Community Matters

Cat friendsLet’s admit it. We insomniacs like to isolate ourselves. Surrounding ourselves with people takes work and energy … energy we just do not possess. So we stay home, we watch Netflix, and maybe we comment on someone’s Facebook status for social interaction. (And no, social media does not count as actual social interaction. Sorry.)

I can’t say anyone calls me a social butterfly at this point, but I am rediscovering my innate need for friendships, community and social support. In all honestly, it has been a humbling process involving a powerful confession to myself: I can’t do this life alone.

Self-sufficiency: Strength or Weakness?

Somehow, over the course of my life, I taught myself that self-sufficiency is a perfectly respectable trait to possess. I didn’t want to push my problems on anyone else, and I definitely did not want to ask anyone for help. It’s prideful way to live, and ultimately, self-sufficiency leads to a lifestyle that cannot sustain itself; humans were created for community, whether we like it or not.

I was sitting with my husband in our pre-marital counseling classroom the first time I heard self-sufficiency put in a negative context. We took personality tests to determine our individual strengths and weaknesses, then we discussed potential challenges our weaknesses could bring into marriage.

Reading the results gave me a serious reality check. Some extremely unattractive descriptions accompanied my personality type, such as “cold,” “unemotional,” “domineering” and—you guessed it—“self-sufficient.” Two or three others in the group shared this personality type with me, and they commented that these weaknesses were actually quite helpful in the business world. While I can’t totally disagree with that, I loathe the idea of being the cold and unemotional wife, friend, daughter, or worst of all, the cold and unemotional mother.

Self-sufficiency, on the other hand, seems mostly harmless compared to the other weaknesses; This trait may allow one to live more independently without inconveniencing others. However, as I’m now discovering, it may also hamper one’s ability to generate community. If we can provide all we need by ourselves, why reach out to others? Or, even more importantly, why cry out to God?

When a friend calls for emotional support, I feel humbled and honored that she would come to me with this need. It brings joy to help lift others up and reveals how we were made to bear one another’s burdens. But do we believe this when the roles reverse? Do we feel comfortable bringing our needs to others and trusting they will help bear our burdens? Or, rather than vulnerably asking for help, do we resist calling on a friend due to our own pride and fear?

I’ve talked myself out of many phone calls for that very reason. I think to myself, “She’s way too busy;” “My problems won’t matter to her;” “I don’t want to add more stress to her life.” But then, when I finally reach a point where I know I need to talk to someone, I never regret picking up the phone. When I reach out to my safe people, my community, I always feel uplifted. They never shame me or embarrass me; they validate how I’m feeling and let me know they’re with me. How sad to think my own pride has been blocking these relationships for so long.

Less Tasks, More Community

This past year taught me a ton about the importance of community. I quit my job realizing how much I lacked meaningful friendship, and also knowing I needed to make a shift from prioritizing tasks and work to prioritizing people and relationships.

My crazy brain still gravitates toward tasks, of course. Even in my new role as a full-time homemaker, to-do lists never seem to end; Cooking, cleaning, errands, laundry, dishes and all the random chores that come up keep me busy without fail. However, I’m in the process of teaching my taskmaster brain to chill out.

I just added a bright pink sticky note to the cover of my daily planner that reads Suggestion Book. While I love trying to plan my days and manage my time wisely, I’m finding that my mind must learn to better cope with change and reprioritize my days as things come up. Hence the mental switch from daily plans to daily suggestions.

For example, perhaps I write in my Suggestion Book: gym, meal prep, Costco run and bible study. Then, the night before, sleep is horrendous and I wake up feeling awful. Or, maybe a friend calls and asks to meet up, or my husband needs me to edit a paper for school. These suggested tasks can (or at least should) flex according to the day’s needs. Respecting what my body can handle each day is important. People are important. Tasks, overall, are not nearly as important. Hopefully, with time and prayer, my daily agenda will reflect my life’s priorities appropriately.

I also joined a couple of groups through my church that has connected me with incredibly supportive friends. These people let me talk openly and vulnerably, they lift me up in prayer, and most importantly, they remind me I’m not alone. My new friends have invited me into their hurt and struggles, allowing me to empathize with and pray for them as well. True community never looks like a one-way street.

Probably the greatest step taken toward building a supportive community, and also the most difficult, has been detoxing my life from unhealthy relationships. I’m not sure I even realized how much time and stress these relationships caused me until I began therapy earlier this year. My counselor pointed out several areas to address, suggesting I begin setting boundaries and letting go of any guilt that creeps in through the process.

This area challenges me almost daily. I still love all the people in my life, though I’m learning it’s OK to love certain people differently—sometimes from a safe distance. Boundaries often feel painful, but as I set them and release myself from self-inflicted shame, I free myself up for more meaningful, healthy and beneficial relationships.

None of these changes happened over night. I’m still reminding myself every day to love God, love people, and respect my body’s limitations while doing so. Everything else will fall into place as He ordains.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Peace and blessings,

Kat, (semi-professional) insomniac

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