Monday, September 3, 2018

Building Community

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the end of my relationship with my ex, M.  The anniversary of the actual end will be this Wednesday, but I'm going to be on-call that day, and in the interest of not being a disaster at work, I am trying to get all the feels out this weekend.  I spent Saturday alone at a Nordic spa, warming myself in hot tubs and dry saunas, and yesterday I basically lived in my pjs.  The only reason I bathed was because I had made plans to go to the Mister Rogers documentary with a friend, and I thought she might prefer it if I didn't smell*.

Today, Labour Day, I'm rejoining the real world.  My fourth load of laundry is in, the fridge has been emptied of moldy olives (who knew they could go moldy?), and the dishes are drying in the rack.  And after days of wallowing in the hard stuff, I'm searching for the good things that came out of my "failed" relationship.  What have I found so far?

Community.

M's family has belonged to the same church since her parents met at a local bible college, so their connections to other church members go back decades.  Soon after I started dating M (once she had come out to her church in the middle of a sermon she was delivering), I started getting invited to events with members of her church community.  Fundraisers, potlucks, small group dinners, reunions at the bible college, board game afternoons, and trivia nights...my social calendar filled up effortlessly.  And it was really lovely.  She goes to a very left-wing, social justice-oriented church, so while I didn't share a faith with these people, I definitely shared a philosophy with them.

And then, it ended.  At the same time as I lost M, I also lost my connections to the dozens of people in her life who had become an extended family to me.  My social calendar emptied itself out.  It's been a year, and I still find myself grieving some of the harder losses**.

But the upside is that the loneliness I felt after the breakup drove me to work on my own community.  I had neglected some important relationships while I was dating M, and in the past year I've done what I can to strengthen them again. And because many of my friends chose the past year to start having babies and to disappear from the social world, I've also been looking for opportunities to befriend new people.  I've become really good friends with R, who is the ex-girlfriend of another friend of mine.  I've developed a friendship with the woman I dated after M, because although we were romantically incompatible, we have a freakish amount of things in common.  And I'm becoming friends with another woman I met through online dating.  (One of the perks of same-sex dating...online dating can be a source of friendships!)

I'm also joining pretty much everything I can think of to join.  I became a board member for a local theatre company.  I joined a conversational French group.  I started going to a drop-in knitting group.  I've joined a group of lesbians of "a certain age" who are interested in local cultural activities.  I'm even going to an upcoming information night about co-housing!

I'm not going to lie - it's been hard.  It sucks to have spent over three years in the midst of a supportive community and to have suddenly lost it.  I miss the ease of having a partner and a ready-made social life, at the same time as I recognize that it isn't healthy to be dependent on another person for all of my social activities.  As an introvert, it's also really difficult for so many of my relationships to still be in the early phase.  I want the comfort of 20-year-old friendships, not the awkwardness of new relationships!

But I'm working on it.  I'm taking the opportunities that present themselves, and I'm putting myself out in the world as much as I can.  And trying to be patient as I rebuild the community I lost.

*You should go see this documentary, but if you have any heart, go with someone you're comfortable crying with.  And take Kleenex.

**How am I doing with the whole not wallowing thing?

13 comments:

  1. Sending so many hugs to you. I think it's amazing how hard you work to be part of AND BUILD community. That's something that I feel like I've dropped the ball on lately, and I'm trying to prioritize it. I hope that helps make this hard week a bit easier. I'll be thinking of you!

    And I never would have guessed olives could go bad.

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    1. Thanks for the hugs and the kind words! I'm lucky to have the time and energy to work on building community; for a lot of my adult life I haven't, and my relationships have suffered as a result. But now that I'm single and not in school (yay!), I have a bit more flexibility. I'm sure that as HP gets older and you get a bit more time back that it will be easier for you to make community a priority.

      And that olive thing...right?

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  2. I think you are doing pretty well. Old friends have been my saviors after a bad breakup in the past and will be again if/when the need arises. I am always there for them, too. You have good coping mechanisms and a great attitude and I have every confidence in your ability to adapt.

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    1. Thanks! I will continue to plow through...I'm just getting impatient for the time in my life when there is less stuff to plow through.

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  3. Maintaining separate portions of social lives is the number one thing that queer ladies fail at. You are not alone, which is only small consolation.

    But you are doing the things. Meeting people in organic ways. Deepening connections and showing up for your community NOT just in the hope of finding a romantic partner. It's something the world desperately needs.

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    1. It is so hard when you like your partner and they come with a ready-made social life! Especially for introverts like me who don't need a large social group.

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  4. I don't have anything close to a community for a variety of reasons, and I really should have built one by now. Good to see that you're taking your own steps to make it happen.

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    1. It's hard. Especially when you're working and trying to do big things like pay off debt.

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  5. I'm trying to build new friendships as well. I've realised that most of my friendships stemmed from work, so I'm surrounded by doctors. And now that I'm taking a break, it's a breath of fresh air to speak to someone who does something different.

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    1. There's something wonderful about talking to people in medicine, but also about talking to people outside of it. One always needs a break from medicine!

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  6. "I want the comfort of 20-year-old friendships, not the awkwardness of new relationships!" << This! I want this too! When my relationship severed a few years back, I lost a lot of community. I seem to go in waves where I get the energy to try and socialize, but has never remained constant. But you... you are really working at cultivating community. Big kudos to you!

    I was going to ask how the documentary was... I think I missed it when it was playing local. but will find it. and will bring a box of tissue. Mr Rogers was my fave growing up as a child.

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    1. It's amazing (and sad) how much losing a relationship affects one's community. I definitely have waves too...sometimes I'm very active with community building, and other times I just want to lie on my couch with my cats.

      The documentary was amazing, and I didn't really like Mr. Rogers when I was a kid. It will renew your hope. Bring a big box of Kleenex.

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  7. Well done on the community building. My partner and I are trying to make more friends. We are both introverts (she more than me) and we find it difficult to socialise with new people, but a lot of our older friends are either having babies or we've drifted apart.

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