It Takes a Village That I Want to be a Part Of

I am fighting with everything I have to find a place to fit. I knew where I fit with my Phil and my children, but I never quite knew how to fit in other places. I fit one on one anywhere, but my natural reticence and time constraint limited me my opportunity to practice. Moving every three to four years and having people move in an out of my life at that same pace meant that my lifelines were shallow and essentially non-existent. I never realized how small my world was. While my children were out of the house when Phil was killed, he was my world.

Many married people in the military and others might understand this. When one person works all day, comes home to the family and the crazy chaos of raising those children right, it leaves little time to establish deep friendships or hobbies. In the military world, we get very used to connecting with people quickly and at the surface because we are all in the same box of facing deployments, fear, moves, and not having family nearby. Those connections get severed time and time again. While we can meet any of these connections ten years down the road and immediately reconnect, these friendships are built on shifting sands. When the body slams come, we do not have 911 friends—friends that know what a person needs without ever saying a word.

The one area that I struggle the most in my grief journey is that I do not know where I fit any more. While every person’s grief journey is different, I have observed my mother as she has walked through the loss of my dad. She is surrounded by a church family that has known her for years, friends, and a community that embraces her. While she struggles in other areas, socially she is woven into the fabric of many colors. I have running, writing, and work because my children live far from me. Three years out, I recognize that I need friendships and connections—not pity party friends—in my local area. I also recognize that it has been years since I was the friend I need to be. My heart is soft and has gaping holes now, and in my weakness comes transparency.

That transparency means that I am a better friend than I once was, however, I am still stumbling with my connections here in MA. The only person that can change that is me. It is still not comfortable to ask people if they want to go to the pool, a run, or lunch, but I am doing it. It isn’t a natural inclination for me any more to let people in, but I am peeling back the layers of aloofness. It is hard at my age to change my spots. It requires action and it requires a constant sense of unease as I press ahead.

Today, I realized that I do fit in at work and I do fit in with certain people. The problem is that many of these people are not people I will get too close to due to them being married (male), in a position over me, or they are from MA and incredibly busy with their own family. To change my loneliness, I will have to be on the look out and I will have to take risks. To that, I am selling my condo to move on base. I will shorten my commute time and I will be among people who I see every day. Many are here for a long time and while living on base may not be financially the right thing to do, I crave normal friendships and fun conversations. Yes, the deeper words will come, but I do not want to be the train wreck that people steer clear of because they do not know what to say. Yes, I still miss Phil and that will never go away, but I simply know that I must reach for these connections and that never again can I let my lifeline become one deep because it is inevitable that at some point in my life, there will be another body slam. I want to be able to weather the battering storms of my life and the lives of my friends as I create the community and network that carries us all.

As I stare at the girl in the mirror, I hardly recognize her, but I can see the strength and can see a place that may be far from now when I do have the strongest network of a community because I do see the friends weaving into my heartstrings. Some of been with me all along and others are relatively new, and while I am working on local connections, they are coming. The friendships are coming because I am changing and I am being the friend I always should have been.

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