Monday, August 01, 2005

A rather disorganized train of thought

My dear friend K, who posted on her blog last week that she was expecting a baby in February, has me thinking about friends, community, conception and a whole bunch of other stuff thrown in for good measure. (Wow, I wish I knew how to cook like that! I’m a really boring, follow-the-recipe kind of cook.)

About 7 years ago I had a friend who got married right around age 40 and started immediately, desperately trying to concieve. She'd fill me in on her ovulations and all that other fun stuff and she joined message boards. She would talk about her "online friends" and how this one said that about the miscarriage and the whole group responded with her to another something or other. I remember thinking "What a loser, can't she get any friends in real life?"

And now here I am, finally understanding online friends and just how real life they can be. I wonder sometimes, when I talk about my “perfume friends” to my mom, if she thinks I’m a loser.

Which gets me thinking about community. I discovered an amazing online community of wise, witty, wonderful (mostly) women (more w’s please?) on a certain message board. This is a group of people who share not only their formidable knowledge of perfume but many many other topics and it’s a community I’m proud to be a part of. I have met many of my “perfume friends” in real life, at get-togethers for shopping and sniffing. I plan to meet more in the future. Real relationships we’re creating here. And so I feel that this community, which I feel so much a part of, gives me a sense of belonging that I have been looking for.

When I married my husband and moved back to NJ, where my family is, I had no remaining friends around here. I made some new ones, and I have my family, but I was looking for that sense of community. I joined a synagogue, jumped in with both feet. Inside of a year, I found myself chairing committees and sitting on the Board of Directors. Shortly thereafter I became a Vice President! But after a couple of years of banging my head against the wall, I became disillusioned with the idea of effecting positive change and my relationship with that community has been in steady decline.

I have tried to stick with it, but I feel that part of the reason for belonging to a religious community is spiritual fulfillment, and I’m just not getting that here. So the search begins anew, for another synagogue that won’t bankrupt me (yes, they’re frightfully expensive), will accept my non-Jewish husband without prejudice, and will help to provide a sense of spiritual fulfillment and education for my daughters.

I'd love to hear where others find their fulfillment and community.


Blogger PFG said...

Where do I get my sense of community and social fulfillment? Usually it's at work, sometimes from school, sometimes friends have come from here and there. There is usually a center person, concept, or activity like writing or art that serves as a focal point (which I think is what makes work and school so conducive to these communities, the center activity is a given).

My current set of friends is disappointingly small. It is almost entirely from past lives, and includes only a couple of folks I have met since moving to grad school. I have wondered about the shrinking social group, the lack of a sense of community around me. Is it me? No more than usual I think. It seems that there is no community here, that is for sure. In fact, the place seems to defy attempts to build one. As a graduate student reseacher and instructor, I find there is little sense of connection, solidarity, or hell anything other than narrow driving ego centric focus among the grad employees and students. Sure we need one another now and then, to help move to a new apartment or to share knowledge (and even that last one is an acheivement that took some time). But the friendships are so few and far between, and as a group, we are aimless and lackluster socially. What is missing? Is it just that there is too much (covert) competition? Possibly. Also, too many grads just don't think of ourselves as "real" employees thus the whole work community aspect is not available. I think though that there is a deeper issue in that too many of us don't think of ourselves as living our real lives YET. We therefore do not invest in things like community (here in grad school) or any but the most superficial of social interactions. Why bother? We're just passing through, right?

This has been one of my biggest disappointments in grad school. I truly believe it does not need to be like this but so many of these folks have no model other than a still rather juvenille one that involves mostly academic acheivment and failure as the only relevant consequence. Thus I am surrounded by people who are sealed into their scholarly incubators, these uncozy cocoons of romanticized poverty and isolation, waiting to emerge from these ugly lonely years as stunning butterflies. It is so sad really, because most of us will still be little better than worms when we come out. Why can't these folks see that life is what you do right now?
Oh Ruth you've gotten me onto a rant!

12:01 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger Kate said...

I too have found a real community in MUA and I have met people who I do think of as real friends, you included, Ruth! :-)

I also feel a strong sense of community in my small town. I have lived here for only 6 years, but I felt accepted and welcomed from the start. Also, when our well failed, our neighbors all called and wanted to help us in any way they could. I was so humbled by how kind people were in reaching out to us.

There is an active historical society. Our little library was an old home in disrepair that the community pulled together to make into an amazing and beautiful centerpeice for our town.

There is a tremendous amount of volunteer effort here. People are very active in local politics. Parents are very involved in the school too. It's a real community.

But in many ways, I think it's weird! I don't know how it got this way. I've never lived anywhere like this before. But I feel really blessed to be a part of it. :-)

12:52 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger cjblue said...

Kate, you know I feel exactly the same way, thanks.

I have never been one of those people who have a lot of friends. I have a small handful of very good friends, and like you, Laura, I find that my immediate social group is shrinking. I think part of it is that I've gotten to an age where I expect more from people and don't have time for people who can't at least give what I do to a relationship. So I think in part is *is* me.

The other part of it is that I work with two other people, who happen to be my parents. And I work a lot, and have two kids. So I don't have a lot of time or opportunities to go making friends. That's just got to happen at the same time I'm doing other stuff. Multitasking friendship, heh. And you know firsthand, Laura, I'm not an easy person to get warm & fuzzy with. I don't know what the answer is right now. I'm hoping to find a new synagogue which will open up some new opportunities to commune, as it were. Or I need a new job, which isn't going to happen until I leave this state and who knows when that might be. I'm finding this to be a difficult time in my life, I guess.

4:43 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger mireille said...

I think you cover so much ground in this post, R. (and please accept and forgive this disclaimer to my comment: it can only be about me; your situation is much different than mine, i.e. you're younger, have young children, your job situation -- but maybe there can be something in common here) In my first marriage, I wanted desperately to become an integral member of the synagogue in which I was converted and married ... tried, tried, tried and it never clicked. Same feelings with my job and ultimately that marriage. But I now think what I was really after in a search "to belong" in my 30s/40s was a stronger sense of self. No synagogue, affinity group or anything external, really, could ever give that to me. I was really looking for a mirror to look into and have it reflect back at me what I wanted to see. I mean, it came -- I have a sense of being grounded now, I belong. But it's to me ... I stopped looking for externals to make me feel like I belonged. Probably TMI, but FWIW, centering to myself ended up making me feel more connected to everyone else. xoxoxoxo

5:02 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger mireille said...

AAANNNNDDD no matter what Luca says (are you listening, Luca?), they do too smell different on different people. xoxoxo

7:27 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger cjblue said...

OK, M. First, sign me up for centering classes. I need me some of that.

Second, of course they do. I just wanna get HIS take on it! Did he respond already? I'll have to check later. XOXO

8:25 PM, August 01, 2005  
Blogger mireille said...

regarding the effect of personal chemistry upon scent ... yes, if one does not have an answer, other than one's godlike opinion, one should say one is bored by it and neatly closing the book -- or blog in this case -- on further discussion. heh. xoxoxo

1:00 PM, August 02, 2005  
Blogger Trina said...

Ruthie, I know *exactly* what you mean about "certain online communities"! Until I started posting on that board we both love so much, I had NO idea there were so many women who shared so many of my beliefs, ideals, and quirks! Of course, we could all live in the same *physical* neighborhood and I'd never meet any of you, as I'm such a hermit :~P

I've never had (or wanted) a lot of friends - it's too much work and too emotionally draining. That being said, I've met SO many women in the past year that I WANT to be friends with,it astounds me! I find myself making more of an effort to be part of a group than I ever have in my life. If that's not the essence of community, I don't know what is! I love the exchange of ideas, the fact that there can be simultaneously serious and silly conversations running, and the ability to connect with people near and far. Long live the global community!

Thanks for an excellent, thought-provoking post! Mwah!

2:18 AM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

Hi beautiful blue jay. I read a quote recently (can't remember who or where) that said something like "home isn't where you live, it's where they understand you." I thought, you know, that pretty much sums it up.

I find community where they "get" me and let me be who I am, even if they don't really know me. Unfortunately there aren't many such places. The best luck I've had is through my job (I fit right in with academics) and through the UU (unitarian universalist) church, particularly the feminist book group I've joined through that church. UUs are mistakenly regarded as a sort of dumping ground for people who've wandered away from "legit" religions, but that's not the case. When universalism -- the belief that there are no "chosen" people, that joy, salvation, etc., are the birthright of everyone -- has been part of a religion's doctrine for over 1000 years, that religion is going to find itself populated by a diverse group of people.

Anyway, I like them. They're humane and socially active and gentle and tough. They are open to acknowledging that they don't have all the answers and never will. In short, they're like me.

Have you ever read Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book Women Who Run with the Wolves? She does a great Jungian analysis of the fairy tale The Ugly Duckling. It's really simply about the joy of Finding Your Own. That feels like home to all of us, no matter where it is.

1:43 PM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger Atreau said...

I make friends easily in person but I don't like the muss and fuss of maintaining a lot of those friendships. I'm very quick to adapt to any environment but don't give it my all unless I feel a sense of true comfort there.

3:50 AM, August 06, 2005  

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