On Making Space For New Friends And Living Fully Where We Are At

You're probably not counting, but I am. We moved from Minneapolis to Chicago nearly eight months ago, and last week the kids and I were able to spend a full week back in Minnesota, packing the time with visits to old friends that I had been missing terribly, and most of them I hadn't seen since we left. I feel a bit like a toddler who went to the fire station, pumpkin patch and zoo all in one day while eating their weight in doughnuts. I'm on stimulation overload and it's taking me a while to come down from the emotional high - and exhaustion.

Being eight months out from moving from a place I love is kinda a funny place to be. Everyone tells me to "give it a year." That the first 12 months don't really count, they're hard, difficult, awful, [insert negative word here]. And I can't say they were wrong. It's not awful every moment, per say, but overall, it's definitely been a whole lot harder/difficult/etc. than it would have been if we would have just stayed; if that makes any sense.

One of the hardest things to deal with is friendships. I had amazing friends back in Minneapolis, a great mix of fellow SAHMs and part-time and full-time working moms, and many friends without children. Besides my husband's family, leaving friends has been the hardest thing about moving. Losing my my network, support system, comrades in this motherhood thing, in one fell swoop, is what I mourn every day.

But what I realized while I was back in Minneapolis, feeling overwhelmed by all the talking, talking, talking, was I couldn't keep this up any longer. I was exhausted and drained at the end of each day, reconnecting with everyone, missing everyone more, and promising to stay connected after I left. During that week back in Minny, I had no time to think, or process, or decompress from each meeting.

I had no space.

And that's the thing I've been lacking here in Chicago - one of the biggest things that has made these first eight months as hard as was predicted - is a lack of space. Space in my life to meet new people. Space to be open to building relationships. Space for new, deep, friendships.

Over these past months, I've found myself holding on to friendships 400 miles away, in some ways pretending like I never left. I think I've clung to them as a protective mechanism, not wanting to believe that this really is my new life, that we're actually going to stay here a while, and even just avoiding the hurt and pain that comes with recognizing I've lost a friend. Social media and the internet - Instagram, Facebook, Voxer, texting and email - make it easy to feel like a virtual relationship is just as good as face-to-face. But it's not. You can't have a play date, sharing coffee from the same pot over FaceTime. You can't bring a home-cooked meal when a friend has a baby through email. You can't offer a hug after a good cry-sesh, or a high five after a potty training win through a computer. Life is not meant to be lived on a screen.

Because living virtually makes it impossible to live fully where we are physically at.

I asked some friends that have moved in the past how they did that. How they knew which friendships to keep, and which to let go. Most said it just happened naturally, but I'm not finding that it is - and I think that's because I'm clinging to them (through the internet) as a crutch. It's one last thing I can hold on to from my old life. One last reminder of who I used to be. One last way I can deny the pain of moving and that I'm lonely here in my new life.

Here's the hard truth: When you move, you can't live in two places, your heart in one, your body in the other. You have to pull yourself together and go all in where your body lives - because you weren't made to live severed, your heart outside of your body, as a shell of who you were before you left. You must bring your whole self, including your heart - because if you don't, you'll never be able to live fully where God has placed you.

So here's the game plan, it's not rocket science, it's simple: I'm simply choosing to put less effort in old relationships and more effort in the new. It's a little less Voxing, a little less texting and email. It's not feeling pressured to make sure I see each and every one of my old friends every time I'm back in town. It's not thinking about how I wish I could have a play date with one of them, be in my old small group or MOMS group, or making sure I continually remind my children about their "friends back in Minnesota."

It's hard to type, and I'm sure it will be even more difficult in practice. But it's necessary for me to do to live fully where I'm at. I know through doing this, I may lose some friendships entirely, but I also know some will stay, they'll just look different - because they need to look different when you no longer live in the same community. And just because they look different also doesn't make those old friendships any less valuable.

The friendships that need to stay, will stay. And by naturally letting go of my old friendships to fade or transform into something different, I can finally make space to connect with new friends right where I'm at. It's scary, and as silly as it is, it feels like a pretty big deal to get to this point. I think deep down I'm scared to make new friends because, 1) It acknowledges that this is truly where I live now, I no longer live where I "want to." and 2) If ever do move again, I'll feel the pain of losing friends all over again - and honestly, I'm terrified of that hurt.

But then I think again, and wouldn't it be a good thing that if we move again, I would actually have people to miss? That would mean I lived well where I was at, for however long it was for. Because the thing is, we can't predict the future, we can't know what life will bring and so the only good option is for us to live fully, exactly where we are at - be it a month, a year, or 10 years. We can't waste time by wishing or even pretending (through the magic of the internet) that we live somewhere else. We must make the most of our time wherever we're placed, living all in, present and invested.

It is worth the risk to live fully.

So here's to diving deep, making space, and letting things happen naturally.

*I've had many request to share about how to make new mom-friends. While part of me feels like I have nothing to share, I have actually begun to build and deepen a few wonderful friendship here in my new city. Yay! So, while I don't claim to know much, look for a post soon on how I'm working on "putting myself out there."  Eeeeek!

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