I was never the girl with a crowd of friends. I was more the “a few good friends” type. Those friendships were precious and yet, I nearly let it all slip away.
Several years ago, I was young stay-at-home mom with busy toddlers and I craved adult conversation. I put myself out there (as much as an introvert can) and built friendships. I loved meeting a couple of friends for coffee (even if it was mostly comparing toddler trials and triumphs) and looked forward to the occasional girl’s night.
I checked in with my friends frequently, sharing the details of our days—both the mundane and the noteworthy. We celebrated our children’s milestones, babysat for each other, vented our frustrations, and kept up in the day-to-day happenings.
The first change came when my youngest child started school and I went to work part-time. My days became a different kind of busy. I crammed everything in on my days off and it left little time for friends, especially when their days off didn’t line up with mine.
I wasn’t keeping up with the quality of friendships that I was used to, but I was not alone in juggling work and home. So, I took heart that my friends were in the same boat even though we didn’t connect as often.
I assumed things would settle down as the kids got older and more independent, but it didn’t happen. Instead, we faced health struggles in our home. Bad news crashed into my little world like a tidal wave and left our family clinging to each other. I no longer felt like I was in the same boat as my friends. No, I was floundering at sea now, clutching my family and struggling with pain that we chose not to share for a long time. Everything else faded away as I focused on my family.
My friendships were one of the first things set adrift. Good friendships take time and effort to maintain and I just didn’t have either of those anymore. It wasn’t a conscious choice, it just happened one tired decision after another.
Personal friendships became ,“Hey, how’s it going? We should get together sometime,” as we breezed by each other in the frozen food section. But I never followed through.
There were days I felt so drained that the sound of the phone ringing (yes, we still have a landline) filled me with dread. What were we up to tonight? Nothing. Did I want company? Nope. Sorry, I had no energy for small talk. No willpower to produce a fake smile.
Did I blame my friends for my drifting? Not at all. Some had their own struggles and possibly felt like I did. Some went out of their way to show up unexpectedly on my doorstep for coffee or send me texts. I treasured their unconditional love, but I couldn’t put mine into action.
When people around me experienced hard times, I didn’t reach out to share their sorrow. I couldn’t spend time dwelling on their needs because I barely had strength for mine. Offering them a Facebook *hug* and scrolling on was the best I could manage. Anything more than that would break my fragile state.
I avoided extra stress so much that I ignored the news. Tragedies around the world were more than I could bear, so I scrolled on without clicking on breaking news stories. I needed to cocoon with my family, so I became ignorant.
I stopped serving in our church. Didn’t even sign up for the traditional secret prayer sister exchange. I slid from an active volunteer to a pew warmer.
I didn’t know when I would ever find energy or compassion again for those outside my home.
This carried on for over a year before my cocoon cracked open.
I slowly became aware of women around me struggling and realized that they couldn’t maintain their friendships during their darkest moments, either. Many women who were battling health issues, relationship struggles, or grief must have also let friendships slide. I couldn’t be the only one.
Finally, relief from that nagging guilt
Then, walking by the local coffee shop the other week, I spotted two old friends chatting over coffee. I didn’t expect such strong feelings, but suddenly I wanted that again. Maybe I was ready to dust off a neglected friendship and do more than just survive. I wanted back in the boat.
I can’t bear anyone’s burdens yet, but I can start with coffee.
So, if this is your story, too, don’t beat yourself up. One day you will be ready. One day you will want to put the effort in again.
Until then, I lift my cup to you.