My village

“… 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?

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51 Comments

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51 responses to “My village

  1. My village is pretty tiny. Population two (me, D) or four if you count the foster cats. (I’m assuming you’re talking about local friends and not the ones I went to college and grad school with and see about once a year.) I’ve tried expanding the village, but the efforts I’ve made haven’t panned out, which is disheartening. I do need to try harder. But you’re right, it takes a lot out of you sometimes.

    • Yes, I’m talking about the local friends because at this point in my life, I have so little time to be chatting on the phone with people who live far away and the emails, although friendly and good for “catch up” are just not the same as the face to face time. And you’re right, efforts can be disheartening. I often THINK I’ve met someone I click with and then come to realize, the true friendship really isn’t there.

  2. Want to move here? It’s a lot warmer here.

    My village here…doesn’t exist. I have made no connections since we moved 6 months ago. We move at the end of the week “into town” and off the beach. Dh thinks this will solve my problems because I did live there for 7 years. But, my friends were all co-workers. It’s different when you’re a sahm.

    I think my lonliness is magnified because I had just connected with my best friend from school about a year before we moved. We instantly became inseperable, our kids, too. I knew that I could just drop by her house whenever.

    We still talk and it helps that she started a blog a while back, but it’s not the same.

    • Sure! I’d love to join your dance parties in person and kick back on the beach with you!
      I think you’re right that it’s so much harder when you’re a SAHM. It just adds to the loneliness. So many of my friends were work friends and now it’s near impossible to get together with them. There’s got to be a way though! I do hope you’re move will help some and you’ll fall back in with some of your old friends.

  3. Nicki

    My village is rather large. My children know that if they do something wrong, chances are I will know about it before they return home. The same goes for their good deeds.

    There are occasions when I wish there was a different slant on the beliefs and values of some of those in my village but I wouldn’t trade any of them for anyone else.

    I didn’t realize you live in Fairfield County. I was there in 2006 several times. Beautiful area but way too populated for me. While I do not live in town, I live in a community that takes great pride in its young people.

    • You’re very fortunate to have a large village Nicki. I’m thinking as my kids grow and the community through the school opens up, it will help me some. Right now the kids are in a tiny school where the interactions with the parents are few and far between. Hopefully when they get to grade school it will be different.
      Funny you think Fairfield county is so populated. It’s the “sticks” to many people! All depends on where you’re from I guess!

  4. I feel immensely fortunate to have two beloved, best friends who live locally and whose husbands are my husband’s best friends and whose kids are the same age as my kids and are like their siblings. I think this is basically the holy grail. They are the village I have always dreamed of, and actually my own version of a very similar four-family clan that I grew up with.
    Beyond them, and my two or three truly best friends (who are from college) I don’t have a lot of close friends. I think the village is truly important when it comes to the children, and the ideal situation knits together families so you can do a little communal parenting … that’s the best aspect of the village, at least in my view! xo

    • You are so lucky Lindsey! What you have is EXACTLY what I’m looking for. I also find it hard sometimes that some my friend’s husbands Tim doesn’t click with and vice versa. But I’d settle for that if I really and truly clicked with the woman. Just hasn’t happened here yet. And the communal parenting thing would be amazing. There really isn’t anyone Right Here who we can spend weekend time together as a family or who I could call in a pinch to help us out. That’s why we’re so lucky to have our parents here. Not sure what would happen if we didn’t on those days where I’m sick and just can’t be a parent!

  5. I have what I’ve always considered to be a solid village, but like you the village is relatively small. I have a couple of close girlfriends who I can turn to for anything, I have a husband would give me the world and extended family who would come in a moment if needed. When I was younger I thought the key was a larger village, but I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily that, that it really is about quality. I’ve had the crap, the headaches, the stress that comes from friendships that are just not healthy. I don’t want that. I want friendships that don’t require work, that are natural, two-sided, comfortable. I want people in my life who I can say anything to without fear of judgement. Like you, I think I’ve found some of that online, but I have what I also feel is enough offline. I too have those superficial friendships, they are important too and have a place. My village for now is small, but it’s large at the same time.

    For the record, I wish you were here, because I think you would be that kind of friend, one who’s part of my small village, but offers large returns. You have a tremendous, thinking, loving heart.

    • I totally agree that it’s the quality of friends not the quantity. Absolutely. And I do have that in the friends I have but for me, the problem is the proximity of my friends. I miss having them Here. I need MORE quality here. And I haven’t found it. But as I said, I’m a tough judge of friendships so it may be my fault that I haven’t found any. My standards are pretty high. But I do know that if you were here… we’d be fast friends! I’m just hoping as the kids grow up, I’ll meet more moms who are more like me and we’ll actually have more time to spend together since the kids will be in school. It just hasn’t happened yet.

      • I get that completely, more in the here and now. Really I can never have enough coffee and chat dates with my closest friends. That connection is important and has made a difference for me on many different occasions.

  6. Like others here, my village is pretty tiny. I’ve never been an easy friend-maker, though, so I suppose I am used to a close, small circle. My husband is the same way, and maybe that’s part of why we connected. Every time we think we should/need to/must expand our village, we always seem to come back around to, “We’re happy where we’re at.” It’s a tough balance, one that I hope I can guide my children through as they work to build their own idea of a village.

    • It also all comes back to if you’re happy in your village. It sounds like you and your husband ARE happy with the tiny but strong friendships you have and that’s what matters. I, on the other hand, would LIKE to find more people in my circle of friends. Because I AM often lonely with what I have. It also doesn’t help that my husband works long hours all week so I find myself alone until 8pm every night. I wish I could change that too!

  7. I had a very similar reaction when reading that section of Raising Happiness.

    Like you, my village has contracted since high school. Now, living in a relatively new place, I feel like I have friends to go to the movies with or to watch my kids in a pinch – which is really important and really valuable – but I still consider my closest friends to be those who live hundreds of miles away (pretty close to you, actually; shall I send their numbers? :)). I wonder sometimes if it’s just a matter of time before my friendships here become soul-stirring in the way some of my long-distance friendships are. But then I think about how connected I felt so instantly to some of my blogging buddies and wonder if maybe I have to keep looking for that type of bond in person closer to home.

    Thanks so much for making me think more about this. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the book. I too had a lot of major A-ha moments while reading it!

    • Kristen you seem to be the type who makes and keeps friends really easily. I think you’re really lucky to have made some close friends so quickly in a new place. Ones that you WANT to socialize with and also would help you out if you needed. I don’t think it’s that common at our age and when entering a new town. I’d love your old friends numbers! If they’re anything like you I’m sure I’d love them!

  8. Janelle

    As I read your post I kept saying to myself, “yes…yes” as I so relate to everything you are feeling. And then I laughed when you asked “want to move to Fairfield County?” as I was thinking the exact same thing. There has to be SOMEONE near me who shares the same thoughts/values/etc. Don’t you think?

    I have a million “friends.” We chat at baseball games, talk at the playground, run into each other at the grocery. However, I feel that we are all simply going about our everyday activities, living in parallel lives, without ever truly connecting. Sure, they would bring over a meal if I was sick but I’m looking for friends who can hang out regularly…drink coffee at 8 a.m., have a glass of wine, share the daily mundane life of motherhood. My husband just doesn’t quite get this…especially when I tell him I feel lonely from time to time. It’s hard work finding that village especially when you can’t choose your actual neighbors!

    • Thanks for visiting Janelle! My husband also doesn’t really get it. It’s a conversation I have with him quite often and he ends up feeling bad that I am lonely… like HE’S not giving me what I need. And he’s not, since he works so damn much! But really, it’s the female relationships I crave outside of my marriage. Other women near me MUST feel the same way, I just have to find them! I’m so happy to hear that I’m not alone in this!

  9. Oh Becca, I so wish I was closer! I know exactly what you mean about a shrinking village.

    In high school, I had a very large circle of friends. But as I married and had children, I am a little more particular about who I associate with. And as I have gotten older, the fear of rejection is not something I am particularly proud of.

    I guess, as with anything, it begins with a gesture, a leap of faith, from you towards one already in the mix of acquaintances. I guess it is hard to put your trust (or attempt to, anyway) in someone and forge a deeper friendship.

    Like you, I sometimes feel more “connected” in this virtual world than I do in the one I really live in. I value the advice and comments I receive, look forward to knowing what is going on in everyone’s own world.

    Let’s make an effort to break out of our comfort zones and reach out to a “live” one, okay?

    • Ok Maria, you have a deal. I’ll keep you posted on the friendships I’m making (or not) and you do the same, ok? My plan is to start on Friday at my weekly tennis match. I’m hoping to get the courage up to ask one or more of the women if they want to grab lunch. We’ll see how it goes!

  10. I love your take on this part of the book and the soul searching it has stirred in you. I’m OK with the size of my village. Not too big and not too small. I think I have room for a few more occupants but I’m finding as I get older, I’m much more concerned with the quality of a friendship rather than the quantity. AND – another prerequisite is that the friendship needs to be reciprocal. No more “me” carrying the burden of keeping the friendship alive.

    • Oh yes Jane. I’m also tired of carrying all of the weight in the friendship. I also don’t have time for that. And I agree it’s quality v quantity. But I need to find a few friendships closer to home to even hope for the quality! My quality friendships are all over 30 minutes away, which is too far for a quick cup of coffee… You are very lucky to have the right size village for you. I hope to find that soon too.

  11. My village is VERY small and I know this is due to the lack of effort on my part. Sad to say, nobody that has entered my life in the last five years seem to compare to the relationships I have with my friends from ages ago (whom I no longer see becasue they are miles away).

    However, I have since met two women (actually through my son) that I have really connected with, so this excites me b/c it shows that maybe there are those out there that I can establish these kind of relationships with – just like my “core” peeps from ages ago.

    This is great food for thought – as I should really open up my village and make more of an effort.

    • I think the best way to make friends these days is through our kids. Because in the end, I’d love friendships that I feel connected to through my kids and who we can spend time with as a family. I hope as my kids enter grade school, the quantity of options will open up and I can work toward forging some more meaningful friendships.

      Thanks for visiting!

  12. My village is small and strong but mostly family based. I do wish that I could grow my village a little bit too because my best friend lives 3 hours away. Like you I have social acquaintances but not a girlfriend that I could share stories, feelings, hopes, dreams, and fears with over a cup of tea. Unfortunately, I don’t know other women my age with children close in age to mine. That seems to be the deal breaker when it comes to clicking.

    • Yes, having kids with similar ages is helpful because you feel like you’re in a different life stage and can’t relate as well to moms with kids much older or younger. It really has less to do with how old the women are and more to do with their kids ages… interesting. And having a family based village is a great thing so you’re fortunate there… but sometimes, it’s good to have people who you aren’t so intertwined with too… people who I can VENT ABOUT my family to!

  13. My village is tiny, but filled with quality people. We moved to a new state this past year and I crave a larger circle. I know it will happen over time, but its the getting there that is so hard. For now, I will cherish the connections in my current village, hoping though that new friendships will be willing to become a part of my life.

    • Thanks for visiting rudrip! Again, quality is more important than quantity but like you, more would help, especially if the quality friendships aren’t close by. But you make a good point to cherish what is there… because we’re lucky to have those quality people in our lives. It will just take some work on my part to grow my village, and that’s what I plan on doing!

  14. Great, great post – well written and thought provoking. My once large village has dwindled as I’ve graduated college, gotten a big girl job and started my family. However, there is a closely knit crew of us that are still lifers in this little village of mine and for that I am deeply grateful. At times this solid and familiar network makes it tough to let new people in…and I struggle with that and at times even force myself to make an effort as I know new residents bring their own unique gifts to my village.
    Found you on SITS – keep up the great writing!

    • Thank you for stopping by Gig Girl! Yes, I often find that as I try to make new friends, they seem to already have their village and aren’t as open to welcoming someone new in. But, as you say, I do have a lot to offer! 🙂 As we grow, we look for new things out of friends, new perspectives, new opinions. I find it fascinating to meet new people and understand where they come from and how they view things based on how they grew up and their experiences. Hopefully some of the women I meet will be willing to learn the same from me…

  15. Wow. I have only written two posts on my blog so far, and the one I wrote yesterday was about this very same thing! I wrote about feeling lonely and my desire for more meaningful friendships. You described your feelings much more eliquently than I, but it still delivered the same message, and I totally understand. I don’t think my village has to be all that big, but it needs more quality, dependability, strength, meaning. Unfortunately I don’t have any advice for you, but it’s nice to know that I’m not alone with these feelings. Thanks.

  16. Waving at you from my pathetically wizened, shrunken village.

    But if I’m honest, I’d have to admit that I’ve never had the luxury of a big village. It’s my lot in life to be small potatoes, I guess.

    Wish you lived closer. I make cocktails, you know. 🙂

    That part of the book struck me, too. I thought, well, that’s one more area that I have to admit is an epic fail…

    • Oh how I wish I lived closer too. I think you’d make the perfect friend and neighbor. And that’s without your unbelievable cooking/beverage mixing skills…

  17. Yup, another tiny village here. Sometimes it seems like it’s just me and him.

    I was noticing a while back that what I really miss is having a BFF–I have a couple of close friends that I connect with from time to time but they already have a bestie. High school friends? They’re all at different life-stages than I and the time between contact has made it more difficult to relate.

    Sometimes I’m very comfortable with my pass-through-friend status because it is rather low-maintenance. Still, there are some things a girl wants to talk about with someone other than her guy and that’s when I notice that vacancy sign in my village inn.

    One of these days, though, I might get lucky 🙂

    • Hi Scraps, thanks for visiting. I agree that what I have now is pretty low maintenance which is nice but at this point, I wouldn’t mind the bit of work!

      But what I’m finding recently, is that it will take more than luck where I sit. It’s going to take some work, and based on what I read in the book, the work will be well worth it.

      Thank you for making me feel not so alone here!

  18. Oh a village. Yes. I fantasize about a village. A neighborhood of children running from yard to yard. Friends and family surrounding me and filling me up. My village is small. Very, very small. Too small. I am often incredibly sad and discouraged by it. But what to do? I go on. My kids are loved. My family is strong. But a village? I would love a village. I would love the opportunity to give back more. It is so hard hard hard to make new friendships when we get to this point…kids and their activities and just getting dinner on the table are SO HARD…finding time to build something NEW seems so impossible.

    • Well, let’s at least make the effort to bring what i feel is an amazing online relationship into the “real” world… let’s make it not impossible. ok? I could use you in my village.

  19. Oh, Becca – another similarity. I wrote this a few weeks ago. http://marburyvmadisonave.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/so-lonely
    I was thinking of only me though — not even of my children yet and how these friendships would affect them. I’m not even at that step…a friend counseled me just yesterday that I need to be agressive. Text moms for playdates, walks. I’m not a shy person, but for some reason, in this stage of life, I am…

    • I can’t wait to read this Kathryn! I also need to be more aggressive. I know it’s possible to make more friends. It’s just NOT easy! I’m also not shy but I’m sensitive and don’t feel like dealing with being disappointed.

  20. P.S. My village has really been at work, and a group of mom friends I made there. But now I’m on leave…my daily “go to” peeps for coffee, complaints, commiseration, support are dressed in suits and wearing lip gloss and getting coffee while my hair is falling out three months post partum and I pull on jeans and burst into tears when I go to Starbucks solo. Sigh. 🙂

  21. I’ve been working on building my village these past few months. As an introvert, this is hard. Finally got the guts to ask someone I barely knew to hangout, we did, and had a good time. I’m hoping friendship will continue to grow (and me too) as I seek out more ladies to be friends.

    • That’s great Ronnica that you were bold and asked someone to hangout. I’ve done it a few times and some have worked out better than others! It’s not easy to try to make friends at this time of our lives but if we want to encourage our kids to do it, we should too! Thank you!

  22. My village could be large if I let it be. But, my natural inhibitions and tendency toward introversion has shrunk it. Still, I am slowly allowing myself to trust other people besides my husband. I have been through too much heart break (in my family) to trust people. I don’t like this about myself so I am working to change it. I think that blogging has helped me work against this silly notion. People like you and other bloggers have helped me feel worthwhile. It is really nice, you know?

    I am so glad your back. I really HAVE missed you!

    • Trust is not easy, I can relate Amber. If you’ve been hurt in the past, it takes a long time to get the courage back to put yourself out there. But I do think it will be worth it, for me, to broaden my circle of friends so that I get rid of some of the lonelies that I so often feel. I agree, this blog world has done WONDERS for me but the in person relationships would help too.

      xo

  23. Your post was very very moving and made me think of my own village. I was so moved I think I would like to blog about it too – would that be ok?

    Love your blog – Al x

  24. My face-to-face village is also very small, though my online village is large. I totally get that not being the same.

    Is your daughter in school yet? I’ve started to become close with my daughter’s best friend’s mom. She has been a lifesaver many times, offering rides to and from school so I don’t have to drag the two little ones out.

    I’ve also started to meet some blog friends in real life. Twitter is a good place to find mom bloggers local to you. Use the advanced search to restrict the location: http://search.twitter.com/advanced

  25. Pingback: “Drama for Mama” blog « Raising Happiness

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