ISO: Friends

Wanted ASAP!

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Friends for a single mom. Looking for people who enjoy the outdoors, deep conversations, the occasional total breakdown, themed events, baking, and confusing interactions that vacillate between hyper-engaged enthusiasm for the relationship, and unexpected distant awkwardness. The ideal person will have flexible time so that they can work within small windows of availability. Must have a near-Christ level of patience to endure several cancellations before eventual meet-ups. Should not expect immediate text replies or phone conversations (like, at all).

 

Scrolling through social media, I am always envious of the moms in pictures with their groups of girlfriends – at wineries, the beach, someone’s baby shower, brunch, etc. Some of you even have multiple girlfriend groups! You get matching outfits or t-shirts with cute slogans, you take annual trips; you do friendship right. It is impressive. I am jealous of you.

 

Friends are a struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like people. I actually love learning about others and creating connections. But I don’t know how people do it. Between work, kids, housework, life tasks, and attempting some level of self-care, I am always either low on time or (mental or physical) energy. I try to build friendships, but I seem unable to maintain them. Here’s a glimpse into the bum deal of my friendship:

 

You’ll invite me to parties and to hang out at your place, and I will come (whenever it is kid-friendly, or I can get a sitter). But, I probably won’t ever invite you to my place, because I live in a tiny two-bedroom apartment and I’m pretty embarrassed about it. So, you’ll think I don’t really want to be your friend. You’ll stop inviting me.

When you ask if we want to join you and your kids for a movie, I will likely want to. But, we live on a tight budget, so I will probably say no. In all likelihood, I will be too embarrassed to tell you that it is a financial issue, so you will think I don’t really want to be your friend. You won’t ask again.

 

You will offer to take my kids for a while, and I will accept it. Then, you will ask for the same favor, but I will likely have to work, so I will say no. The imbalance between a partnered-mom and single-mom investment in kid-swapping, and friendship, in general, will become progressively clear. So, you will think I don’t really want to be your friend. You will find new friends.

You will do something amazing for me, and I will plan a thoughtful and unique way to show my gratitude…but then I will get busy with and overwhelmed by life. I will keep the gesture on my to-do list, but by the time I get to it, so much time will have passed that I will feel too ashamed to execute it belatedly. You will find me rude for not having the courtesy to write even a thank-you note. You will think I don’t really want to be your friend. You will move on.

Initial encounters are probably the worst. I will approach you with the genuine exuberance for getting to know who you are. But when the conversation starts to move toward future plans, I will be silently battling the demons inside my head telling me that I am incapable of being a good friend, so I will appear distracted and try to find a way to move on to the next, more-superficial, conversation. You will think I don’t really want to be your friend. It will stop there.

So, if you’ve ever tried to be my friend and felt like I haven’t reciprocated, please know that I appreciate you deeply and I have entertained visions of our Insta-stories in coordinated clothing on our annual trip to the winery. I have daydreamed about sipping mimosas and laughing with you over brunch. If you want to continue trying, I promise that I will also try. If you don’t, I understand. Either way, please know that my ISO is ongoing, redeemable at any time.

A. Smith

You Are More Than a Selfie

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This post has been a long time coming.  Months, if not years.  Honestly these feelings of helplessness, sadness, broken heartedness at every scroll of any social media feed.  I see her, a woman, cropped, filtered, perfectly poised, pouty lip, that eye staring back with some sort of seductive pleading.  I see her at a bar with half-friends, just people to chase away her loneliness, to declare to the world she isn’t alone, she has a life.  I see her kids, use to the interruption from their play, “Let me take a photo!” Click.  Then back to her feed while her kids go back to their play, half annoyed at being bundled together for the shot.  Just to prove that they are as perfect and happy as she thinks things should be all the time.  I see her striving, trying, exhausted.  I know behind every perfectly filtered, Starbucks gripping, Bible reading, #blessed, picture is about 15 other photos that didn’t make the cut.  Maybe 10 minutes, 15 minutes, of click, check, delete.  The discontentment begins to settle, “Why is it so easy for everyone else?” and then a quick makeup check, a bit more mascara, a tussle of the hair for volume and then a click, check, delete.  Finally, a good one, perfect lighting (she’s tried all angles), a different filter, a little blur from the photo editor and she finally has a worthy one.  She posts, she waits, she refreshes, she goes back to check.  Counting the likes, checking who liked, getting angry if he didn’t like it yet, of course that one girl didn’t give her a like.  Maybe she should block her?  Maybe not, she doesn’t want to make things awkward.  She checks frequently in the next hour.  It will at some point consume her.  

We are a selfie obsessed culture.  While we have always valued self-expression and self-exploration and while selfies are nothing new.  We have several painstakingly painted self-portraits handed down from history to prove that point.  The revolution of camera phones and the prolific use of social media avenues has brought on a new decade of reverse camera angle art.  There is something deeper, darker and more painful very thinly veiled behind a full feed of beautiful, gorgeous women that brings me so close to tears of ache.  “You are more than a selfie,” has been uttered so many times as I scroll pass.  With every thumbs-up and heart I give I give a true heart behind it, a hug, a reassurance.  You are worthy.  Far worthier than these likes.  Don’t come back to this photo looking for your approval and validation.  You are more.

You are more than the birds in the sky, the sparrow and robins, you are more than the stars in heaven, a carpet of flowers in a spring field, and all the value of the pearls of the sea.  You are precious, a joy, perfect.  Song of Solomon says there is no fault in you.  There is no one thing mistakenly crafted or created, perfectly, reverently, fearfully you have been formed.  All of you, not just your looks but your soul and spirit most of all.  You were known by him before you were known to the world, before existence he loved and affirmed you.  He has filled his thoughts with your splendor that outnumber the grains of sands on the beaches.  He calls you his peculiar treasure, a saint, a daughter, a wife a mother.  He is enchanted by your beauty, when you whisper your prayers He bends his ear from heaven to hear you.  He has made promises to you, has established you and carries you.   He leads you and your children, he makes a home for you near him like a nest.  When you’re exhausted he covers you with this wing and when you’re lonely he turns to you.  He desires to pour his love in your heart and blessings into your lap until they runneth over.  


But this satisfying, soul quenching, heart healing love is so quickly traded in an instant the moment her feed goes dead, when she opens her page and only 4 new hearts appear-heart sunk, soul crushed.  Suddenly, unlovable.  Even amid a flush of likes, hearts and comments of affirming words they offer a quick rush to a lonely soul.   It isn’t the likes we need, it isn’t the attention a few well-crafted photos provide, but a deeper longing our soul truly craves.  Connection.  Validation.  To be seen, to be appreciated to be loved.  This a humankind thing.  God built in us to drive us to each other, to belong to one another and to build a life alongside others.  God spoke it from his mouth, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  The first and only flaw he made in this “It is good” creation.  We were built to connect, to need others and we know we have others when we are attached, missed, recognized, encouraged, together.   The moment that first fruit was bitten we drove a wedge between him, between us and we have been aching to bring it back, however possible, since that day.

Our social media world has driven disconnection while promoting interconnection.  We are greater linked but lesser known.  We are craving authentic, we are dying for vulnerable, we are longing for real.  We will never find that in the selfie.  Clinical Psychologist Lucie Hemmen on speaking of the rise of the selfie culture states, that when we “get so distracted by the marketing of ourselves, we can lose touch with our authentic identifies and struggle to build real relationship.”  The very thing we crave, we drive away.  She continues, “This false self-esteem alienates friends, family members and colleagues leading us to less supportive bonds.”   What we create over time is shallower relationship and the eventual dreaded Unfriending, online and in person.  Oh Sister!  Break free.

What that photo doesn’t show is the woman beneath it.  The grit and resolve, the never-ending heart that pours into your little ones.  It doesn’t show your hopes, your dreams, the vivid imagination in the depth of you.  It doesn’t tell the softness of your voice, or the command of your God given leadership.  It doesn’t show the tenderness of how you care for your friends, or how quickly you respond to a call for help.  It doesn’t show your loyalty or your concern.  Your laughter is missed, your energy and your light is left unexposed.  Your quick wit, your humor, your gentleness, your brazenness.  It is only a flat shallow photo of a much richer you.  Don’t put your value in that photo.  Don’t count your worth in ticks of half-hollowed appreciation.

I know you’ve been rejected in the past, I know you’ve been hurt.  Maybe it was a family member, a friend or a lover.  Maybe you’ve been driven to a place of isolation, an invisible prison.  Maybe you’re filled with envy, struggle to come to grips with your reality, denying that your life is really your life.  Maybe you’re still holding a pain to the chest, afraid to let others close to see it.  Maybe things are hard, really hard.  Maybe you feel like you missed something or lost something you can’t get back to.  He knows, he sees it behind those perfect, perfect eyes.  You haven’t failed him; his arms are wide open.  He’s waiting for you to turn to him because he knows you and has always.  He affirms you, he speaks tenderly to you.  In his perfect love, he will cast out your insecurities and fears.  And in his love, he will hold you to him and quiet you in his presence.   

Turn the phone off, go longer between posts.  Experience in the moment the joy of doing real life with others, even doing real life on your own.  Fight the urge to share it for approval until you can share it just for the joy of sharing.  Don’t miss the moment of real life, of real experience.  Disconnect and reconnect with a God who is wanting to romance you, to family that needs your presence.  Feel the pleasure and validation of connection without a device driving you apart.  Don’t just be, be together.  A life lived authentic is the life lived well.  

By Brandi Dailey

Executive Director, Thrive Single Moms

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