I have spent a good part of my life trying to fit in - and I ALWAYS felt like a square peg in a round hole. Sure I have friends and acquaintances, and I still often feel like I don't fit. My likes are too different, my style too weird. My needs and desires too big.
Do you feel like that? I think everyone experiences this kind of thing at least sometimes. Do you try to change yourself to fit in, or get along?
I go to events, book signings, theatre, parades, and camping excursions, all trying to fit into the group. I spent so much time trying to fit in, that I squashed my own uniqueness into a tiny ball at the bottom of my bruised heart. A large part of this is from the messages that I absorbed from my surrounds as a child. Gotta wear Roots clothing to fit into the cool crowd, gotta be in a group at lunch so I don't look like a nobody, gotta put up with rude and harassing comments or I am a tattletale. Don't talk about family stuff with outsiders. So much codependent behaviour was taught to me - by family, media, society.
Heck, look at political ads, see those wanna be politicians try to get your vote... By pointing out the fault of the other candidates, ridiculing them, bullying them on our screens. And then wonder why our kids bully in schools...
Okay, okay, off my soapbox and back to the subject at hand - Creating Community, Building Support networks for ourselves. Maybe we can be the change society needs.
I created my own Community
I ran an in-home childcare in Ontario in the early 2000's, I watched a whole host of children between the ages of 10 months and 14 years. It was so much fun. I loved my time with the kids, I loved teaching them and strewing their paths with ideas and things to explore. I created a COMMUNITY of families who looked out for each other. Who shared resources with each other, and created their own groups - playdates and cooking sessions.
I created the community aspect of my childcare very deliberately. With planned events, celebrations, and even asking for specific things for others. This group of families came together for a woman that none of us had even met. I learned about a newcomer to Canada who was pregnant, her baby due before she had proper access to healthcare (we had a three month wait to get onto OHIP at the time). She had an apartment, and a midwife who agreed to help her as long as she had certain things ready before the due date. Things like a mattress, towels, a chair, pots to cook in and plates to eat off - really basic things. I mentioned the situation casually to the parents that evening at pick-up time and the offers started pouring in. Within the week we had EVERYTHING - except the mattress, in MY garage. One family made her nursing bras, another packaged cloth nappies like a gift in a beautiful wicker basket and added a new baby toy. I was in awe of my little community. BTW I did get a mattress delivered by Sleep Country Canada and it was donated by them...
I had no idea what a group of committed people could do before that. They then came together for ME, when we found out one Friday evening that our two week old child would be coming home the following morning from the hospital. We had been told that they would have to go into a different foster home for a period of time, so were waiting to buy clothes and stuff until we knew when they could be coming. I called around and asked for two thing from my families - one I needed a few weeks off starting NOW, until I got into the swing of things with our third addition to the family, and two had they saved anything for 'good' that we could borrow until I got a chance to get a layette together? They arrived in full force with everything from bottles to bumper pads, clothes in sizes from newborn to 18 months, and food. I got to spend three sweet weeks getting to know my newest family member (we were given our three beautiful children, who are biological siblings, through the permanency placement program - which allowed us to bond while fostered them, until we were able to adopt them). It was a whirlwind of a time and that little community really carried us. They also came through with such an abundance of love to our one year anniversary party celebrating our adoption, bringing food, love, community and stories. They were my rocks.
Now in Nova Scotia, we have changed again and community has become different. Here people really come together when someone is in need. And I have some amazing people in my life from when I first left my husband and then traveled the cancer journey. This place I live in truly carried me through on those dark days. I have some special people who I now consider family. And I, in turn, have helped a few people out as I am able. This feels like a reasonable support system, though COVID really changed the face of it. People are still very generous, though a few have discovered that being alone really suits them, and now I hardly see them.
Last month I spent time reflecting on community and support. Where I feel I have it in my life, who I feel connected to and who I feel safe with. My circle has shrunk in the last while, an unfortunate mistake on my part cost me dearly my friend dearly, as our friendship is barely hanging in as acquaintances. So as with everything, clean, clear communication is very necessary in all relationships. In my reflection time, I discovered that my current community is far-flung, from Victoria BC to Charlottetown PEI, from New Jersey New York to Kansas City Missouri. I enjoy every person in my community and I have a lovely smaller group of those who I consider my support system. These people have offered everything from time to listen to my challenges, to fixing a lock on the University kids door, to coffee dates and rides to appointments.
I find having a good solid support system requires deep honesty, communication and solid boundaries. I have a list of things that I can help a person with - some physical, like getting the shopping and some emotional, like listening and brainstorming with them. I personally have found that making specific requests and/or offers more helpful that the generic 'call if you need anything.' I might call and ask for something and it won't work for that person and then I am stuck. Or they might ask me for something I have no idea how to do, or possible something I have no time for and then saying NO is hard.
Specific Requests and offers ARE more helpful
How are you going to work towards building your community and support system? Do you have things that work for you? Please share them... Also - if this resonates with you, I would appreciate your sharing it with a friend, it helps me grow.