Self Care vol. 3: Never Stop Investing
Half the feeling of home is usually a person. -Donald Miller, Scary Close I have probably used the word "Lonely" 500 times since I moved to Colorado last year. After leaving the pinnacle of my social existence in Nashville, where I had built an incredible community of lifelong friendships, I moved to a place where I knew no one. You know the phrase, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?" Well, I did know, and that made it all the more difficult to leave.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of witnessing two of my closest friends get engaged and visiting another one of my best friends that I hadn't seen since my wedding six months ago. It was a weekend full of my favorite community, one that made my heart ache to leave. What I've discovered about being lonely is that it does not mean alone, nor does it mean unhappy. Loneliness is a longing for the constant reminder that life is about people, so we should choose relationships over rest and community before career.
I miss the days of being able to call up a friend to meet me at Starbucks in the next half hour and having three-hour life chats spontaneously in my car. But, I realize that I am in a different place in life, physically and emotionally, and there's no way to rewind the clock. Living in community is so valuable because it keeps us grounded; it reminds us of what is most important in life. Community provides a constant opportunity to pour into others and a constant source of refilling from your inner circle. If your life is focused on just one or the other, you can't live up to your potential.
The only solution I've found to combat loneliness in a new place is to be unconventional. I think we often go into life with the false idea that we should reach a point where everything "settles down" and stabilizes. We should find a solid friend group that never moves away, get married and start traditional, 9-5 jobs, and find a nice house in the suburbs to raise our kids. After imagining such a fantasy, I look at my reality. My friend group is scattered all over the country, neither my husband nor I have traditional careers, and I'd rather raise my kids in the city than the suburbs any day, but that's just me. Conventional doesn't mean satisfying, and you (or you and your spouse) have to determine what a fulfilling life looks life for you.
Maybe my "social time" during the day is an hour long phone call with a friend as I walk my dog, and maybe my date night is left-overs and Shark Tank because we're saving our money for something better. The key to combating loneliness is to never stop investing. If you aren't working on the relationship, it's going downhill. This is true with your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, best friends, and family. Don't think that just because someone is close by that things are stable; you have to keep pouring in.
It takes time to start over and rebuild a new community when life takes a sudden turn, but don't let that prohibit you from investing in the relationships that are already strong. Maybe your relationships aren't conventional, but figure out how to make community work for you and your circumstances.
If you don't have a network that will invest in you, you can't possibly do the heavy lifting of investing in others. Make time for both, every day.