This year’s holidays have been quite different than those of years past.
In large part, this shift has come about thanks to Hurricane Harvey, a storm which ravaged my birth city in late August of this past year and displaced my parents out of their home on a long-term basis.
For instance, this year, instead of heading to Mom and Dad’s for some delicious home-cooked Thanksgiving treats, we had Thanksgiving at a local restaurant.
And this Christmas, we are finally taking the plunge and celebrating “gift free,” on account of how cleaning out 42 years’ worth of moldy household possessions in less than a week has left its own lasting impression on our little family.
Going into 2018, we are each and all together resolved to focus less on “stuff” and more on “us,” enjoying quality togetherness without the sometimes burdensome price tag previous years’ traditions have often imposed.
Overall, I am quite comfortable with these changes, although I do wish they hadn’t come about because the city flooded the dam, which then flooded my parents out of their home and destroyed most everything they owned.
But I am still contending with the reliably palpable pressure of the holidays themselves.
With an ever-increasing stream of articles, blog posts, advertisements and programs associating holidays with hecticness and endless rounds of parties and gatherings, sometimes I begin to wonder what is wrong with me that my holiday schedule is as open and free as my non-holiday schedule.
In other words, I don’t have tons of parties to attend. I’m not double or triple-booked (heck, on most nights, I’m not even single-booked!).
I also don’t belong to a faith family with the attendant required rounds of group religious observances to maintain. I don’t have any kids to ferry around to their own holiday parties. And what extended family I do have is scattered around the country, and most of them I’ve never even met and probably will never meet.
Don’t get me wrong – none of this upsets me, per se.
It was my choice not to have kiddos, although I worked with preteens, teens and young adults for many years. I tried to join a faith community several times, but it just never felt like “me.” Plus, as an introvert, I tend to find large groups, whether at parties or elsewhere, overwhelming and somewhat anxiety-producing. It is hard to hear, hard to talk, hard to connect, and hardest of all to wait until politeness indicates that yes, I can finally go home now.
It’s just that sometimes, in those oh-so-quiet hours when I’m oh-so-aware that I might be the only person on the planet who literally can’t tell any difference between “the holidays” and all the other days of the year, I worry that I don’t have enough friends.
Even worse, I worry that if I don’t do something soon, I may not have any friends at all.
Rewinding just a handful of years ago, I was still quite social. I had a wide circle of friends, and I belonged to several circles that didn’t overlap, which meant more festivities all year long rather than less.
But I also didn’t have a steady boyfriend. I didn’t have three pets to care for. My parents hadn’t been flooded out yet, with all the attendant FEMA-related workload that has generated, and their health was also still pretty good overall.
I wasn’t writing from home full-time yet, either, so I was out and about much more, meeting people and making those new connections that can lead to new friendships.
Today, my life is exactly the way I hoped it would be for so many years…minus a heart-friend or two. I work from home all day every day, spending hours of quality time daily with my precious feathers and two shells.
I earn my living doing what I love most (other than sleeping) – writing. I love where I live location-wise, and for the first time in my life, I feel like my little casa really reflects “me” in its setup and furnishings.
I spend most of my free time with my partner or my parents. I have two close girl friends to hang out with that live here in the same city I do, one who lives here full-time and one who comes and goes as her career and family needs dictate. (I have other friends here too, but they are all married with multiple kids and they now have the whole new life and new sets of friends that typically comes along with that huge life transition.)
So why do I bring this up now? Maybe it is because I am turning 47 this coming Tuesday, and birthdays inevitably tend to trigger “life evaluations” along with birthday cake.
Or perhaps it is because I haven’t had a local social circle this small since, well, ever. So it seems like, if I should be worried about this, now would be a good time to get started.
A book called “Connected” says people tend to have about 11 close connections, which typically include family, work colleagues and neighbors as well as friends. As of this year, reports also show that the average person has just one close confidante – someone they can really talk with and open up to.
So in that way, I suppose shouldn’t worry at all, because I have my two close girl friends here, my mentor, my parents and my partner – that is 5 confidantes….a bona fide cornucopia of support, statistically speaking.
Plus I belong to a truly inspiring online community, mostly on Facebook and Instagram. My social network is well populated with fellow souls who love nature and animals and value authenticity and connection as much as I do. I’ve actually lost count of the number of times my so-named “social network” has provided me with comfort and support long distance, and I strive to offer the same in return whenever needed.
But the bald-faced truth is, if I want to go to the movies tonight, I might have to go by myself.
And if I need to go to the doctor tomorrow and can’t drive myself for some reason, I’ll probably have to call a cab.
That is really what this whole anxious friendship (or no friendship) issue boils down to.
Perhaps more than anything, the worry is fueled by the fact that I’ve never been good at actively “making friends.” Somehow, over my life to date, they just get made….and even today after all these years, I still couldn’t tell you exactly how.
So at this point, I’m not sure if I should be concerned or not. I’m not sure if what I am experiencing is normal and just a phase in my life for now or some kind of dire emergency prediction for the years and decades to come. When I look out across my local social landscape, I don’t see any overlooked opportunities or new emerging connections that could lead to new friendships.
I just see me, here and now, worrying about if I have enough friends.
Today’s Takeaway: Is this something you ever worry about? If you wanted to go to an event or needed help, would you feel confident you have someone nearby you could call who would make your needs their priority? Do you have a significant other who meets in full your need for friendship and connection? Are you someone who makes friends easily and often, or who, like me, feels less adept at self-populating your own social circle? I’d love to hear any experiences or insights you’d care to share!