A number of years ago my family and I were part of a community that we believed in. That all came to a sad and hurtful ending for various reasons and it left scar tissue all over my heart and mind for a long time afterwards. Our marriage was tested to the limit, but it survived. My confidence in my ability to be a good parent was shaken and my sense of self was shaken up so dramatically it took me a long time to find my way back to who I am at my core.
I don’t want to talk about that destructive time, only mention it as a way of contextualising this particular blog post. I no longer dwell on that time and the hurts. I am grateful that healing has come and that my life now is rich and abundant. The abundant and rich life I enjoy and share on Every Treasure hasn’t simply come about by chance, it has taken years and years of soul-searching, rebuilding, digging beneath the surface, challenging myself and my family, relearning what I thought I knew and believed in. There have been tears along the way as my heart healed and learned to trust again, as my family learned its core values and as we endeavour to live full , purposeful and intentional lives.
I have been thinking a lot recently….. there’s something about the slower pace of summer that allows the mind to really explore the heart’s desires and all those little thoughts that jump up but go unexamined through the busier seasons. One thing that keeps pushing its way to the forefront of my mind is ‘community’. When we chose to leave the community that we part of, we became very cut-off and isolated for a while. This was extremely difficult; as a mum with 3 young children I felt very alone and uncertain. I did my best. As we mums often do, I muddled through. I survived. Gradually, I began to seek out new friendships. It took me many months to build up the courage to ask a few of the mums I knew from the school if they fancied getting together for a coffee and maybe a chat about a book. And so our book group was born. I think that was about 4 years ago and we still meet up regularly for a good old chat about our latest read, our day-to-day lives and everything in between. Being part of this small group of women brings purpose to my life and I am immensely grateful for it. They may not know it but knowing their acceptance and spending time with them is priceless.
I was fortunate also to be able to return to work once my youngest child started school. I had stayed at home fulltime through choice and loved those years but I was ready to return to the world of work and as my son went to his first day of primary school so I went to my first day of my new job working for a local cancer charity. I love the job, but more importantly I love the people I work with. I supervise a team of volunteers alongside another manager and although it is hard work at times it is also a place where there is a lot of fun and laughter. My colleague, that I mentioned, and I joke that we are ‘soul sisters’. We have grown so close over the past few years and we talk about all sorts of things. There is a level of respect and trust there that I didn’t ever think I would know again. I didn’t ever think I would allow myself to wear my heart on my sleeve again, but I have and it has brought new richness to my life.
I truly believe that there is nothing so broken it cannot be fixed. I know that my heart was fractured. I know that I was damaged to a point that I almost gave up hope in people. Did everyone deceive? Was everyone only out for themselves? Did everyone lie? The key word here is that I ‘almost’ gave up. Thankfully I didn’t. Or I would have missed out on a whole heap of fun! If, reading this today you are in a place where negative people are speaking into your life, or you feel trapped or unsupported, I assure you there are good and decent people out there. This world is vast. You can build your circle of trust (ref Meet the Fockers!).
I joined a fitness community a couple of years back too. I was terrified the first evening I attended the outdoor boot camp by the river, I was totally out of my comfort zone. But, my fears were soon set aside as I was welcomed into this vibrant group of women all seeking wellness. Thanks to Tribal Fitness, I was able to become part of a positive, healthy and passionate community that offers so much support and care.
Over the past year or so my family has been on the minimalist bandwagon. We have pared back our material possessions and are loving the outcome of this overhaul. We have also simplified our calendars, making time for the things that are important to us. For the most part we spend time with people who have a positive impact on our lives and say no to things that don’t align with our core values. For us, getting outdoors, up a mountain, a bike ride, sightseeing, trying new food, experiencing new things are vital and doing those things with people that bring joy to our lives is just as important.
Find the people that make you laugh and cling to them (not in a creepy way… make sure it’s a mutual thing!) Spend time with the ones that motivate you and inspire you. YES, even make room for the ones that challenge you. Not because they point out your flaws and criticise your choices but because they live a life that you admire and respect. Because they emulate something you crave… life, beauty, creativity, adventure…. whatever! There are families I have come across through various activities my kids have been attending and we’ve become friends on Facebook. I don’t necessarily see them often but I see the parts of their lives that they share and I am inspired and motivated by their lives. This is good! I truly believe that in this age of digital communication and social media, these relationships that are mostly carried out online are equally as valid as the ones carried out in person. It’s not easy to meet up with everyone all the time but it is possible to show support and words of encouragement through social media contact.
When my youngest son was born, a girl moved in next door who had a baby too. We have journeyed through the baby years together… the good, the bad, the ugly. We’ve laughed together over many cups of coffee, we’ve seen each other in baby puke covered t-shirts, we’ve seen each other glammed up for a night out, shared recipes, shared food, worked out together, waved our sons off to their first day of school together. This is friendship. This is being there in the happy times and this is being there when it gets messy. When sleepless nights make you moody and hard to tolerate, the person that posts chocolate through your letterbox, meets you at the fence for a natter, or feeds your children so you can wash your face… that’s the kind of person you keep close.
Another lady and her son moved in a few years ago and she joined our circle of mums trying their best, working, raising kids, making mistakes, and we have been such a great support to each other. These friendships have been birthed from common ground and life circumstances and proximity and have become some of the most meaningful friendships I’ve known. When people see you in your dressing gown, mascara down your face and still offer you a hug you know you are cared for and accepted and it makes it easier to be the person who happily opens up their home and life where once you might have put up a barrier.
I have friends that I meet for cocktails, friends I meet for coffee, friends to run and hike with, friends I parent alongside, friends I discuss books with, foodie friends, musical friends, friends at work, friends I interact with online… the categories intertwine and overlap and create a glorious tapestry that has been both a natural evolution through circumstance and chance but also through orchestration… through choosing who I want to spend time with. Nowadays I’ll actively choose the people who inspire, motivate, encourage and bring positivity. I’ll choose those who are seeking abundant life, those who will speak honest truth and those who challenge and ignite. I am drawn to the people, who through their own example, compel me to be the best version of myself. I value the people in my life so deeply that make up my circle. They are my village.
My own family are obviously part of this village… my husband and children. My brothers and sister, nieces and nephews, parents and in-laws. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have a good family and believe me coming from a large family we have had our fair share of differences over the years. But, once you endeavour to find common ground, once you choose to invest in the people that matter most to you, differences can be set aside and meaningful relationships pursued through careful nurturing.
For example, my relatives love to hike so we will arrange a few mountain rendez-vous throughout the year and this time spent together is so rewarding. My husband and I are both big foodies so our date nights together are usually centred around a nice restaurant or cooking a meal together, good wine and conversation. It’s these simple, yet intentional endeavours that spark joy and add meaning to life.
Now, in saying all of this what I am not saying we should shun people we dislike or people we don’t get along with naturally. Some things are worth working at and sticking out until the treasure is found. I also believe that kindness shown in the face of abruptness or rudeness can go much further in keeping peace than returning negativity with negativity. It’s not always easy but we can try to be positive and polite even when we’d much prefer to return harsh words with similar.
Life is short, everyone knows that don’t they? The weeks and months pass so quickly and the years seem to hurtle by quicker and quicker the older I get. Life gets busy, Summer turns to Autumn, Autumn to Winter and it’s easy to hide away in our cosy candlelit homes and not see anyone for weeks. It’s in those dark wintry months I need my village more than ever. Interaction with these friends keeps me focused, positive and motivated. It’s when the going gets tough that a community springs into action.
I’ve talked a lot about the benefits my community brings to my life and I realise this may come across as self-focused but I hope that by surrounding myself with inspirational people that I too am someone that brings support and positivity to someone’s life. I hope that when a friend is struggling that they know they can text, ring, knock on my door and they will receive a genuine hug and a cup of tea. It’s a two-way street after all, right? It is my aim to be approachable, to set down my chores to listen, to offer advice, to share my life and hope that I set an example that others can admire too.
I suppose the moral of my story is that it is possible to build a circle that brings life to you. This modern world which seems to value busyness and productivity over quality and contentment can suck us dry and it is precious to have people who can nourish us and hold us up. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s essential to build your circle. Now, I’m quite happy on my own. I am not extroverted by nature but I appreciate that we are social creatures and am so grateful to have had the chance to build my village. My circle, my people, my awesome village that brings me life and fullness of joy.