friendship

Growing a Friendship: pt 4 in finding community

   October 9, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 Day 9: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 

Once you have found friends with whom you can share your heart, how do you grow a friendship?

In the past year or so, these are some of the things I have learned (and am still learning) about growing a friendship.

This is my sweet friend. Shelley. We met when our sons were in the same class in second grade. For five years we said, "We'll have to go out for coffee sometime." Instead, we would just chat in the school parking lot, or when the kids had sleepovers, or if we saw each other at church. 20 years later, we are still friends.

This is my sweet friend, Shelley (she’s on the left, that’s me on the right). We met when our sons were in the same class in second grade. For five years we said, “We’ll have to go out for coffee sometime.” Instead, we would just chat in the school parking lot, or when the kids had sleepovers, or if we saw each other at church. Twenty years (and two grown children) later, we are still friends.

 

You must be purposeful.

Relationships rarely just happen on their own. You need to be purposeful and plan at times. Set regular times in the calendar. Call when you haven’t heard from someone in a while. Send a text, or better yet, a card or a letter to let them know you are thinking about them. Ask how they’re doing, and really want to know.

You must be present.

In the screen age, I find that this is more challenging. We are used to texting rather than calling (even I prefer a text to a phone call). But there is nothing like face to face, sit down for coffee heart-to-heart chat. And put the screens down. If you can, turn off your ringer so you’re not checking notifications every two minutes. I know it’s hard, because our phones have become an appendage, but try. I read last week that the message you send if you’re looking at your phone while talking to another person is “You are not enough for me right now, at this moment.” Even if that’s not our intention, is that really the message we want to send? Look people in the eye. It can be disconcerting – people don’t look each other in the eye any more. Try active listening – ask open-ended questions, and really listen to their answers instead of planning what you’re going to say next.

You must be vulnerable.

Take down your guard. I’m not saying that you have to do this all at once, but piece by piece, share your story. Share your flaws and your imperfections. As you open up, they just might open up, too. If you’re scared, it’s okay to say it. We are all just garden variety humans trying to get through life together. Don’t pretend that you are something other than that.

You must have grace.

Have grace when your expectations are not met, or when you’re disappointed. It is scary to put yourself out there, and being rejected, or feeling like you’ve been rejected, hurts. If someone is late for a coffee date, or if they don’t return your phone call or text, give them grace. Lives are busy, and we don’t know what is happening in their lives. Maybe they’re just forgetful. Maybe they’re just flaky. Maybe they are trying to scrape together every last bit of patience to deal with their kids. Maybe they just got in a fight with their significant other. Be forgiving and show grace, and don’t take it personally. It’s not all about you. Life happens. Move on and try again.

You must show up.

The most important thing you can do is just show up. Even if it takes you seven coffee dates before you can share your story, show up. Being vulnerable is scary, but just show up. Be there. Be available. Not just physically, but emotionally. Be present. If you know you are both going to be dropping your kids off at school, buy an extra coffee and just talk in the school parking lot for five minutes. If their child is sick, bring over some crackers and ginger ale. I love the phrase that author Bob Goff uses in his book, Love Does. “Be love with skin on”.  Just show up.

What does it mean to JUST SHOW UP?

Shelley just finished her last round of chemo and radiation. When she had her surgery, I came over to help her shower, empty her drains and give her injections in her stomach. Sometimes you just show up. Because LOVE. (She is the silly one on the left.)

Shelley just finished her last round of chemo and radiation. When she had her surgery, I came over to help her shower, empty her drains and give her injections in her stomach. Sometimes you just show up. Because LOVE. (She is the silly one on the left.)

 

* There is one more thing –

You must have FUN.

We’ll talk about the importance of fun in the next post.

Advertisements

The Importance of Stories: Part 3 of Finding Community

October 8, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 8: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 
 

 Being in community with others helps bring balance to our lives. Sharing our stories helps us develop community.

I was just looking over my notes from the Storyline Conference I attended in San Diego last February. Donald Miller has been one of my favorite authors since I first read Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. But it was his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that really made an impact on my life. In the book he compares the making of a movie about his life to the story that we are writing in our own lives.

Are you living the story you want to live?

Is your story purposeful?

If not, what needs to change in your life to write a better story?

Here are some quotes that I wrote down (I think it was during Donald Miller’s opening talk).

Jesus is calling us into meaning. God didn’t create us to live in reaction (to the things happening around us) but to be co-creators of a meaningful life (with Him). God gave you a blank book. Together, are you writing a meaningful story?

And my favorite

What will the world miss if you don’t tell your beautiful story? 

As a hospice nurse, I see the value of stories every day. The stories I carry of the patients that I have cared for make me a better nurse. The story I lived with one ALS patient and his family will make me an even better nurse when caring for my next ALS patient. When I meet with a family whose loved one has just been told they have weeks to live, they have a need to share their story. When I meet with dying patients, life review and sharing their stories is some of the important work that people do at the end of life.

Sharing our stories as we build friendships is also important, but it should be a give and take. You share part of yours, I will share part of mine. And piece by piece, the picture on the puzzle becomes clear.

And believe me, EVERYONE has a story.

Why it’s important to share your story:

Sharing your heart with someone, telling them your story, is how we get to know one another. Beyond just the “How are you doing today?” “Oh, fine, how are you?” To be brave enough to tell your story is to take off the mask and show where you came from, how you have grown, who you are now, and who you hope to be. That is the beginning of a reciprocal, heart-to-heart friendship.

Why it’s important to listen to another person’s story:

Of course there is the obvious, because that is how you get to know them. But it goes much deeper than that. When someone shares part of their story, they are giving you a little piece of themselves. If you are flippant or callous, or even if you just aren’t fully present, they may not share again with you. If we treat the gift of their story with an open heart, a present being, and hands of gentle grace no matter what they tell us, we build trust, which paves the way for friendship and deeper community.

Why EVERYONE’S story is important:

I have learned in the past few years that if I have an instant dislike for someone, or if they rub me the wrong way, one of the most important (and difficult) things to do is to take time to learn their story. In the past I would be more likely to just avoid difficult people, especially people who seem purposely cruel or who treat others poorly. But I found that as I took time to listen to them, to ask questions, to spend time with them, little by little, puzzle piece by puzzle piece, they would give me bits of their story. (Trust is very hard for difficult people). And as I started putting the puzzle of their story together, it helped me to love them more. As they shared ever so cautiously about the pain in their lives, it helped me to understand their anger, or their refusal to help others, or their habit of lashing out. From there, even if I don’t like their behavior or the way they treat others, I can try to understand where they are coming from.

Hearing the stories of difficult people helps me to give them the gift of grace.

So, what kind of story are you writing?

What do you need to change to write a better story?

With whom will you share a piece of your story this week?

Who’s story will you listen to this week?

Tell me your beautiful story

Part 2 – Testing the Waters and Vulnerability

October 7, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 7: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 
 

So yesterday I wrote about our desire for community, the lesson I learned about making my life count, and the clues I look for when searching for someone with whom I might share my heart. You can read part 1 here. So how do you test the waters when searching for community, for someone with whom to share your heart?

3. Testing the Waters.

In my search for balance, I have learned that while it’s important to share your story, not everyone is worthy of hearing it.

So when you think, “Hmmmm. This is someone I could possibly share my heart with.” The next thing I usually do is to test the waters. I used to just blurt out my story to anyone and everyone, but I learned that not everyone is worthy of my story.

“Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding . . .”  Stephen Russel

Being vulnerable and sharing your story can be scary. It is scary.

(I want to talk with you who are so afraid, or who have been so wounded that you have decided to build a wall and never share. Maybe those you trust have let you down, and you have decided. “That will never happen again.” I know that place – you feel safe, and if you never share, no one can hurt you. I want you to know this, if you build a wall, not only are you keeping out the possiblity of pain, you wall yourself off from you, and  the possiblity of connection.)

So I test the waters by sharing a piece of my story. Which piece depends on with whom I am sharing. I try to listen to my heart, and

the heart often whispers, so you need to listen carefully.

When I get the courage to share my story, I see the following reactions:

  1. “Oh” or a blank look, and then they make a joke or change the subject. This is not a person who is ready to hear any more of my story.
  2. “I know just what you mean” and then they proceed to tell me how that have been through the very same thing, only much worse, trying to one-up my story. I don’t have the energy to mess with that.
  3. Some people are so shocked, they don’t know how to respond. If someone has a need to hold me in a certain light and doesn’t want to hear about my mistakes or my flaws, well, they are living in dream land, because I am all about revealing my flaws. I find that this makes many people uncomfortable, not because they want me to be perfect, but because they have a deep fear of admitting (or sometimes even looking at) their own perfections.
  4. The person who hears part of my story, especially when I talk about my marriage or parenting mistake, and feels shame for me, then sits there awkwardly, not knowing what to say. Then I have to make them feel better. No, that is not someone with whom I will share my heart. I am learning to become friends with my shame, and that is excrutiating for many people, because shame begats shame, and when our shame is reflected back to us, it can be unbearable.
  5. The person who tries to fix it, make it better, or make a cliche’ out of my story.

So what do I look for?

I look for someone who can connect with my story. Someone who is brave enough to sit with the shame, or the pain, and just let it be. Someone who doesn’t run from it, or try to cover it or fix it.

Someone who says, “I see you, you didn’t scare me off. I may not understand where you’ve been, but I’m just going to walk alongside you.”

I have to be honest, those people are few and far between. But when you find them, they are pricelss gems, and worth hanging on to.

So  what does this look like?

Say I meet someone, and they have some of the clues I mentioned in my last post, and we decide to get together for coffee. I don’t sit down and say, “I’m so glad you joined me for coffee. How about this weather? Hey I just wanted you to know that I was abused as a child, I am a Christian but I havent attended church regularly in years, sometimes I feel like my life motto is “I hate people”, I have been through the 12-steps as a recovering bulemic and survivor of sexual abuse, I betrayed my husband and almost killed my marriage, my son moved away once to become a drug dealer, and I sometimes feel like lying to make myself look better in they eyes of others. And you?”

Embarrassingly enough, there was a time when I was so raw that I would berbally throw up on almost everyone I met. But I have learned that not everyone is worthy of my story, and that some pieces are meant to be shared with only the most precious. In conversation, I will just put out a little bread crumb, “Such and such happened when our marriage was going through a really tough time.” “We had a tough time when my son was using drugs.” “Sometimes I just don’t feel like God is listening.” And then I see if they follow the trail. If they do, then I put out another crumb. If they don’t, then I listen to their story, and go from there.

Brene Brown has done some amazing work around the concept of vulnerability. I love her words:

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Of Funerals, Friends, Fun, and Finding Community – part 1

October 6 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 6: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 

If there is one thing that I know we all have in common, it is the desire for connection. Building and growing your community are essential for finding balance. We cannot be a community of one.

Whether you’re an extrovert and are energized by being with people, or an introvert and are drained by being with people and need alone time to refresh, we are made for connection. It looks different for each individual, but we are wired for community. Deep in our heart of hearts, we long for it.

Many years ago we had moved to a new town and were getting settled with our two young boys, then ages 2 and 6 months, and I was lonesome. I was a young mom and we had finally found a home church, but I was so unsure of myself. I was 26 year old stay at home mom, and I had no idea who I was or who I was supposed to be. It seemed that all the other moms had it all together – always dressed to the nines, hair perfectly in place, kids sitting quietly at the pew. In the meantime, I had one kid is screaming in the nursery, and the other one yelling “My penis itches!” in the middle of prayer. So much for having it together.

To be truthful, I really didn’t want to be friends with the women who had it all together (at least I thought they had it all together). People who smile too much make me suspicious (you know, those people who smile even when they’re angry? I don’t trust them). I knew I could never measure up, and it would be too much pressure. But my heart longed for a friend, for grown-up conversation, for someone to share my heart with in these early days of mommyhood.

So how do we find real, genuine people with whom we can share our hearts?

Here are the lessons I have learned on my journey:

1. Lessons from a funeral: Make it count.

During those early days, I attended a funeral for a woman from church. I didn’t know her, but I was helping serve the meal afterwards, so I came early and attended the funeral. As I listened to family and friends review her life, I was struck not by what she had done or even who she was, but how she loved. I heard story after story about how she had loved her friends, shown up in times of need, and given of herself for others. Not for a salary, not for recognition, but just because of who she was. I thought long and hard after that funeral – what kind of friend am I? What will people say about me after I’m gone? Am I making an impact on the lives I touch, or am I just existing and surviving? I knew that I was just surviving. That I was waiting for life to come to me, I was waiting for people to invite me into their lives, but I wasn’t making an effort to love others. I wasn’t reaching out. And that day, I determined that

I wanted my life to count for more. I wanted deeper relationships. I wanted to touch the hearts of others.

This was the beginning of being purposeful with my friendships.

 2. Looking for Clues:

I think I have refined this process as I’ve gotten older. When I’m looking for a kindred spirit, I look for clues, or ways that we are similar and might connect. My clues can be kind of eclectic, which I think sometimes makes it difficult for me to find a sister spirit to connect with. I look for commonalities that form a bond, and then I proceed from there.

You’re probably going to think I’m a bit crazy, but I feel compelled to share.

Some possible bonding points that I look for are (not necessarily in order – and remember, this is my list. Yours will look different): nursing, particularly hospice care; Disneyland; Doctor Who; people who love the book “Blue Like Jazz” ; people who have attended the Storyline conference; church people who aren’t afraid to swear sometimes; LOST fans (the ABC show); people involved in social justice and serving those in need; people who are working the 12-steps; ADD/ADHD (either in them or their children); women who read the Momastery blog; people who binge watch too much tv (and aren’t apologetic); moms who are not afraid to talk about their imperfect children, particularly the ones that are not on the path they had hoped for them; allies for the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) you remember the command – Love one another? Not ‘beat them over the head with your bible’; people who aren’t afraid to admit their flaws; people who can laugh at themselves but don’t mock others; people who like road trips and happy hour. (This list is just a start, but is not all inclusive).

I also have some clues that tell me that a person may not be a good choice to share my heart with (remember – this list is individual to me. You might have your own list: people who don’t own a tv and mention it often; people whose children are not perfect but they will never admit it, or worse yet, lie about it; people who mock others (especially publicly, like on Facebook); Christians who post bigoted or hateful posts on social media; people who smile all the time (as already mentioned); people who gossip (because they’re going to be talking about you next); people who can only speak in Christianese; married people who say they never fight; married people who constantly put each other down in public; people who Jesus-juke you on social media (for instance, if I post something from Disneyland like “Having fun at the Happiest Place on Earth” and they comment “Yes, that is the happiest place . . .  until we get to heaven!”)

Now I’m not saying that any of these things are deal-breakers. I’m just saying that I see those clues, I may be more likely to share or not share my heart with you. And sharing our hearts is the beginning of community.

 

So this post is getting too long, I’m going to have to continue tomorrow – in which I will write about testing the waters, the importance of our stories, purposeful friendships and building a chosen family, and my FAVORITE part, the importance of fun!

I’m sure that this post is going to alienate some of the lovely individuals who visited my page yesterday, In thinking about it, that’s kind of how I roll. I find that being a truth-teller and living life intensely, people will either love you, hate you, or tolerate you.

So this is my truth. I hope you will stick with me for the rest of Of Funerals, Friends, Fun, and Finding Community.

 

My Search For Balance

Including TTFN Facebook – by Kristin Meador

photo credit: Creative Commons - Ozan Hatipoglu

photo credit: Creative Commons – Ozan Hatipoglu

It’s time to step back and take a break again. It may be my ADD, or my history, or my dysfunction, or just my personality style (likely a bit of all of these), but as much as I hate to admit it, I am often and all-or-nothing, black-and-white type of girl. All my life, the concept of balance and the discipline that balance requires has eluded me.

When I really started exercising, I could not start slow. I started running and loved it so much that I would jog every single day, and ended up injuring my knee to the point that I can no longer run.

If I read a book, I can’t just read a chapter a day. I read the whole thing over a weekend. If I love a tv show, I don’t just watch an episode at a time – I binge watch a whole season in one weekend.

If I clean my house, I can’t just straighten it. I have to CLEAN each nook and cranny, every drawer, every corner. (And I usually will do it clockwise.)

I am the same with the issues in my life that plague me – my unhealthy eating habits, my lack of exercise, my disjointed time management, my broken relationships. I either need a strict plan of action, or I fail miserably. All or nothing, black and white.

Sometimes this serves me well, When I am passionate about an issue, a project, or a relationship, I am ALL IN. But it’s also exhausting, And it prohibits any semblence of normalcy in most areas. I would rather be going on a 6000 mile road trip – or sleeping all day. Everything in the middle seems too hard. Or stressful. Or boring.

I’m 50 now. I think it’s time to grow up a litte and get some of this figured out once and for all. So my search for balance is going to include another break from Facebook, for one thing, A few weeks ago I deactivated my Facebook, and although I missed everyone’s coming and goings, there was a sense of peace and freedom that was very surprising. I will probably write a few more posts this week, and then if you want to follow me in this process, you will have to find me here at This Beautiful Holy Mess. So where to start? Find out here.