5 Quick Questions About Connection

It’s time for a new edition of 5 Quick Questions!

This is my opportunity to get to know you better, and it’s one of the best things we do here because it turns out you are very good at truth-telling, friends. To those of you who used the last few volumes to delurk, it’s wonderful to meet you! And to those of you who’ve been around a while, mucking about in this space and putting your feet on the furniture? You’re always rad. Thank you.

As you may know, 5 Quick Questions can be anything from the EVER IMPORTANT What Is Your Family Booger Rule? to the more serious (and my absolute favorite because you were so deeply honest) Questions About Faith.

Today, though, I want to ask you about Personal Connection because your responses to the story of Melanie’s 16th Birthday broke my heart wide open and made me feel humbled and sad and strong and weak because you so willingly gave us pieces of your hearts to hold. I treasure that gift. I do. And I ache with you. So many of us are lonely. And wounded. And have received the message that we’re not valuable or worthy of friendship. Which is a bullshit message, but still painful… and sometimes we believe it even though it’s not true.

I ended that story by saying Life Gets Better. And We Find Our Tribe After Too Much Searching. And We Discover We Are, After All, Deeply Worthy of Love, and Worthy of Celebration, and Worthy of People Who Show Up. 

I believe every one of those things. To my bones.

But sometimes it takes too long, doesn’t it? And it’s too much work. And it’s too much of us showing up and putting ourselves out there and feeling hurt when our efforts aren’t returned the way we want them to be.

Several of you asked important questions after that story. Questions filled with longing, like, “But where and how do you gather a tribe? It can be so very hard,” and “Where is that damn Village, anyway? I’ve been lost in this jungle FOREVER  

I wanted to answer you IMMEDIATELY with SOLUTIONS, because I’m a Fix It girl at heart, but I’ve lived long enough now to know there isn’t a quick fix to feeling lonely or feeling lost. It’s a process. A climb. A ladder with many rungs. A muddy path through a jungle. Or just Jungle and a machete to carve our own way.  

 

The problem with Tribes is they aren’t static. Tribes are evolutionary. They ebb and flow as people come and go, emotionally and geographically, and we don’t usually know who’s going to stick around until they’ve stuck, you know? And sometimes the same people stick and unstick and stick again, because tribes are made out of humans, and humans, as we all know, are just awful. And awesome. Horrible. And heroic. Steady. And unstable. Which makes seeking the Village so very risky. 

The good news is, we all come to the Village weary and wounded. And I know – that sounds like the bad news, but I swear it’s not. The good news is, we all come to the Village weary and wounded, which means there’s a tribe full of people who know how to lay down in the mud with us. How to look at the sky and just breathe for a while. How to offer a hand up when we’re ready to stand. How to let us heal slowly. 

Which is why I’m coming to all of you today with 5 Quick Questions about Personal Connection. Because we are wiser together than I am alone, and this question of community needs all the wisdom we can muster, and our stories, too.

And so, without further ado, here are:

ID-100400665 Quick Questions about Personal Connection and Finding the Elusive Village

  1. When in life were you the loneliest?
  2. Do you have a Village? Have you found a Tribe?
  3. If so, who are they, and WHERE, EXACTLY – with GPS precision instructions, people! – did you find them?
  4. If you could give any comfort to our friends here who are lonely, what would you say?
  5. If you could give any advice to our friends here on how to find the Village – how to seek out your tribe – what would you offer?

Here are my answers:

  1. You can find my answers here and here. Both times upon becoming a mama. And I was pretty lonely when Greg and I first got married, too. Change is hard on the heart. Go figure.
  2. Yes.
  3. Precisely, I’ve found my tribe in my family, my church, my town, and here online with you. My parents are excellent tribe builders. My brother, my cousins, my sister-in-law — all of us have done a huge amount of hard work to choose each other, over and over again. Also, my church – North Valley Friends Church – has had a huge impact on my tribe. Our little town in Newberg, Oregon, has been an amazing place to grow our family. And THIS SPACE HERE has changed my life immeasurably because you are the world’s best at letting me and each other be REAL. 
  4. I would tell you that even though you’re lonely, you’re not alone. I would tell you there’s someone out there who needs you to be part of her tribe as much as you need her to be part of yours. I would tell you there are seasons of life that are hard. I would tell you there’s light, not just at the end of the tunnel, but along the way, and I would tell you there are people here to hold your hands in the dark until you can see the dawn coming.
  5. I know this song is about falling in love and wasn’t intended necessarily for friendship, but I love the song Try, by Pink. I think it speaks so beautifully to the risks, the reality and the richness of relationship.

    Ever worry that it might be ruined
    And does it make you wanna cry?
    When you’re out there doing what you’re doing
    Are you just getting by?
    Tell me are you just getting by, by, by?

    Where there is desire
    There is gonna be a flame
    Where there is a flame
    Someone’s bound to get burned
    But just because it burns
    Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
    You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
    Gotta get up and try, and try, and try

OK – your turn. 5 Quick Questions, friends, because I only have a small piece of the puzzle, and we need your piece, too.

 

Open Hand With Glove image credit Ambro via freedigitalimages.net

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
90 comments
  1. Loneliest: most recently; When the ‘life-long’ girlfriends seemed not to need me in their lives any longer – I was like a ship lost at sea & ached deeply for them. When married to my –former– husband. Prior to that? When my brother was sick, I was in my freshman year of college, in a different state & out of the loop (this is in pre-cell phone era); true crazy-making, heart-wrenching scenario.

    Village? Tribe?: I feel sad about this but I don’t feel as though I do have a Village – at least not in the same physical location I am. I haven’t found a Tribe in our new digs – and I’m not sure how to do so.

    Who? Where?: In the past, I lived in areas where my girlfriends & I were thrown together for mutual support & in similar circumstances. I.e.: college/courses, foreign travel, military member life & despised work environment. There were women I found serendipitously, enjoyed each others’ company & just had fun together—in spite of our mutually abhorred situations. (Not all relationships started as a result of complaining…I don’t think?!!) Some are still in my life – some I can call & start where we left off – but some chose to leave our relationship, stop conversing, not discussing the reason for their departure—–& I still struggle with this reality! I’m egocentric; what did I do??? What the heck happened? How can I put myself out there again to try & really find those important, Soul-supportive, fun women – one more time, when I don’t know what happened in the past & don’t know how to fix what might have gone wrong (you know, in order to avoid the same mistake)?!

    Comfort: The one benefit of alone time – for me – has always been increased creativity, in depth self-work & productivity in both of these realms. I feel more authentically ME & more deeply in love with my Self & Soul. I can see my Self more clearly & I can make forward progress toward ongoing ‘enlightenment’. This is different than feeling lonely but some of my forced – & most beloved – alone time originated with those damn lonely feelings.

    Advice: I don’t know how to encourage other women, as I feel like I need encouragement myself. However, I know I hope to find additions to my far-flung Village by doing the following; hoping that any activity we have our daughter in also includes great, interesting families/parents. For My Selfish needs; joining an adult swim team (something important in my formative teen years as well), re-connect with women from my past (I mean far past – h.s. & younger! This may be because I loved me a long time ago – why not start over & meld that <=13yo self with my 40-something self) & get a little ego boost in the process. So; physical fitness, feeling part of a team & love from people ‘who-knew-me-when’. Interesting to write it out. Thanks for the prompt, Beth.

    1. Sending love, Paige. And the encouragement to consider that you didn’t do anything wrong in the relationships where the others stopped conversing and left the friendship. Some people aren’t good at maintaining friendships… and that’s not on you. Love to you.

  2. Beth, you crazy truth seeker! You have already made my day retroactively amazing. Like, everything is still the way it was before, but being HEARD and feeling like it really is okay to feel however you do, that’s exactly what I needed. I’m still going to play though.

    1. Ugggggghhh. Well, when I was young I was left to my own devices way too young and for way too long. Neglect, I think they call it. But that was better than abuse, so I learned to seek out solitude. Until I met my best friend for life when I was 9. It was all arranged. She was going to be a lawyer, I was going to be a vet, and we were going to adopt kids and live in a mansion. Even when I moved and went to a new school a year later, we were besties (no, it wasn’t romance, we were 9. We didn’t even know what gay was). Finally, 3 years later, she enrolled in the same school as me. OMG!!!! The day (the DAY) she got there, one of the mean bad cool girls talked to her first, and we didn’t have time to talk. The NEXT DAY, my ENTIRE group of friends ran away from me, repeatedly, until mean girl said loudly, ” God, she’s SO DUMB. We don’t wanna be around you any more”. Laughter. Another girl said “just leave already”. And that was it. Just like that, I lost every friend I had, plus the whole rest of the school shunned me. For the rest of middle school. I never found out the reason. Maybe there wasn’t one. 2 crappiest years of my life.

    2. Ummm . . .? Maybe I just found one real actual friend. We’ll see how it pans out. And there’s my mom.

    3. My mom lives a plane ride away, which means we see her a couple times a year, but we talk on the phone. My new maybe-bestie works where I WAS to be working this year, but I just got transferred. But she lives close-ish.

    4. I think other people did a great job of answering this one. Thanks ladies (and maybe men?).

    5. Frick. As if I know. One thing I have learned though is not to settle for toxic people who pretend to be your friend. Seriously, it’s your life, but if you are looking for a reason to stop exposing yourself to frenemies, just do it! You will feel better. Oh, and also, being whoever people wanted me to be just made me tired and ultimately I couldn’t keep up, so feel free to skip that nonsense too. What I probably have to do to get a real tribe is to throw caution to the wind and let my little broken-winged fledgling of whatever I am inside be free, because it isn’t going to ever heal all cooped up in the dark and damp. And I’m tired of hiding me because people might laugh. To quote someone wiser than me, “F**k those bitches!”.

    1. Oh, Jessi – your answer to #1 made me cry and your answer to #5 made me cheer. Here’s to not hiding who we are – and to not letting the mean girls have the last say in our happiness. x’s and o’s to you.

    2. I keep thinking about “#1”. That had to be really hard. I had a bestie too. We were attached at the soul and hip. I also had a huge group of girls who I didn’t know existed hate me. They were powerful and popular ( their hatred made me popular too which was weird). The coolest thing to do, it seemed was too hate me in middle school. BUT my best friend and a few others and eventually many others, stuck by me. I cannot imagine going through that bullying and meanness without my best friend. I am sorry you lost yours at such a tough time. I would have crumbled.

  3. 1. I am the loneliest I’ve ever been right now. I used to be able to keep a friend or two. I do have my mother. I thank God everyday for her. I am a kind person. I don’t know why I’m “tribeless”.
    4. For others out there alone like me, perhaps I’d say there is a freedom that comes with loneliness. There is a lot of self-acceptance work that happens when you are all alone with your thoughts for months or even years. Human connection is so important though and I just wish somedays I could give/receive a hug, share a secret or laugh with a friend.

    1. Love to you, Di. And hopes and wishes for your Tribe to come swiftly.

  4. 1) I am loneliest in the summer time. My husband and I work opposite shifts and i am home chasing the three kiddos. I love my kids but I could use some Mamaraderie during the day.

    2) I dont have a tribe. I have a few friends but no one that i can hang out with regularly. I keep trying to build my village but i feel socially awkward all the time and for some reason i cant build it. No lasting friendships have formed.

    I would love to build a village. I am great at loving and supporting others, but dont feel that reciprocity. If i could find it i would hold on with both hands!!

    Keep trying Mamas. Hugs to all of you and waving in the dark.

    1. I’m so sorry, Brandi. That sounds so very hard. Sending you love and lots of hope that, like Di, your Tribe will come.

      1. Thank you, but i am fine. My life unfolds as it is meant to. I am fine with how my life is. I wish for a village but i don’t dwell on what i dont have. I enjoy my kiddos and my family and just keep going with what it is. 🙂 Hugs and love

        1. That’s a beautiful perspective, Brandi. xoxo

  5. 1) Certainly my first two years of college….I was away from home, from family, from the friends I’d known my whole life. Also, when I became a mom, I didn’t know how to seek out other like minded moms (and was surrounded by some who just made me feel awful).
    2) I’m working on it.
    3) My parents moved to us when we had baby #3, which was awesome. And a friend at church invited me to her weekly girls night, where we sit around at her house after the kids bedtime and drink tea, eat goodies, and just talk. I don’t get to go every week, but it is good for my soul. And I’m still in touch with two very good childhood friends…there is nothing we wouldn’t do for each other.
    4) I’ve been there, I’m still there sometimes.
    5) Keep looking and don’t be afraid to decide you just “don’t click” with people.
    5)

    1. Love to you, Nurse Bee. And yes, girls’ nights can be water to the weary soul.

  6. 1. When I was the stay-at-home parent of babies born 10 months apart in a town on the other side of the country from my family and the year after I graduated from college. My husband was still working on his doctorate, so he had plenty of outside interaction, but all I had was myself, and my big baby and my little baby, and, for a few hours in the evening, my husband. That was HARD.
    2. Not really. I had a place I belonged in high school, and again in college to a limited extent, but since then I’ve felt adrift…like I’m waiting for someone or something to anchor me, or like I’m a dormant seed not yet ready to put down roots because the frost is too deep.
    3. This question doesn’t apply to me, so I’m going to give voice to a related observation instead: I’ve moved three times in the last two years, and I have never had neighbors come over to introduce themselves and possibly bring pie/casserole. Is that not a thing people do anymore? I remember it happening when I was young.
    4. You are worthy of love and respect. It’s a simple truth, but a deep one.
    5. Never compromise who you are to get along better with people. Be you persistently and consistently, and you will find people, albeit a precious few, who love you for exactly who you are.

    1. I love this, Elizabeth, and I love that YOU ARE WRITING! YAY! I’ve wanted you to write publicly for a long time! I also adore your description of the dormant seed; I think we lose sight of this sometimes… that we may still be preparing for our tribe, and that that’s OK.

  7. 1. I think I was the loneliest I’ve ever been when my family moved from WI to England when I was 11. I was not a popular kid, but I had a best friend, a bestest friend, and this was before email or any of that. Only letters and 1/year phone calls was hard. It took a while to make new friends.

    But I find I’m lonely in specifics, now. I have good friends, but my great friends are far away, and there are things I need friends for that I can’t talk about with anyone I know around here – things like coming to grips with infertility, maybe facing that all the failures to have a family, including adoption, might mean that I don’t get one. And I don’t know who to talk to about that – none of my friends seem up for that. That might be misreading on my part. But it still feels lonely.

    2 & 3. I have a couple of tribes. I found them through doing the things I love – dancing – I found a dance studio that feeds my soul, and I have many dance friends. It’s comforting, and a place that I can just go to be dancey me. And I’m a writer, so I found writers to hang out with, at conventions and online, and I have lots of friends that way, who love fiction and words and are nerds together. It took me awhile, but I found them.

    4. So many of us are lonely, I guess we can all be lonely together. It’s lonely work, being human, sometimes. I just have to remember to reach out, and if I push past shy, I can connect. It’s hard, but worth it.

    5. Taking courage in both hands to reach past shy – that’s the only thing that works for me. Sometimes people reach first (and I have to try not to cling and make it weird), but usually, if I try reaching out, I can find someone reaching back. It’s just hard to take that step. But if you can find a place where there are people doing the thing you love, be it online or in person, you might find people that speak your language, and who will reach back for your outstretched hand.

    1. Yes, Lindsey. This. It is SO HARD to reach past shy. It takes me a long (LONG) time to find a sense of belonging. I’ve been in my current community more than 20 years now, and I feel a deep sense of belonging, but I ALSO still feel in many ways that I have to choose it as my place. This choice to reach past the shy may never go away, and that’s a part of embracing who we are, too.

      1. I just was thinking we shy-but-open-to-new-friends people need some kind of hand signal or something. Something that says ‘I hate to make the first move, but if you’re interested, we could totally have a conversation.’ Maybe a badge. But probably something unobtrusive, because who wants to call attention to themselves? Not me.

  8. 1.When in life were you the loneliest?

    Growing up, I was never without friends. In school, I had a lot of friends that belonged to different “cliques” in school. I remember being proud of that fact – that I had friends that transcended different groups. I didn’t keep in touch with those friends after school, and have recently connected with some of those friends through Facebook. In looking at the friendships that they maintained over the years, I realize that at the time I thought I was a part of their friend group, I was really just on the outside of all of them.

    I’m loneliest now than I ever remember being. I have three young kids, a husband and one friend that has been there for me through everything. Everyone else vanished after I had kids.

    2.Do you have a Village? Have you found a Tribe?

    No and no. I have a large collection of online friends, who I love and adore, but no one close to me. No one to go out with or to drink wine with while our kids play together.

    We decided to stay in the area that we grew up so that we would be near our parents while the kids are little, but it hasn’t been what we had hoped. My father and I have been estranged for 3 years. My mom likes being a grandma only in the sense that she gets to tell everyone that she’s a grandma. She is barely involved in my childrens’ lives – my sister, too is only an aunt when she can buy my kids presents on holidays. My mother in law would be more involved, but has health problems that prevent her from watching the kids on her own. My husband and I are an island onto ourselves.

    3.If so, who are they, and WHERE, EXACTLY – with GPS precision instructions, people! – did you find them?

    Still looking. My husband and I are not religious, but I recently started taking my kids to a Unitarian Universalist church, so that they can participate in religious education classes. Part of me is hoping that I can find meaningful connection there, and support that I desperately want, but part of me is scared that I will find connection there, and then have to leave (we may be moving within the next year.)

    4.If you could give any comfort to our friends here who are lonely, what would you say?

    You are not lonely in your loneliness.

    5.If you could give any advice to our friends here on how to find the Village – how to seek out your tribe – what would you offer?

    Keep trying. Take a chance and do something that you wouldn’t normally do, and maybe you’ll (and I) will find what you need.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Jennifer. Have little little ones was one of my loneliest times, too. Hoping with you that your tribe comes soon… and for friends that will be more family to you than your family can be. Sending love.

  9. 1. When in life were you the loneliest?
    The first time was when I was 16 and my bff of over two years decided to dump me via a new friend over the summer. I was stunned and cried buckets. I spent my whole junior year hiding how miserable and lonely I was. Being an introvert, this sent me even further back inside myself and kids thought I was stuck up instead of lonely and scared.
    The second time was when my kids reached teenager years and I suddenly realized how alone I was even though I was married. Married to a man who worked 24/7 and was miserable when home, refusing to take time off to do anything with me, ie funerals, weddings, parties. I did it all alone and had been for years. That’s freaking lonely.

    2. Do you have a Village? Have you found a Tribe?
    I have. Mostly online. Because my church was like being in hs again with the cliques and money crap, plus I did not agree with “do what I say and not what I do stuff” nor all the dogma, so I left there and went looking for a spiritual connection elsewhere. It was a windy path but my connection is now through two groups of awesome, loving, encouraging, nonjudgmental people who love and support me when I trip over myself and my life. I have flown to see several of them, spent vacations with some of them and gone on spiritual retreats three times with many more. We call ourselves a tribe.

    3. If so, who are they, and WHERE, EXACTLY – with GPS precision instructions, people! – did you find them?
    I started out just looking through search engines but you could do it now through social media, like FB, so type in exactly what you are looking for in a group. That’s where most of my chatting and connections are done, though skype is awesome. And should you decide to join one and then find out you don’t like it, unjoin! Take charge of your boundaries and preferences.

    4. If you could give any comfort to our friends here who are lonely, what would you say?
    What I have learned through my spiritual searching is that I never loved myself, didn’t believe I deserved the good stuff or that others would like me, therefore what I put out is what I got back. The road I found to having such an awesome community is learning to love myself first, warts and all. I read a lot of books, did a lot of meditations (lots of guided ones on youtube) and got in touch with my inner being. Ten minutes a day is all you need to center and feel better. I learned to look at people and smile genuinely and not think, oh god what are they going to think about me? I like who I am now and accept all parts of me. I learned to shut off my inner critic who I named, My Inner Bitch. She is not allowed to be mean to me anymore. Most importantly, I learned not to take other people’s stuff personally because underneath, they are just trying to fix their fears just as we are, so it’s not ever personally about me. What they say and do is coming from and about them and has nothing to do with me. That bit allowed me to lighten up on myself. I don’t care anymore what anyone else thinks. And part of that might be my age, but I sure hope that younger women don’t wait as long as I did to come to this!

    5. If you could give any advice to our friends here on how to find the Village – how to seek out your tribe – what would you offer?
    You know the direction on an airplane about the oxygen mask? Save yourself first, then offer aid to others. Take time to work on figuring out how to love yourself first. Forgive yourself for your “mistakes” – which are not mistakes btw, just learning experiences – and let those that hurt you go. You are worth the effort. That will draw to you your very own tribe. What you put out you will get back.
    Do something for yourself without guilt, take a class, paint, create something, do yoga, take a bath, play music in the car while you eat chocolate for ten minutes, go take a nap. I used to sit in the car and meditate for ten minutes. I would feel like I dropped fifty pounds of pressure at that point and could handle the rest of my day. Make your life a priority, you are the one living it. It’s yours, no one else is going to do it for you. And guess what, it’s not as big a deal to others as we think it is if we take time for ourselves! And if it is, then something has to change in your life.

    Okay, off my soapbox. I just wish I had known all this when I was twenty years younger…hugs to all you young women. You are loved, whether you know it or not.

    1. I love this, Dorothy. Love that you ditched the tribe that didn’t work and found a winding path toward tribes that did. Love that you’ve learned to be kind to yourself. Love that you’re encouraging others on the path to embrace themselves for who they truly are. Love.

  10. 1. I was the loneliest after moving back to the states for college (my parents were missionaries and I grew up overseas). Suddenly I was in a foreign country with my family on the other side of the world, all alone with my depression and anxiety and self-harming issues I didn’t even really realize I had, with a group of “friends” who were trying so hard to make me who they wanted me to be, including a boyfriend who informed me that if I wanted to have friends I needed to never talk about growing up overseas. I was drowning in depression and panic attacks and self harm and it was horrible.

    2. Yes and no. I totally found an awesome tribe in college, who I still keep in contact with, but we have since moved and I haven’t been able to really connect with a real-life-same-place tribe so far.

    3. They were made up of amazing friends who I slowly connected with deeply and transparently. Hold-my-heart friends. Be-yourself friends. Lets-scream-and-cry-together friends. Including the man who is now my husband. 🙂

    4. It’s not you. You just haven’t found the right tribe yet. Perhaps you don’t really belong to the one you are trying to force yourself into. I like someone else’s advice on here to look for those who are trying to connect to YOU. I have been guilty of ignoring people trying to connect to me because I was too proud, or too… Something… While all the time chasing after people who were busy ignoring ME.

    5. I guess the best I’ve found for me is to just focus on one or two good friends. Think carefully about who you actually want to be friends with, not who you are supposed to be friends with. And then…. Go be friends with them! Plop down in their kitchen and talk with them (I’m working on this one now) . Invite them for tea. Ask them if they want to do a Bible study, or some other similarly deep conversation starter. Be vulnerable, and decide if the possibility of a deep friendship is worth the risk of being rejected.

    1. I’m an MK, too, Danielle. I so identify with your story.

  11. 1. I grew up with a brother close to my age and a cousin a few weeks younger than I, so I wasn’t lonely as a child. The loneliest I ever felt was the year I lived on the other side of the world and went to boarding school, away from my family, school friends, church and home. The other times I’ve felt lonely were when I retired from working, and when I moved to a new community. Several times I moved to a place where I already had extended family, and it was hard to let people know I needed friends, besides family. At other times I feel lonely for family, even when they are nearby.

    2. I have several tribes.

    3. I make an effort to keep in touch with my family tribe. I joined a local church and got involved with a couple of small groups to get better acquainted. I joined the university auxiliary to get to know a different group of friends.

    4. Everyone goes through times of loneliness, but that doesn’t make it any less painful. Just because no one is reaching out to you does not mean that you are being rejected or that you don’t “belong.” You do have something to offer your tribe, when you find them.

    5. Don’t be afraid to reach out. I’m not an introvert, but I’m terrible at being aware of people around me who are lonely. If you’re a young mom, take your child to the library story time, find a MOPS group, or some other gathering where you may find other people with common interests.

    1. This is such an important reminder that people around us aren’t ignoring us because they intend to leave us out, but because they just honestly may not be aware. Thanks, Judy.

  12. 1. Right after college was my lonely time. My college tribe fractured, and I hadn’t built a tribe in a long, long time. I had no idea how to find people to be with. During college I had a ridiculous time trying to find a church tribe, too!

    2. Yes! I found them!

    3. My family tribe reconnected after I moved back into the area. I think I know a little bit more now about keeping bonds alive at longer distances, so I suspect that bond wouldn’t stagnate the way it did before.

    I found a great community of people online through a common interest–we sort of stumbled across each other’s paths and kept hold of each other as our lives changed.

    My tribe of in-person friends kicked and clawed its way back to life. It has proved to be extremely resilient and I feel like we’re all aware of how we nurture it.

    I found my church tribe by sheer accident. Walked in the door of a church one day to visit my friends who had started attending there and stayed. It’s not geographically the most convenient for me, but it is a group that nurtures me and has let me question anything and everything I’ve needed to.

    4. Your tribe(s) is(are) OUT THERE. SOMEWHERE. Until you find them, know that your tribe is looking for you, whether they know it or not!

    5. If you are banging your head against a wall trying to get into a tribe, it’s probably not the right one. Wish those people well and move on–or separate the nicest-looking one from the herd and talk one-on-one.

    Also, don’t forget to be open to people who are trying to MAKE YOU be their tribe. If you are already busy and don’t think you have time to keep up with yet another person, take a deep breath and think hard about how people come and go and how maybe you will want that person around in a while. I had one woman who clearly wanted to be my friend who I kept trying to put in the “acquaintance” box. Finally I realized that my stress came not from trying to “fit her in” but from trying to “keep her out.” She’s a great, supportive, listening friend and I ALMOST missed her!

    1. Your tribe is looking for you! And YES – some of my best friends are people who pursued me… people who I might not expect to “click” with, but totally did once I gave us a chance.

  13. 1. Both times I was the loneliest was when I was facing the hardest times in my life, and it was up to only me to get through them. I think when it’s an internal battle, sometimes we have to know that facing those struggles IS lonely, and just know/hope there are people around to sit with us when we fall. I totally agree with Beth, change is hard on the heart.

    2. This is a trickier question. I’m kind of in a unique spot for this one, based on my job and personality… I would say I believe I am a big part of many other people’s village, that people would count me as a close part of their village, but I oddly feel that while all those villages are connected to me, and I am honored to be connected to them, I am not an actual member within any village. Something about not being able to ask for help, not wanting to burden people, needing to be able to do All The Things All The Time and Feeling like a Failure if I can’t, blah blah blah…

    3. I teach preschool, a small class and I’ve been with the same famililes for years… so I know they count me as part of their village and have rung the village bell many times over the years… But the bell ringing doesn’t exactly reciprocate in the same way. I am working on it, though, and I do have people who are around… One is a best friend from over 10 years, one is a friend I reconnected with, one I met at a Farmer’s Market…

    4. You have a tribe here, and if we can tell you nothing else, it’s that you are not alone. And every time, just when you think you can’t take another day, things will shift and you’ll find just enough space to keep on going. We’re here for you. Keep going, even if you have to crawl through the mud and sit and rest a while. We will sit with you.

    5. On the search for a tribe/ village, I think mostly you have to be willing to assume most any person you come across is sitting in some amount of mud and overwhelmed by some piece of life, and open to meeting a kindred spirit. So if you finde someone you click with , and you can drop your own insecurities, or at least scooch them to the side long enough to put yourself out there, you’ll find people show up in the unlikeliest of places.

    1. YES – you have a tribe here! So true. And YES – friends show up in the unlikeliest places. Here’s to being on the look-out.

  14. 1. When in life were you the loneliest?

    Probably my freshman year of college. I was nerdy and a bit of an outcast on my floor (Hob 3, for anyone who graduated from my alma mater), as they formed a tribe that didn’t need me. They were too outgoing for me, and I had a boyfriend I probably shouldn’t have had. His presence only made me lonelier, and by that point (only 6 months into the relationship), I only stayed because I was afraid what he would do if I broke up with him.

    2. Do you have a Village? Have you found a Tribe?

    We’ll go with sort of. I belong to an excellent church. But right now, my husband and I are alone in our life situation: mid-20s with one child. A few are older and have a few children, but it isn’t the same as having people my age who are in the same place in life as I am.

    3. If so, who are they, and WHERE, EXACTLY – with GPS precision instructions, people! – did you find them?

    My problem is with location: My husband and I stayed in the city we grew up in. It always seems like the moment we get close to having Real Friends, they move away. They move on and we stay. It happened with several other 20-somethings at our church, it happened with our friends from high school. My few friends from college don’t live close enough. So I’m looking for a Where Exactly that stays, too.

    4. If you could give any comfort to our friends here who are lonely, what would you say?

    I’m lonely, too. Even with a fantastic husband, beautiful 3-month-old, and parents nearby, I’m lonely.

    5. If you could give any advice to our friends here on how to find the Village – how to seek out your tribe – what would you offer?

    I don’t know. I’m still looking for people who stay.

    1. “I’m looking for people who stay.”

      Oh, how I understand this sentiment! My church is closely connected to Westminster Theological Seminary, which means we have great small group discussions and excellent interns–but there’s a significant turnover every 3 years or so when a class graduates we lose 1/3 to 1/2 of our young adult crowd. My husband and I are among those who stay, and it’s taken some practice to build relationships and care for people you know will probably be moving far away.

    2. Sending love, Rochelle. So much of your story echoes my own.

  15. 1) I am still lonely. I have been lonely all my life. People think I’m strange for loving dragons and fairies and children’s books. And talking too much about politics. I nearly cried with happiness when I met the man who became my husband. He let’s me be me, and I never feel like I have to pretend with him. I also have one friend, but she’s single and has no children, and I do long for another mom who gets it.

    2) I’m still looking for my village.

    3) Please tell me where to find one?

    4) One true friend and a life partner who gets it can take most of the hurt away.

    1. I love dragons and fairies and children’s books, too. I actually asked for children’s books instead of gifts for my Bridal shower. I am so happy you found someone who lets you be YOU.

      and while I can’t help you find a village, I totally agree with you that having one TRUE friend and a life partner who gets it can take so much hurt away. It’s a tiny village, but it’s a start.

    2. I love dragons and fairies and childrens books too! I still kinda sorta maybe believe in magic. 🙂
      And I’m a mom who loves reading books to her kids.
      Wish I could be your real-life next-door friend.
      Any plans to move to Colorado?

      1. I wish! I have family there. First I need an income source that isn’t location-based.

    3. I love dragons and fairies and children’s books, too. One of my tribes is for sure between the pages of a good book. Sending love, Marilyn.

  16. 1. My loneliest time was about six years ago. My family had just moved from the Philadelphia suburbs to a tiny podunk town in Michigan, and I stayed here because I was engaged/in college/working/etc. I lived with some very kind extended-family-in-law, who for all their goodness was just not HOME. I had never realized what an important place home is until that time, and finally getting my own place and bringing my husband to that place was the best thing for my heart and soul. It was only about 8 months, but it hurt just the same.

    2. I have a tribe…although it’s evolving as the kiddos start arriving! My best friend and I are still holding out on having kids, but the rest of our little crew are parents and it’s really changing things. (Which is totally fine!! We are just adjusting…and believe me, those little squirts never lack for loving arms to hold them when we are around.)

    3. Our tribe came together through school, church, and then finally location. We all live pretty close together now, which is awesome.

    4. Embrace the loneliness. Learning to feel it and soaking it in is just as important as fighting through it. Loneliness is not a sign of weakness, it’s a reminder that we are humans who need. And know that all seasons shall eventually pass.

    5. Be yourself! I am extremely self-critical and I’ve closed the doors on friendships by telling myself that the other person is “too popular/pretty/talented/good” for me, only to discover (when I didn’t have the energy to worry about my impressions) that the other person is quite nice and we get along well! Be comfortable with yourself and be open…if we are all hiding behind pleasant masks, how will we know who is truly our tribe?

    1. I love what you said about Embracing the Loneliness. Such true words, and a reminder we all need sometimes to see it as a good part of the process.

    2. Yes. This –> “if we are all hiding behind pleasant masks, how will we know who is truly our tribe?” Thank you, Rebecca.

  17. If is hard to pinpoint exactly when I’ve been the most lonely in my life…I remember being a teenager crying because I just wanted friends, and in many ways, I still feel that way. It’s just different now. I am married with two children but thus life is incredibly isolating and lonely. Though I am never (ever, ever) alone, I feel very lonely a lot of the time. My husband just started a new job, workino very long hours, and this just a month after the birth of our second child. It is hard and lonely here. I have not found a tribe, and after YEARS of searching, I sincerely doubt it’s existance. My best advice for the lonely is to find something to do to keep you busy through the long hours of the empty days.

    1. Ashley – it exists. I’ve been there too, a young wife with two kids and still very alone. It gets better – it does.

    2. Isn’t it amazing the subtle yet vast difference between “alone” and “lonely”? You will find it Ashley. Find it here, while you are home with that new baby, and find it in your community when you are ready.

    3. Sending love, Ashley, and hope for your tribe to arrive. xoxo

  18. 1.When in life were you the loneliest? Probably when I was first married and felt that I could have ALL my companionship needs met by one person so I didn’t reach out.
    2.Do you have a Village? Have you found a Tribe? YES!!! I’ve been “collecting” tribe members since my husband was deployed and I got a wake up call that I need to work on building my tribe.
    3.If so, who are they, and WHERE, EXACTLY – with GPS precision instructions, people! – did you find them? I found some through shared interests (joining groups and trying things out), some through mom’s groups, some through my kids and their school and activities.
    4.If you could give any comfort to our friends here who are lonely, what would you say? You will find your tribe if you keep looking. Spend 10 mins a day connecting with humans (email, facebook, text, phone, planning get togethers, popping in, joining a group or activity, signing up to do something that gets you in a space with people who might be YOUR PEOPLE!)
    5.If you could give any advice to our friends here on how to find the Village – how to seek out your tribe – what would you offer?Get out and meet people. Look for the similarities between you and everyone else instead of the differences. There are too many people out there that are amazing and cool and worth your time to wait!

    1. Thank you for your answer to #1 especially, Kristin. Such an important reminder that we can’t expect any human – ever – to be our all. Love.

  19. 1) I think I was loneliest when I studied abroad during college. I stayed with a host family who really didn’t want me there. It was really hard. I was also really lonely when I first moved to where I live now.
    2) No.
    3) The last time I really remember having a tribe was high school. I had a really solid group of friends then. Since then I have often had one best friend, but sometimes none. I just have a really hard time making friends. I thought that I had found a tribe in my church, which I really loved, but this past year the church blew up. I just found out last night that it has been taken over by another church, and our lead pastor is “moving on to new things.” That makes me really sad because pretty much the LAST thing I want to do is go church shopping again. I had thought my daughters would grow up with those church friends through high school. Boo. I actually looked at some church websites this morning and it made me so depressed to think of doing it all over again.
    4) I guess this is just advice for myself: remember that it is okay to be lonely sometimes, and that it is okay when your season of life is so busy with littles and work that it’s hard to make friends.
    5) I so very much wish that I knew. We really need eharmony for friends.

    1. I’m gonna second your request for eharmony for friends. Any entrepreneurs want to get on that for us?

      1. They are actually working on building one! I bumped into this not too long ago… I’m a bit skeptical on if/how it wil work, but it can’t hurt for them to try, right? I’ve just started following them on FB to see what happens with it.

        https://www.facebook.com/avillage.us/info

    2. Church shopping. Ugh. I’m so sorry, Cara. Sending love.

      1. Thanks. I’m actually a little excited about one church whose website I was looking at yesterday. But I am so not looking forward to the awkward walking in, looking around, not knowing anyone part.

  20. My son began having seizures right after his 3rd birthday and for some reason my village abandoned me. Looking back I realize that I was in a village of tribe members who’s poop did not stink. And they very quickly and neatly dug holes for their non-stinky poo as to not offend the rest of the tribe. I on the other hand, found myself with quite stinky poop coming so quickly that there was no time to dig a hole and I was left just standing there with leaves in my hand. So my husband and i are in our own weird smelly tribe with the help of my boyfriend, Mr. Keurig. We have stinky poop, we lost our shovels, and get through each day by the grace of an Almighty God who loves for us to fling our poop upon him. Is that enough poop references Beth?

    1. Erica, this is terrible. One of my closest friends had the same experience when her daughter began having seizures with 5 months. I met her for the first time in a private day-care for toddlers where she had to turn to with her baby because she, as a working mom, couldn´t find a baby sitter who was willing to take care of her baby. Her own mother, who first was babysitting, started gossipping about her and complaining about the baby to the neighbouhood when she was at work. I, as a single mom, was lonely myself because I so did not seem to fit into any group or tribe. That is how we became friends and we still are, after 15 years. I went with her through all this struggeling and realizing all the non-stinky poo around, the kindergarden our girls started to go to together when they were three years old, throwing her daughter out for being “difficult” and having seizures (although they were informed about that before accepting her)other parents were complaining how traumatizing it was for the kids to watch something like that (my daughter though told me about the first time Madleine had a seizure in kindergarden while playing outside, the first time she actually ever saw this happening to her friend: “you know, mummy, Madleine just fell down and first she was moving strangely and making noises and all the kids started screaming and running away but I stayed with her and then she fell asleep and you know, she looked just like “sleeping beauty” with the leaves she had in her hair from lying in the grass) Or another day when I was at the playing ground with the two girls and Madleine was having a seizure again and then the other parents (instead of offering help) couldn´t get their kids away quick enough as if this was contagious. I saw my friend crying over so-called friends who disappeared and I remember that once, after Madleine was having a seizure while at my daugther´s birthday party and they had to leave, she called me the next day and instead of saying hello, she greeted me with: “It is us again, the outrageous family” It broke my heart to realize how inappropriate she felt about herself.
      I could tell many more storys like this Erica, but the most important message is this: my friend is doing fine now. She has lots of friends again, better friends than she had before. She went through hard times but she never gave up. She and her husband always thought that their daughter was the sweetest girl ever. Her husband once said to me: all these stupid people who reject our daughter don´t know what they´re missing.
      That was always his attitude.
      Last january I attended my friends 50th birthday party and I looked around and I saw all the love for my friend and all the sweet, sweet people that were with her, some very few old friends, some new friends and her daughter, now 16 years, in the middle of everything.
      You will get there too, Erica. You will find better friends. You will leave these oh-so-perfect people behind you, they do not need you to teach them a lesson, life will take care of it anyway. You will be strong and humble, loving and forgiving and you will meet people of your standard that will give you so much more and enrichen your life. They are out there right now and they are waiting for someone like you. Like I waited for my friend and she waited for me. And Madleine waited for my daughter who called her “sleeping beauty” after having a seizure.
      When our two girls had their first playing-date at her house, my friend warned me in advance that Madleine never shares her toys with any other child. We arrived there and the two girls started playing together as if they had never done anything else. And my friend looked at them all afternoon and when we left she said: Madleine must have been waiting for Paulina all her life (well, a little bit pathetic as the girls were three years at that time, but anyway…)
      So, you will be fine, like my friend and I am as well.
      I am waving in the dark, Erica and sending you lots of love!!

      1. Thank you. So so much.

        1. Erica and Anke – thank you for sharing your stories. And for waving to each other in the dark. And for saying “me, too.” And for the poop references.

          It breaks my heart that your tribe abandoned you in your time of need, Erica. That’s … wait for it… really shitty of them. (Really.)

          Here’s hoping a new tribe arrives soon. xo

  21. 1. The loneliest I’ve ever been was when my husband got out of the Marine Corps and we moved away from my first adult tribe of amazing friends. Within months i was diagnosed with a serious illness and my husband ended up working 2 jobs. It Was a very lonely time but taught me so much about myself and what I’m truly capable of.
    2. Yes
    3. The first adult tribe I mentioned were my friends made while my husband was in the Marines. We had something to bond over, now we are spread all over the country but keep in touch (not the same but I’m forever grateful for them). My current life-line or village are my girlfriends i made in nursing school in my late 20s. I’m incredibly blessed that our husband’s all get along and we vacation together with our kids, do birthdays and play dates and random girls’nights to decompress. I don’t know what i would do without them.
    4. It’s a difficult time to get through, but you will get through it. Lean on your family or whomever you do have in your life. There are definite seasons in life, weather the storm there is beautiful sunshine on the other side.
    5. Seek out your hobbies, community or church. People that share your interests and passions will be the most likely to be your tribe.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Kristen.

  22. 1) I was the loneliest when my oldest child was born not breathing and rushed off in an ambulance to another hospital because the hospital I was in did not have NICU, and then spent 10 days there. In a first place tie for my loneliest time was when the same child was diagnosed at 18 with a neurological disorder in which the best treatment for him was brain surgery. Also, in an unprecedented tie for 1st place was a month ago, when the same young man (now 20) told me he wanted to kill himself rather than live life with this disorder. All I could think all three times was “How dare everyone go on with their lives around me like nothing is happening! Why hasn’t everyone’s world stopped cold, as mine had?”

    2) YES

    3) My village is made up of extended family and true friends that act without asking, know what not to say, and hug tightly. My son’s doctor and her staff have truly become part of our village as well.

    4) Even trees have branches that are not as strong as others. It’s ok to break. It’s ok to not have all the answers. It’s ok to be lonely, pissed, hopeless, sad, discouraged – but don’t hold those feelings in. Tell someone – anyone. Get it out and ask for help when you’re not on your strongest branch. I am a very strong person and feel I can handle just about anything, but watch your 19 year old child, yes child, get wheeled away to brain surgery with a metal halo screwed into his skull, or your newborn baby driven off in an ambulance, barely a few hours old, not knowing whether you’ll see him again or not, or stand without collapsing when your child tells you they don’t want to live, and I dare you to not be at your weakest moment ever.

    5) Bottom line – you are not alone. Everyone has a story of pain and loneliness. Share your story and let someone share theirs with you.

    Happy note at the end: My son is doing very well. Adjustments to his medications, therapy (both physical and emotional), and have relieved the suicidal thoughts and pain associated with his disorder that he was experiencing.

    1. Thank you for this, Crista, and for the image of the branches. “It’s OK not to be on your strongest branch.” I love this.

  23. 1. We were living in suburbia when my children were tiny. All the moms from our neighborhood would gather on the playground after nap time and then the dads would meet them there after work and they’d leave together to go home for dinner, family by family. My husband was workingworkingworking and we were NEVER that leaving together family. I went home and cried every day until we moved back into the city. That was pretty lonely, although right now comes close.
    2. No. And now I’m crying. We moved across the country a year ago. While I love our new city and new life, my Tribe is back there. I spend inordinate amounts of time on social media missing them.
    3. When I had them, they were my friends from early working days who I had known for years, a long-running book club, then they were parents of my children’s friends — the ones you spent hours sitting on the side of the sandbox with. Before we moved, the other parents at my children’s school were a huge part of my life. I miss them every single day. I just haven’t made those connections here yet. This city is very friendly superficially, but deep down, they’ve all been friends for years if not generations, and there isn’t always room in their tribe for one more. At least that what it feels like to this expatriate.
    4. This is for those who have a tribe — please reach out to the new mom. Introduce yourself. A lot. If you say you are going to invite her to go coffee with your tribe, ACTUALLY INVITE HER. It’s ok if she doesn’t get all your inside jokes. Don’t discuss plans with your friends right in front of her unless you intend to include her.
    5. Reach out — join a club, take a class, sign up to help, volunteer. Keep trying — ask someone to lunch, then ask again. Try not to take it personally if it doesn’t work out. Keep trying again. Pray.

    Thank you, Beth. I didn’t know I was feeling this way until this prompt. xoxo

    1. Thank you so much for this. Moving is SO HARD, and this is such an important reminder to be on the lookout for our momrades who need new tribes.

  24. I was at my loneliest after being asked by leadership at my church to speak on domestic violence. That being, my personal experiences. At that time, I was caregiver to my MIL, who suffered from dementia and was wheelchair bound…and was so argumentative and uncooperative she was kicked out of assisted living. My life was HARD. But I felt I had a tribe. My husband had undergone extensive, skillful counseling to overcome his anger issues after our son was expelled from kindergarten for calling his teacher a…bad name. He was a different man and I was glad to tell my story. Afterward, I was contacted anonymously by a woman who attended and was able to steer her towards help. The following week we had a picnic at a park, and every time my son or I went to an area, everyone else would leave. One woman made an angry remark to me about my husband and walked away. I was mortified. No one who attended that talk ever spoke to me again. I was devastated. We eventually left that church. I just realized it still hurts. I’ve never connected with a group of people since, and I won’t if it means not being transparent.

    1. I’m so sorry, Michele. My heart hurts for you.

    2. Oh, geez. I’m so sorry, Michele. Shunning is a terrible thing in any situation, but in this one, where you were so vulnerable with your story, it’s deplorable. I hope you do connect in the future with a group who will treasure you for your transparency, instead.

      1. Thank you, Beth! Thank you for doing this. I can’t go back now! I have to be transparent and I refuse to hide.

    3. Kudos to you for speaking out and telling your story. Hold tight to the knowledge that your story and your willingness to tell it helped someone else. There’s a Garth Brooks song that I have recently connected with, and I feel as though it’s applicable in your situation. The song is called “The Change” and these are some of the lyrics:

      One hand reaches out
      And pulls a lost soul from harm
      While a thousand more
      Go unspoken for

      And they say, what good have you done
      by saving just this one?

      It’s like whispering a prayer in the fury of a storm

      And I hear them saying
      you’ll never change things
      And no matter what you do
      it’s still the same thing

      But it’s not the world that I am changing

      I do this so
      This world will know
      that it will not change me.

      1. Thank you, Jennifer!! I would not go back and I pray for that anonymous lady regularly. I pray that she followed through and got the help she needed.

  25. Never thought I’d be one of the first to reply but here I go….

    1) Trying to determine when I was the loneliest is the hardest since I’ve been lonely… a lot. Growing up I was lonely because I have a brother with developmental disabilities. It was just too hard to put myself out there and invite people over, and then have to explain why he did what he did and try not to be affected by the staring. But the other time I was really lonely was the 13 years I was married.
    2) Yes, but….
    3) My tribe used to be in the same village (since all our kids were at the same school) but now we are scattered in Tulsa, OK, San Antonio, TX, Anchorage, AK, and Gresham, OR. While we can still be in touch, it’s not the same as stopping over for dinner, coffee or a (decent) box of wine. I won’t replace that tribe but I’m still trying to find one that’s a bit more local and are okay with the “pop-ins.”
    4) I’ve been there. It hurts. Deeply. Keep holding on. I’m holding on in this new season of my life.
    5) I’m an introvert who sometimes masquerades as an extrovert. I didn’t meet my bestest friend until I was almost 36 years old. Continue to put yourself out there.

    There’s so much else I could say but I’m not sure I can put it all into words right now.

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Myrna. Love.

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