I spent over two and a half hours last night in the company of local women, most of whom I’d never met before. At first glance, I didn’t think we had much in common, but as we went around the room, introducing ourselves and giving a bit of our stories, little snippets popped out at me: the loneliness of working at home, even while being so very grateful for the opportunity to do so; the desire to cut ties to an unfulfilling life and forge a new path; wanting and needing to care for ourselves so that we can continue to care for our families; learning that who we are is more than our job title. On and on. It was an affirming experience, and a reminder to me to carve out time for interpersonal connection. In the midst of our crazy days when I am frantically looking for ways to make more hours, it’s this type of interaction that usually gets deemed “non-essential,” and therefore excised in favor of “more important” stuff. Wacky, yes?
I’ve spent the past year trying to figure out who I am now, beyond mama and wife and worker bee. Lately, that endeavor has led to many evening hours spent buried in a book. My “Currently Reading” shelf on Goodreads has six titles, five of which fall into the how-to or personal development category. Some of them are work assignments, but several I’ve been working through of my own accord. I’ve been taking my time with The Happiness Project, reading a lot more slowly than I usually do because I want to absorb the information. In fact, I’m moving so deliberately, I’ve had to renew it three times. It’s good, and difficult, and good because it’s difficult. I’m finding a lot of parallels between the author’s insights into her own behavior and what I’ve been noticing about myself, and it kinda sucks to turn on that light bulb of self-awareness. In a good way, if that makes any sense at all. Reading her systematic approach to increasing her personal happiness has prompted the thought, I’m not the only one, more than once. One of the bigger takeaways so far (and there have been many) is that things that are fun for other people may not be fun for me, and that’s ok. I need to know what makes me happy and stop wishing that I could enjoy or be something else. I need to just Be Kirsten.
I’ve also been the recipient of much happy mail recently. In a past life, you were almost guaranteed to get a birthday card from me on or before the actual day. I usually remembered anniversaries and often sent notes or trinkets that reminded me of someone special. I was very deliberate about putting important dates in my planner and sending greetings on time. Somehow, that habit has gone by the wayside. Part of the reason is that my life is a lot busier now, physically taking care of other humans and truly managing a household and a family. Yet another part of it is the doubt, that niggling feeling that the recipient will think it’s silly, or that because it’s a drug store card and not Papyrus, I shouldn’t bother. Thinking why should I send something when they surely can buy themselves something nicer than what I can offer. Ridiculous. I am enough. Why should we feel otherwise?
Part of my happy mail came in the form of an advance copy of Never Unfriended by blogger Lisa-Jo Baker. I love the real voice to her writing, and so when I saw the chance to join the launch team for her new book, I applied. Happily, I was chosen and this beautiful little package arrived in my mailbox. It’s all about female friendship, and the crap we put ourselves through as women trying to connect with other women. Another good and difficult read, and once again, there’s been a lot of I’m not the only one! I’ve just finished it, and again, saw familiar thoughts and patterns, particularly the hesitancy to put myself out there for fear of rejection, of being too much. Why do we do that to ourselves? I have to be willing to go first.
Go first, and be real. Be Kirsten.
The rest of the mail was just as wonderful. My Nana sent me a ton of seeds from her garden, enough to share, which allows me to perpetuate the cycle – a double gift. My beautiful sorority sister freely sent me a huge package of something I’d been wanting to try and was willing to pay for, just because. I won a fun giveaway on Instagram, and now wear a beautiful leather diffuser bracelet for my oils – and I’ve connected with a lovely like-minded lady.
If I feel so spoiled and loved by these gestures, why oh why would I think others would not? We are more connected now than ever, with more opportunities to connect, and yet we’re all starving for connection. Despite that relative ease of getting in touch, our real friendships just sit there.
So I sent some happy mail of my own. Photographs are on their way to far-flung friends and family, printed at Target and wrapped in notes on regular old printer paper. I snapped some quick photos at a sweet birthday party, and sent the files to the little friend’s mama because she’d been holding the cake instead of her camera. They weren’t perfect, but I know I’d want them if it was my baby. I kept a play-group date last week, despite all of the crazy we’re living right now, and I’m going to share some of my Nana’s seeds with a newly pregnant mama friend, and include an offer to help plant. I made some imperfectly-sewn baby gifts, and sent them with perfect love to a dear friend that I am so terrible about keeping in touch with.
Go first. Be real. Be Kirsten. Give to others and keep trying. Do something about it. It’s all connected.