“… there is no stronger predictor of happiness than how robust and positive our “village” is.”
I lifted this quote from the fabulously thought provoking and (for me) life altering book, Raising Happiness by Christine Carter. I was directed to this book by Kristen at Motherese as it is the topic of her online bookclub that started a few weeks ago. Sadly, I’m a few weeks behind so I haven’t had a chance to truly participate in the book club. but I’m compelled to write my own post on this part of it, because it resonated so loudly with me.
Christine makes it clear early on in her book that if she was to pick the one thing that matters most to human happiness, she would say it’s our relationships with other people. “Very happy people have stronger relationships than less happy people, in part because being happy makes people want to be your friend, and in part because having friends makes us happier.”
I lifted my head from this page of the book after I read this passage and rested it on the head rest of my train seat, as I traveled home from a wonderful Happier Hour evening in the city. An evening in which I met a few new friends and finally put a face to my “older” friend who I felt I knew, but had never met. I rested my head back and started to think about my village.
My village that sometimes feels so small. My village that I so often complain I can’t figure out how to feel more “complete” and fulfilling.
Growing up, I always had TONS of friends. My phone in high school was constantly ringing. I never had a shortage of plans. I had friends I could count on for anything and everything. A wide circle of friends and at the same time the smaller, close knit group who knew me, inside and out. I felt safe. Happy. Rarely lonely.
And then we all went off to college, and somewhere between then and now, we’ve drifted so far apart that we barely even know each other any more. The physical distance we all put between each other caused a distance in our friendships over the years that unfortunately is irreparable as we still all live so far apart. I miss that group. I miss that safe village.
I now have a couple extremely close friends. Two girlfriends who I can lean on for absolutely everything. We are there for one another at any hour of any day. On the phone. I have some friendly acquaintances too. Those that I see quite often and enjoy well enough, but don’t feel I have “clicked with”. I wouldn’t call them to ask to pick my kids up at school. I wouldn’t ask if they had a formal dress I could borrow. I wouldn’t even call them to vent about Hannah’s school teacher. I also have Tim as well as my parents and inlaws. People who I know would do anything for me and whose relationships I wouldn’t change for the world. And I also have all of you out there, reading my words and offering written advice and support. Today, this is my village.
And I realized as I continued to read Christine’s words in her book, that it’s not enough.
Yes, I feel fortunate to have these valuable and trusted relationships. Ones that I believe some people with TONS of friends are not lucky enough to have. But I need more.
I miss the face to face conversation. The deep conversation. The spur of the moment get together at a friends house with a glass of wine or cup of tea. I want a friend I can call after the kids are asleep and ask, to go grab a Rice Krispee treat and hot mocha at Starbucks. When I’m sad or worried or happy and proud, I want a friend who is THERE to give me a hug. And I would love my arms to be needed in the same way.
My village has shrunk. And I feel it. I feel it in my heart. I feel it in my bones. But I’m not sure how to go about growing it again. Because I’m not really willing to just have ANYONE as a friend. I’ll admit, I’m a friend snob. If I tell someone something about myself that I think is important, I expect they’ll remember. If I share something personal, I expect it won’t get shared with others. If I’m nervous about a doctor’s appointment, I hope they’ll call to see how it went. And, you can bet, I’ll do the same for them. And most importantly, I want friends I can share the Good and the Bad with and not made to feel I’m bragging or alone. In the competitive mommy world I’m in the middle of, this is often where I find things fall short.
And I need friends Here.
I have told the people in my life about all of YOU. You who I call my friends (and are). You who read my words and give me better advice than I’ve ever gotten. Who have told me I Am Not Alone and have shared your own stories that make me believe it. Who have told me I’m Wrong and should get over myself. And as wonderful as it is to know that any time of day or night, one of you may be reading and nodding your head in agreement or shedding a tear of sadness or joy along with me, you still aren’t Here. In my physical village. Where can I find friends like You here? Why does it seem everyone else here has their own village? Am I looking in the wrong places?
Or maybe I’m just too lazy.
Because making and keeping friends is hard work. It’s easy when the friend is already your close friend. A few days or weeks can go by and you’re still going to be just as close. But new friends take effort. Getting to know one another. Giving the benefit of the doubt. Feeling each other out. Some uncomfortable quiet moments. Some fear of rejection. Some wonder of whether they’ll “get” you. And sometimes, in the midst of all of my craziness, it feels like too much.
But I’m seeing, from reading the pages of this book, that to be truly happy, I need that village. A team. A clan. A network. And for me, I think that group needs to be larger than what I have today because too many moments I feel lonely. And I don’t want my kids to ever feel lonely. I want them to see how important it is to have these friendships. Many friendships and relationships. A support system. They need to be able to model my friendships and therefore my happiness. So I will be making the effort. Putting myself out there. Finding more options and more opportunities. Maybe I’ll be less picky. For the good of my village.
How big is your village?
Do you wish it were bigger? Or of better quality?
Want to move to Fairfield County, Ct?