By: Vanessa Jackson
Countless people, whether he/she is widowed, divorce, never married to begin with, find themselves isolated as a parent in a way that is very different than isolation as a single adult. What is different? Now, we have a little person(s) depending on us and in order to be the best kind of parent we can be, we need other people in our lives to encourage and support us. The question we ask ourselves is, “How now shall I live?” We no longer fit in with our married-friend parent groups, and we aren’t exactly single because we have kids in tow. It can feel strange at times and this affects how we interact with others.
This new awkwardness about us can make it harder to interact initially. It gets easier with time but it’s slow and progress feels uncomfortable. It’s easier being alone, but without community we are that, ALONE. In this isolation we are left with no one to help us, know us, laugh with us, care with us, cry with us. We are left to our own devices of cheering ourselves up because we don’t like feeling that way, and it’s unlikely that this can happen in a healthy fashion long term because we are a community driven species. We need others and interaction to be healthy. The only way to cure loneliness is with people.
In the context of this article, COMMUNITY is a group of people who love you and want to be there for you. Community moves us beyond that place of isolation, but must not be mistaken for a social party life, not that it can’t be fun or that there are not parties, but the point isn’t a superficial passing of time. The point is being known. Really being known.
WHEN WE ARE KNOWN we are able to receive love, we can feel it because we are available for it to be given. Many fear the idea of community because they have ideas of what it’s supposed to look like and they resist those pictures. Structure is not the point; relationships are. We can live together in a variety of ways that strengthen rather than disrupt. You have to find the group that suits you, your schedule, likes and interests. Attend the things you want to and don’t attend what you don’t want to. Community is a gift and it’s there that we open ourselves up to caring, love and connection.
WHEN WE ARE KNOWN we know each other’s brokenness. In this dog-eat-dog world, we need a group of people we can trust to not eat us. We all feel the crush of our failures, hurts, scrapes, deceptions, deep wounds of lost loved ones and to have others who can relate is critical for our perspective and resilience. Compassion and encouragement lightens our load, strengthens us, and gives us the courage to keep going. It propels us forward in a positive way.
WHEN WE ARE KNOWN others hold us accountable. I know this isn’t the most attractive part of community, after all, who wants others telling you what to do. But, scarier is making a mistake when we didn’t even try to find guidance. All it takes is a conversation. Guidance from those you trust is a powerful element to being a single parent, but a word caution: only talk to those you trust and talk to several. Don’t limit yourself to only one, or only to the one who tells you what you want to hear. Speak to several: a mentor, an elder, a parent, a friend, a trusted advisor. Do not isolate yourself during trials, fight for yourself and your kids by surrounding yourself with others who know and love you.
WHEN WE ARE KNOWN we recognize attacks more easily. By surrounding ourselves with others who love and know us, they help us see the forest through the trees. When we see things through the small scope of our perspective, without the assistant of other’s view, it’s easy to dismiss things, think we can handle it on our own, or to think that it will blow over. Community helps us see, they broaden our scope and give us perspective for whom our enemy is. Sometimes things are not what they seem and having others who can enlighten us the very definition of wisdom.
WHEN WE ARE KNOWN others can help. It’s difficult to ask for help when we need it, not knowing anyone to ask. It’s difficult enough to hit the road running but to do it when we have no connections and resources to call on makes it seem impossible. Knowing others expands what is available to us and there are many who will want to help you just as you would want to help them, given the opportunity.
WHEN WE ARE KNOWN we have a place to serve others. It is in community that we are able to share with others what we have to offer. I’m not referring to money, or aid of some sort. I am referring to your caring heart, compassion, insight you carry, your laugh, your smile, your presence. You are the only one like you and you offer only what you can. No one else can be you and you are valuable. Someone in your community will need you there. Community means watching over each other. Believe it or not, the best place to heal is to help others. Find a way to serve and you will find yourself.
Open your heart and your mind to the possibility of others and find a community of friends to lean on for understanding, vulnerability and mutual valuing. You deserve it.