A little over two years ago, I shared a post about how lonely and hard parenting was without a village. I lamented that I was often exhausted and cranky; and that I longed for the little island I lived on to somehow find connection with another shoreline. When I think back to that time now, I can still remember the pangs of loneliness and the ever-present struggle to keep everyone’s head above water. Everyone’s that is, except mine.
I wanted nothing more than to make tomorrow a better day — an easier day — for the people I loved. This desire was all consuming; a mental quagmire that I navigated daily but never seemed to make much headway with despite my efforts.
So much has changed in my life since that post. For starters, I got divorced. Then I sold the only home my sweet daughter had ever really known and embarked on new adventures in a new (to us) home that I purchased alone. And of course, COVID. No one has escaped its impacts but my little family has certainly been more fortunate than others.
With all of these changes, it would be reasonable for me to feel even more isolated these days. It would make sense if I found solo-parenting to be overwhelming. I don’t think a single person would a hold it against me if I wanted to moan about how lonely it is to be a party of one in the middle of a global pandemic. There would be no shame in admitting any of these.
But two years after writing that post, I can say with complete honesty that I feel more supported and loved than ever before. I think, in large part, this is because I have discovered my village.
My village stretches far and wide. It includes people I technically have never met (or perhaps do not see often) but who have nonetheless become pillars of support. We talk about parenting and divorce. We trade coffee recommendations and terrible first date stories. We send care packages, cards and theories about the newest Taylor Swift album. They infuse my life with levity.
My village has family in abundance. Family that helps me do amazing things for my daughter that I’d never be able to pull off all alone. Family that laughs with us on video chats when COVID prevents us from sharing embraces. Family that asks about my day and then really listens to the answer. Together, this extended family I have been blessed with, by both birth and choice, gives me an unwavering sense of belonging and stability that I’ve craved for a long time.
My village overflows with more friendships than I dare count:
Friends I’ve made through my work with Moms Demand Action who have enveloped me with love and care all while keeping my head level and uplifting my spirit in difficult times by consistently challenging me to see the good we can do in this world. College friendships (some recently rekindled) that fill my empty tank and replenish my mind, body, and soul by reminding me of who I was when I was younger — a woman who I admit, I lost sight of for far too long. And friends I’ve made from other walks of life — law school, work, random encounters — who go out of their way to remind me of my worth. But even more, they consistently demand that I give myself the same grace and space that I so freely provide to others. I sometimes try to reflect on how desperate I was two years ago for a single, deep connection with another human being; now these relationships are so abundant that it is difficult to remember precisely how it feels to not be truly loved and supported by the people in my life.
I’ve been quiet on the blog for the last several months, in part, because I’ve been trying to piece together exactly how this amazing village has come into my life. I have reached three conclusions: 1) I broke free of abusive cycles and persons; 2) I prioritized myself for the first time in a long time; and 3) I learned how to ask for (and accept) help.
I could write ad nauseam on the first two of those conclusions. They have certainly transformed my life and are worthy of further discussion. Perhaps one day I will share more on those but for now, I want to focus on the last one.
I’ve never been good about asking for help. As far back as I can remember, my pride has been rooted in the knowledge that I am a strong, independent woman; I concluded (quite falsely) that seeking help from others would undercut this attribute. I mistakenly saw unsolicited offers of help as acts of pity and therefore believed acceptance of such offers would be acknowledgment of weakness. I held tight to the false notion that carrying all of it, all by myself, was somehow the key to freedom.
But instead of setting me free, these beliefs left me shackled.
Last summer, with my marriage falling apart and my island smaller than ever before, I found myself in a very undesirable position — in desperate need of help. The universe left me with no choice to send up flares and request assistance. I can still remember how my stomach knotted as I admitted the truth to others and the shame I experienced as I confessed that I could no longer do it all by myself. But oddly enough, what I remember even more clearly is just how quickly my tears cleared and my fears lifted as the people in my life — sometimes people I had purposely kept at a distance for years — rushed to give me anything they could. In the process of losing life as I knew it, I found something I had not had in a very long time: Unconditional Love.
Sure, it’s cheesy enough to hear on a poorly written Lifetime movie (which I hope my blog doesn’t remind you of), but I have been liberated from my prideful shackles by pure love. I know now that help is love and love is help.
I cannot begin to count the ways my newfound village has poured their love out to me and to my daughter, in the past fourteen months. Help with mundane tasks, house projects, and childcare. Help that propelled me forward when I was stuck. Help that held me steady when the road became expectantly rocky. Help that was freely offered to me and yes…help that, with time and practice, I’ve learned to ask for.
I did not come to any of these realizations overnight. I will admit there are still moments I feel a wave of guilt when my load is lightened because someone else willingly picks up a burden. In those moments however, I’m finding I can acknowledge my misguided instinct, identify it as not only unnecessary but also harmful, and then release it entirely; focusing instead on the love poured into me and the love I pour out to others who are likewise happy to accept. Because that’s what a village does. And I no longer live on an island. I live in a village .
And just in case you are wondering, I am still a strong, independent woman — even if my neighbor occasionally brings in my trashcan.