I was nervous to go. Nervous if we'd be able to carry on a conversation, wondering what would happen if she fell, or if she forgot who I was. But then I remembered my grandmothers, and how much older people have always meant to me, how much they have to offer us if we'll listen. 

So I went, and I'm so glad I did. It's cliche, but I think it's become a cliche because it's true. When we do these things, these things that we think will benefit the other person, they so often wind up being better for us. I went thinking I might bring some light into the life of this woman who spends so much of her time home alone, and instead, I was completely ministered to, my-cup-runneth-over kind of stuff. 

And I really do think I've made a friend. Jordan and I are going to visit this woman again, this time together. I'm determined to make it happen. She deserves it, and I want it so badly. 

I have been lonely, these past few weeks. We've only been in this small town for a couple of months, but our home is put together,  and we finally got a lawn mower, and I planted our vegetable garden last weekend. The distractions are ending, and the loneliness is creeping in. Our friends moved around this time last year, so it's been a full year since we've been without them; the void has gotten larger, or -- at the very least -- more noticeable. And the truth is, I feel a little sorry for myself. I had built my community. I had friends and family around whenever I needed them. 

And now I don't. 

That realization has been a hard one to grasp, but last week, as I sipped English tea and ate cookies with a woman nearly 70 years my senior, it hit me: Maybe I have a community. Maybe my community just looks different than it used to. 

Because every Wednesday, I'm gathering together with a group of girls to talk about Jesus. I'm slowly opening up, and they are letting me in. It's a give and take, this act of becoming kindred, and if I can understand that this friendship transformation won't happen overnight, I can accept the baby steps that are occurring every day. I can accept the right now, in this moment truth that these are good girls, women who are stretching me, holding me accountable, and pointing me toward grace. 

And that's not even all. Every month, I sit at a table with the most unique group of women, writing notes to faraway friends at our store's letter writing club. And I guess I never really thought of that group of people as my friends. Friends sit at your table and swing on your front porch swing and meet you for dinner. They chat over yogurt and read books you like and take walks around your neighborhood. 

But maybe that's just what friends do when they've been your friends for a long time. Maybe first they're just the people you meet at the grocery store, or talk to after church, or visit with during meetings. 

Because Tuesday night, we all talked about the movies we'd seen and our summer travel plans. We laughed and ate chocolate and put stamps on our letters and went home. It felt a lot like friendship to me. 

And sure, some of those women are again, 30 years my senior. But a couple of them are near my age. And they don't watch The Mindy Project or read the books I read, but I enjoy visiting with them. I like laughing with them.

And the store -- which has brought so much trouble and hardship and stress into my life -- has also introduced me to such a quirky cast of characters. A customer knew I liked To Kill a Mockingbird, so he loaned me a copy of his biography of Harper Lee. And another customer wanted to know what I thought about a rare book she'd come across. Another one brought me daffodils from her garden. And my staff? Well, I love my staff. They are funny and kind and hard-working, and I guess I'm starting to think: Maybe I'm building community after all. 

Maybe this time, my community won't look exactly like me. Maybe this time, I won't just be friends with people my age or in my life stage. Maybe porch visits and long walks are a little ways off. But I have to start somewhere, and you know what? I haven't been lonely this week. I've been busy, and my life has felt full. 

Jordan tells me so often that my expectations are too high. But what if they're not high? What if they're a goal I'm reaching toward; what if I begin to understand that true relationship takes time and effort, and community isn't built overnight? What if I were content with English teas and letter writing clubs and Bible studies and the hope of something more? What if enough was enough for me, at least for now? 

Honestly? I don't think I'd be lonely at all. 

Photo by Katie Owens


Anonymous said...

Love that photo! Community has been on my mind as well. I'm graduating college in a couple weeks and I will lose (much of) the precious student writing community I have been surrounded with. I'm realizing that it will just look different for me now. I may have to be more intentional, attend readings and the like, but it doesn't mean I will be isolated. Like you, I have high expectations, though high expectations aren't always the problem --the problem is not being willing to accept what life does offer, especially when it is different than what you envisioned.

Thanks for your relatable thoughts.

Feisty Harriet said...

This post is just so....wonderful. I feel it will take a second read-through (and, possibly, some annotated note-taking) to soak up all its goodness.


Heather Burris said...

Your blog is so my favorite.

Totally get where you're coming from about finding community. It is hard to not be able to jump right into intimate coffee dates and best-friend status. But real friendship takes time and, like you said, often starts in unexpected places. What a timely reminder.

Rachel Reeves said...

This is brilliant and this is why you're one of the only blogs I still read.

Keep it coming, friend.
You may be younger then most of my friends but you're one of the oldest souls I know and I'm glad to be part of your "virtual" community.

All my love,

Leslie Lee said...

You are doing the good, hard work here, in all of this. It won't come back empty. xo

Ray Sherlock said...

Your writing offers comfort and hope through the gift you possess. For the feelers of the world I say thank you for sharing your gift.


Tyler said...

Your posts on friendship and community are always such encouragement to me.

Laken Nix said...

Okay, and I totally just left you a comment signed in as my husband :)

Betsy said...

I so love your posts on friendship. They just speak to me right now. I'm trying so hard to make friends and create a community in my newish town. The truth is that we've lived here a year and a half. I have acquaintances, but I rely so heavily on my husband. While he's still my favorite person to hang out with, I need women friends. I was just talking to him about how friendship and community seem different as an adult. I don't have my "group" that I always had before. But I'm trying. I'm working at it. I'm starting a book club!! I know 3 of the 9 women who are involved. I don't even know the ages or anything about the others (I asked my 3 acquaintances to each ask people too). I'm throwing a cook-out for the few people I know to watch the Derby and making sure they know they can invite other people. My best friend lives 2 hours away and is coming to the cook-out to help me make friends. :) I will make it happen. I greatly appreciate reading about your thoughts on the same issue.
(By the way, my husband got approached about applying for a job in Bainbridge, GA. We are from Indiana, live in Missouri, but did live in South Carolina for 5 years. He won't be pursuing it, but one of my first thoughts was wondering how far that was from you.)